Sunday, October 31, 2010

HOW I'M VOTING November 2: And other local endorsements

Bad time for taxes; good time for change

COLUMBIA, 10/31/10  (Commentary) --  On November 2, I'll be voting a ticket split all kinds of ways: some Democrats, some Republicans, more government, less government.  It all depends on the issue or the candidate, as I've detailed below.   About local offices or candidates for which I'm not eligible to vote, I leave you my endorsements. 

I'm voting for Stephen Webber, a Big D Democrat, over Republican rival Paul Szopa.  Webber has been the kind of representative every small community wants, with an open, friendly approach (he'll stop by to chat when he's out jogging and he'll campaign door-to-door in the worst rainstorms); solid political philosophy; willingness to compromise or fight, depending on the situation; young, energetic, and a U.S. Marine. 

I'm voting for Ed Robb, an economist and former statehouse rep, over Democrat rival J. Scott Christianson for all the reasons Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Hank Waters is voting against Robb. 
"Ed Robb is a smart fellow with some good ideas, but he criticizes a competent incumbency," Waters writes.   But in 5 short years, that "competent incumbency" has given us "Wallgate" -- the wall building contract brouhaha that cost county maintenance supervisor Ken Roberts his job;  "Scrapgate," the scrap metal fiasco that had County Commissioners scrambling after some poor guy in Georgia;  $4 million in taxpayer-funded downtown building acquisitions, with many buildings still empty and off the property tax roles; inadequate funding for Sheriff Dwayne Carey and the Humane Society, a county contractor; disruptive, public in-fighting between Commissioners Skip Elkin and Karen Miller; gloom and doom budgets followed by surprise "good news"; and frozen county employee salaries. 
Christianson supports the County Hall status quo; Robb has come out clearly against it, with several reform ideas, including a clever take on the home rule charter concept.    
"Voters in the 24th District have an unusual opportunity to elect a person with Ed Robb’s attributes," Waters wrote in 2004, when Robb first ran for the statehouse.   "Robb’s knowledge of issues is very impressive, offering a thoughtful mix that should appeal to voters." 
The same now holds true for this year's Boone County Commission race. 
I'm endorsing Kelly Schultz, who appears to be a Big D Democrat, over Republican rival John Cauthorn.  She has easily proven the hardest-working local candidate, fundraising and campaigning tirelessly for the better part of two years.  It's the best indication of how hard she'll work when she gets to the statehouse. 
I'm endorsing Chris Kelly, a Big D Democrat and former judge with a willingness to reach across the aisle, over Republican rival Laura Nauser.  Probably the hardest-working local legislator at the statehouse, Kelly loves the job and it shows.  He'll be term-limited in a few years, leaving the field open again to new faces, but right now he brings solid representation to the citizens of his district, who represent a strong mix of liberal and conservative viewpoints, very much mirroring his own. 
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to require the office of county assessor to be an elected position in all counties with a charter form of government, except counties with a population between 600,001- 699,999? 
Just like all dogs should go to heaven, all assessors should be elected.  This amendment provides an exception, apparently making the assessor an appointed rather than elected position in counties with a population between 600,001- 699,999. 

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to require that all real property used as a homestead by Missouri citizens who are former prisoners of war and have a total service connected disability be exempt from property taxes?   Because the number who meet the qualifications is expected to be small, the cost to local governmental entities should be minimal.
Being a veteran myself, I'm completely fine with this.  I know how hard these men and women work to serve our nation, and waiving their property taxes when they've seen time as POWs or have a service-related disability seems like a tiny token of appreciation. 

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to prevent the state, counties, and other political subdivisions from imposing any new tax, including a sales tax, on the sale or transfer of homes or any other real estate? 
I've had to pay an onerous tax like this in other states.  Imagine selling your $200,000 house with a $10,000 profit you want to put toward another house.  Then you pay commissions, closing costs -- and a 1% state tax ($2,000).   You can end up with a loss the state doesn't share.  It only gets a gain.   A tax like this is yet another attack on homeownership and shouldn't be part of Missouri's tax policy.

Shall Missouri law be amended to:
1)  repeal the authority of certain cities to use earnings taxes to fund their budgets;
2)  require voters in cities that currently have an earnings tax to approve continuation of such tax at the next general municipal election and at an election held every 5 years thereafter;
3)  require any current earnings tax that is not approved by the voters to be phased out over a period of 10 years; and
4)  prohibit any city from adding a new earnings tax to fund their budget? 

For my reasoning, see editorial below. 
PROPOSITION B -- YESShall Missouri law be amended to:
1)  require large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with sufficient food, clean water, housing and space; necessary veterinary care; regular exercise and adequate rest between breeding cycles;
2)  prohibit any breeder from having more than 50 breeding dogs for the purpose of selling their puppies as pets; and
3)  create a misdemeanor crime of “puppy mill cruelty” for any violations?
One look at the Central Missouri Humane Society's constant burden is enough argument in favor of Proposition B.  How many busted puppy mills have unloaded their sick, diseased, poorly cared-for but precious cargo on our under-funded non-profit animal rescue folks? 
Some headlines from a few years back -- well before from this election: 
Bust sends 19 pups to Humane Society
Puppy mills breed misery in state
State drops 41 dogs at local shelter
Northern Missouri breeder was too full.
Almost 150 dogs are rescued in Macomb from breeder’s home
Officials seek to collar illegal dog breeders
State estimates 10 are in Boone County.
Abused, neglected dogs deserve a good home, their day in court
Rescued dogs overwhelm humane society

Shall the municipality of Columbia, Missouri impose a sales tax of one-eighth of one percent, for five (5) years, for the purpose of providing funding for local parks for the municipality? 
"The era of Darwin is over," a wag wrote on one of the newspaper blogs.  Though I don't see it that way, I do think that until Columbia's lagging infrastructure -- fire, sewer, stormwater, streets, sidewalks, police, drainage, etc. -- catches up to her wonderful parks and trails, we need to shift our financial priorities.  There's just so much money to go around.    Until then, let's get two historic park properties -- the Heibel-March Store and Blind Boone Home --  fully restored.  They can't say enough about the Maplewood Barn -- so why not these two inner city gems?   Why do they continue to sit, and why no promises to restore them even with the tax?
PROPOSITION 2 -- YESShall the proposed initiative ordinance pertaining to tasers and other conducted electrical devices be passed?
The proposed ordinance would make it a Class A misdemeanor for individuals, including police officers, to use or threaten to use tasers, stun guns or any other conducted electrical device against any person within the City.

With ultra-limited use, tasers might work.  But they've become something akin to safe guns, heading out to confront criminals our leaders refuse to deal with.  Before tasers, let's try:
1)  Judges not releasing hard-core offenders on bond
2)  Judges not sentencing hard-core offenders to "home detention"
3)  Landlords screening their tenants and not renting to hard-core offenders
4)  City Councils not approving poorly built acres of cheap duplexes that become crime-ridden slums
5)  Rehabbing and integrating public housing
6)  Adding street lights and improving low-income neighborhoods
7)  Some real financial support for Neighborhood Watch and related programs
8)  More staff/money for Columbia's Crime Free Housing program
and a Columbia Citizens Criminal Review Board that reviews sentencing, scrutinizes crime enablers, and stops putting all the onus on police officers to reduce crime.  

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