Sep 05

Justice, Protests and Finding Solutions In Ferguson

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – A half-hour television interview show includes about 26 minutes of actual “talk time”.

That’s not enough to cover all facets of the controversies and investigations related to the August shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The death of the black teenager came as a result of shots fired from a white police officer’s gun.

What happened prior to the trigger being pulled remains unconfirmed at this point. That’s is the focus on one investigation. The United States Department of Justice has now launched another investigation into the practices of the Ferguson Police Department.

Protesters continue to be active in and around Ferguson and supporters of Officer Darren Wilson, who fired the fatal shots, have now begun to organize to defend him publicly and financially.

On “Missouri Viewpoints”, two guests from opposite sides of the political aisle agree on the need to heal the emotional pain centered around the shooting, the behavior of the police in the aftermath and what one State Senator says is a long, boiling history of a community feeling injustice and poverty.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democrat, represents Missouri’s 14th District, which covers St. Louis County.

“Really, what the issue has become is an experience of young, African-American men…they have been intimidated, they have been harassed, they have been treated differently for so long. And then you have the killing of Mike Brown and the body laid there [in the street where he was shot] four hours or more. This community is so angry because they see themselves as a Mike Brown.”

She says that’s what fueled the start of the protests that resulted in businesses being damaged, looting taking place and in clashes with police. She is also highly critical of fellow Democrat, Governor Jay Nixon, for what she says has been too slow and too little of a response to the situation in Ferguson.

Chris Arps hopes the violent protests are a thing of the past at this point. He’s the co-founder of Move On Up, a network of black conservatives.

“Let’s have cooler heads prevail. Let’s have the investigation play out and see what happens. Then if people aren’t satisfied with the conclusion, then you should take further action.”

Part of that action he wants to see is political at the local level. He is encouraged by seeing more Ferguson residents register to vote and showing a desire to get involved in local government.

MWSnap001Sen. Chappelle-Nadal says she wants the community’s response to be based on facts and justice and she takes issue with part of the claims in support of Officer Wilson’s actions. Specifically, she says the convenience store security video purported to show Michael Brown committing a strong-arm robbery is irrelevant to the discussion of the shooting that ended his life in August.

“That video that was release [as being] the same day as Officer Wilson, the date on it was in June. It was not in July or August.”

Protests continue and some organizers say they plan to block traffic on I-70 in St. Louis next week. A smaller protest blocked traffic on I-270 recently. Senator Chappelle-Nadal seems to not be sold on the I-70 shutdown idea but understands the motivation to protest.

“From my constituents’ viewpoint, they want to do a complete shutdown of businesses, not go to businesses that are in Ferguson. They want to protest in the neighborhood streets. The highway, I’m not too sure what that would accomplish. I know in trying to express themselves, my constituents want to release some of that negative tension that they have on the inside.”

Arps, who grew up near Ferguson, says he believes some of those getting involved in promoting some of the more controversial protests may not be from Ferguson but, instead, are possibly outsiders who are agitating the situation for a variety of social and political goals.

“I don’t think that boycotting businesses or shutting down the highway doesn’t really do anything other than tick people off.”

Chappelle-Nadal says she hopes the chain of events that sparked protests, violence, political upheaval and a national discussion on race, politics and culture are able to also launch something positive.

“I think Mike Brown gave this community a gift. He gave us a gift to wake up and participate and not be lax or passive. So, the gift that he gave us is a movement for young people to become more aware and actively engaged at every single corner.”

Arps adds that the ongoing conflicts highlight the need to focus on solutions as the goal of political debates.

“Even though we have different political beliefs, we have to come together. Maria is a Democrat, I’m a Republican but we’re friends. We don’t agree on much politically but we can still talk about things. We need to foster more of that.”

On the web:
Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal: http://www.senate.mo.gov/14info/members/mem14.htm

Move-On-Up: http://move-on-up.org/index.html

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/justice-protests-and-finding-solutions-in-ferguson/

Sep 02

Protecting Missouri’s Four-Legged Friends: Why It Matters To Everyone

Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/4t4jvswb3oib63p/MOViewsPets.mp4?dl=0

by Mike Ferguson

(Jefferson City, MO) – They are our companions, our protectors and our friends so it’s hard to understand why some people abandon – or abuse – pets.

You may be surprised to learn that most local governments spend a significant amount of money dealing with animals. There are health reasons and safety reasons for that but Brent Toellner thinks animal issues are also personal.

“About 65% of people in this country own a pet of some type so pets are something that definitely appeals to the majority of us and, whether you’re a pet owner or not, the pets in your community have an impact on you and where your tax dollars are spent.”

Toellner is the Board President of the Kansas City Pet Project, one of the largest no-kill animal shelters in the state.

Tens of thousands of dogs and cats end up in shelters in Missouri every year. Toeller explains the most common causes.

“Number one, they get lost and someone else finds them and brings them back and we’re unable to reunite them with the home…another reason is that many people have to surrender pets because they end up moving into an apartment complex that doesn’t allow pets.”

Not all animals make it out of shelters, even if there’s nothing wrong with their health or behavior.

“Primarily, the reason a lot of them are put down when they should be found homes is because shelters feel overwhelmed because of the number of animals they get and they aren’t able to find homes for them at the same rate as they come in.”

Toellner says, nationwide, about eight million animals go to a shelter each year. About three and a half million are euthanized each year, often because they stayed too long in the shelter and there’s simply no more room for them.

That happens after money is spent on the animal’s care.

Toellner says animal shelters have an important role in keeping us safe from strays. At the same time, they are also good resources for families who want to add a pet to the home.

To him, it’s important that shelters are available and funded, even when that can get expensive.

“We should be a caring and compassionate society. That’s not only for people who have issues and need our help but also for animals that have issues and need our help. I think as a society, we don’t want to be the type of people who think of animals and pets as disposable.”

Whether it’s part of the city budget or a donation to a locally run non-profit organization, money spent on animal shelters often ends up impacting human lives.

“It starts form the second they come in the door. They all get a round of vaccinations so they don’t catch diseases from other dogs that might be in the shelter, because they all come in from different backgrounds and we don’t know what they’ve been treated for

“Then they’ll have to go into a kennel where they’ll have to be walked and cared for and fed every day, multiple times a day. Then they’ll get a rabies shot before it ends up leaving. They’ll get a behavior evaluation at a shelter so that we know the animal that is going out is a safe one to go into a home.”

Ideally, no one would abandon an animal but the reality is that domesticated dogs and cats will continue to become homeless. You can become part of the solution by adopting a shelter pet. Toellner suggests some discussion and planning before you head to the shelter, though.

“The most important thing they can do is be honest with themselves about what they want in a pet. Are they really active and want an active dog to go running with? Then, if you’re a couch potato and just want a do that will curl up on your lap with you. So, starting with being honest about your lifestyle and how that pet is going to fit in to your lifestyle is the most important thing you can do because then hopefully you’re going to get a pet that matches your lifestyle.”

On the web: Kansas City Pet Project: www.KCPetProject.org

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/protecting-missouris-four-legged-friends-why-it-matters-to-everyone/

Aug 15

E-Cigs: A Positive Step Away From Tobacco Or A New Danger?

Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8p4k0bkt9vrpyk6/Ecigs%20and%20Tobacco_HDTV_24_1080p.mp4

by Mike Ferguson

(Jefferson City, MO) – The sign says “No Smoking” or maybe the law says “No Smoking”, but you see someone puffing away in the restaurant, anyway.

They might not be breaking the rules.

What they are holding in their hands could be an “E-cig” – or electronic cigarette – and those who like this new option are sometimes quick to correct you if you say they are smoking and E-cig. They are “vaping”, not smoking.

Stan Cowen explains what you’re seeing in that restaurant.

“They’re battery operated devices that will heat and vaporize a solution to create a chemical-filled mist for the user. They may or may not contain nicotine. They may or may not contain flavorings or other things to enhance the experience for the user.”

Cowen is a former tobacco use prevention program manager for the state’s Health Department.

Jason Head works for Aqueous Vaper, a Missouri-based business that sells electronic cigarettes. He doesn’t claim they are good for you but believes they aren’t as bad as regular cigarettes.

“When you put down the cigarettes and use an E-cig, you’re getting rid of a lot of the carbon monoxide and tars and other things that really tax the body.”

Cowen warns against accepting that claim.

“Often, either anecdotally or it’s implied that because this is a vapor and they say it’s primarily water vapor, that it’s harmless. That is not the case. In particular, [researchers] have found there are at least four tobacco-specific nitrosamines that are in the vapor. These are known human carcinogens.”

That’s why he wants them regulated and taxed like tobacco-based products.

Both sides agree; E-cigs are so new, there hasn’t been time to study the long term effects they have on the body.

For that reason, Head thinks government should go slow when it comes to new regulations.

“E-cigs are different. We don’t know the long term effects but we shouldn’t be jumping in to preemptive legislation based on something that we don’t know about yet.”

That doesn’t mean he’s opposed to all regulations, though. He agrees with some basic rules.

“I don’t want to be selling to kids. Parents have to be responsible also for what’s in their kids’ hands. But, I definitely don’t want the option for somebody to sell to someone fourteen years old, an electronic cigarette.”

One argument for E-cigarette use is that it can help some smokers step down their tobaccos use. There is no research available to confirm or refute that common claim. E-cig manufacturers do not make that claim in their marketing.

Could the devices actually cause more nicotine consumption? Cowen says some studies indicate – but not prove – that E-cigs might actually increase nicotine use in some smokers.

“They don’t switch from one to the other. They become dual users and they start using e-cigs in places where they can’t smoke, otherwise.”

Head doesn’t believe that should be a part of the discussion when it comes to adding laws.

“Everybody has a choice of what they put into their body. From how they spend their money and what they want to do with it. I’m the kind of person who says ‘ridiculous freedoms’ for an individual. I want ridiculous amounts of freedom to choose what I do with my body.”

Nicotine is recognized as a highly addictive substance that, of course, not good for your body. The long term impact of E-cigs on the body will likely not be known for several years.

On the web:

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: http://health.mo.gov/living/wellness/tobacco/index.php

Aqueous Vapor: https://www.aqueousvapor.com/

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/e-cigs-a-positive-step-away-from-tobacco-or-a-new-danger/

Aug 11

Fighting Back Against Domestic Abuse in Missouri

Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/0bz1jfb9z6omnrx/MOViewsDomesticViolence2014_HDTV_24_1080p.mp4

by Mike Ferguson

(Jefferson City, MO) – It reaches into more homes in more parts of our communities than many want to admit.

It impacts more women and, sometimes, men than many want to admit.

It also often goes unnoticed even when both the victim and the aggressor are in plain sight.

Domestic and sexual abuse is the focus on a statewide organization that wants to make sure everyone in Missouri is aware of it and is willing to be a part of ending it.

Colleen Coble is the Chief Executive Officer of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She says studies from law enforcement show a shocking frequency of abuse across the nation.

“One in three of us [women] will be victims of will be victims of domestic violence during the course of our lifespan.”

While that statistic may seem hard to believe, Coble explains that what is considered domestic abuse includes more than just the obvious physical assaults.

“That happens through verbal abuse, emotional coercion, certainly financial abuse, using children against your spouse or partner, damaging their prospects for employment or sabotaging their job, just about every aspect of your life can be a target for an abuser’s focus.”

She also cautions against thinking domestic abuse only happens in impoverished areas or within specific ethnic groups.

“It happens in every part of our community. It doesn’t matter what your education level, your income level, your ethnicity, your religion, your employment history. Abusers come from every walk of life as do victims.”

While resources are in place to help victims get protection and leave the abusive environment, Coble hopes we all realize we can be a part of the solution. To do that, she says, listen first to that inner voice that tells you something might be wrong in a friend’s, a relative’s or a coworker’s life and ask if there s something with which you can help.

Then listen to what they have to say.

“The most important thing is to show your concern, to listen, because very often that first question is going to be received as such a wonderful opportunity to say ‘I’ve really been struggling. I don’t know what to do.'”

Coble says that when there is immediate danger of physical abuse, the best thing to do is call 9-1-1.

In other cases, contact local resources that provide a variety of assistance to victims. You can find those in your county through MCADSV’s website.

On the web:
Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence: www.MOCADSV.org

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/fighting-back-against-domestic-abuse-in-missouri/

Aug 04

Election Day: The Ballot Issues

Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here https://www.dropbox.com/s/op1ri9ghaijul4z/843-1-MOViewsBallotIssuesAugust2014.mp4

by Mike Ferguson

(Jefferson City, MO) – Election Day is Tuesday and we’ve got some big decisions to make, even though a small percentage of us will be at the polls to decide.

Election officials predict that around a quarter of eligible voters will actually show up and vote. That makes your ballot even more important.

In addition to deciding primary races throughout the state, voters will decide five statewide ballot issues. The Missouri Torch’s publisher, Duane Lester, explains what he sees in each of the proposals. I’m also posting the actual ballot language (in Italics).

Amendment One.

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure that the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices shall not be infringed?

The potential costs or savings to governmental entities are unknown, but likely limited unless the resolution leads to increased litigation costs and/or the loss of federal funding.

This is the so-called “Right To Farm” amendment. If passed, it would make farming and ranching a right protected by the state constitution.

Lester says the proposal is, at least in part, a response to the 2010 passage of Proposition B. That was the crack down on “puppy mills” spearheaded by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal activist groups.

“The HSUS is a very anti-animal agriculture organization, and so the way it was explained to me is Amendment One is designed to prevent radical organizations from changing the way Missouri farmers operate.”

Many in Missouri’s agriculture industry were worried that it could be used to limit livestock farming operations. Lawmakers and Governor Nixon quickly hammered out an agreement to modify the law shortly after the election.

Next on the ballot is Amendment Five.

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to include a declaration that the right to keep and bear arms is a unalienable right and that the state government is obligated to uphold that right?

State and local governmental entities should have no direct costs or savings from this proposal. However, the proposal’s passage will likely lead to increased litigation and criminal justice related costs. The total potential costs are unknown, but could be significant.

If this one passes, the state constitution will expand recognition of the right to own and carry guns and ammunition. Lester believes this effort is being made with an eye on Washington, DC.

“It may be based in the idea that the federal government will, at some point, say ‘no, we’re going to tax ammunition and you can only have these guns.'”

The proposal would also make it harder for the state government to ban the carrying of concealed weapons. It will still allow the law to ban certain felons and those found to be mentally ill from having guns.

Amendment Seven.

Should the Missouri Constitution be changed to enact a temporary sales tax of three-quarters of one percent to be used solely to fund state and local highways, roads, bridges and transportation projects for ten years, with priority given to repairing unsafe roads and bridges?

This change is expected to produce $480 million annually to the state’s Transportation Safety and Job Creation Fund and $54 million for local governments. Increases in the gas tax will be prohibited. This revenue shall only be used for transportation purposes and cannot be diverted for other uses.

Supporters say it’s needed because the money is running out and we have thousands of miles of highways in the state that need fixed or expanded. Lester outlines one of the main arguments in opposition.

“Sales taxes are generally regressive, so this would have an impact on the poorest of Missourians. That’s the stance given by those who oppose this.”

While some things – like groceries and prescription medicines – would be exempt from the tax, it would be the largest tax increase in the state’s history in terms of total revenue raised. The question before you is simple: are you willing to pay more at the store in exchange for better roads and bridges?

A less contentious ballot measure is Amendment Eight.

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to create a “Veterans Lottery Ticket” and to use the revenue from the sale of these tickets for projects and services related to veterans?

The annual cost or savings to state and local governmental entities is unknown, but likely minimal. If sales of a veterans lottery ticket game decrease existing lottery ticket sales, the profits of which fund education, there could be a small annual shift in funding from education to veterans’ programs.

This one, if approved, will create a special lottery option to benefit veterans programs in the state. Currently, lottery sale profits are only permitted by law to fund public education.

This brings us to the final ballot issue you will decide: Amendment Nine.

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects?

State and local governmental entities expect no significant costs or savings.

This one deals with your privacy in a digital age. Lester says, if passed, it will give courts and police some new standards when it comes to searches.

“Along with everything the Fourth Amendment states, we’re adding emails, cell phones, computers, lap tops, all that.”

In other words, the police would have to get a warrant to search your phone’s text messages, pictures and call history or to search your laptop during encounters like traffic stops.

Missouri Secretary of State’s Ballot Issue Page: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2014ballot/

The Missouri Torch: http://www.TheMissouriTorch.com

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/election-day-the-ballot-issues/

Aug 01

Amendment One: Does Farming Need A State Constitutional Amendment?

Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/0kz781ow10najc3/Right%20to%20Farm%20Edit.mp4

by Mike Ferguson

(Jefferson City, MO) – Both sides of the debate say they are trying to protect family farms in the state.

So, who actually is? That is for you to decide when you vote on Amendment One this Tuesday.

Officially, Amendment One, if passed by voters, “… will amend the Missouri Constitution to guarantee the rights of Missourians to engage in farming and ranching practices, subject to any power given to local government under Article VI of the Missouri Constitution.”

That’s the actual language from the Secretary of State that you’ll see on the ballot.

Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst, who is also a farmer, believes Amendment One is needed. He says farming across the country is under attack by animal rights groups and environmental activists.

“All across the nation, we see initiative petitions, we see legislation, we see regulations that control the ways farmers farm. No other industry is facing a challenge like this. No other industry.”

Former State Senator Wes Shoemyer, who is also a farmer, does not agree. He says Amendment One is not about local farms, it’s about protecting big business that happens to be in the agriculture industry.

“Basically, it’s going to give blanket immunity to the largest segment industry in the state.”

What both mean is that elevating farming and ranching to the status of constitutional right in the state will make it harder to regulate, regardless of efforts to further regulate come from the Legislature or via referendum. On Tuesday, voters must decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

It will be harder, but not impossible, according to Hurst.

“I fully expect that agriculture will continue to be regulated much as it is now but this amendment says ‘let’s give some credit to the people who actually farm the land, let’s give some credit to the scientists at Missouri State and the University of Missouri who develop these technologies. Let’s give credit to the people in the industry who understand the challenges we face that deal with weed pressure, with insect pressure, with weather problems. Let’s give them some credit to make decisions that are both in the interest of farmers but also in the interest of the public as well.'”

The so-called “Right To Farm” amendment effort is, at least in part, a response to the voter approval of Proposition B in 2010. That was the referendum supporters promoted as a way to crack down on what they called unethical dog breeding.

Some in the agriculture industry worried that it could have been used to limit the freedoms of livestock farmers. What the voters approved was quickly changed after the election by state lawmakers and Governor Nixon. Shoemyer points out those changes were able to be made because Proposition B created a law. It was not declaring a state constitutional right.

He believes Amendment One takes away some protections.

“Raising this to a constitutional level is a whole different thing. When we look at Prop B and…the reason for having this, I think – if they’ll remember – the Governor and the Legislature modified that. Now, this is a constitutional amendment. The Legislature and the Governor cannot modify this to make sense.”

Both sides agree that if Amendment One passes, the courts will decide what it means in some cases because lawsuits are likely to result from the passage.

On the web:

Missouri Farmers Care: www.MOFarmersCare.com (supports Amendment One)
Missouri’s Food For America: www.VoteNoOn1.com (opposes Amendment One)

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/amendment-one-does-farming-need-a-state-constitutional-amedment/

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