The following items are currently on the front pages of the websites of newspapers throughout the state:

I’m going to have to see some changes before I can support extending the COMBAT tax  In theory, Jackson County’s COMBAT Tax (the Community-Backed Anti-Drug Tax) is a good tax, and I am not against all taxes on spec – but I am against stupid taxes that waste money.  In practice, millions upon millions of dollars have been pissed away thanks to incompetent oversight and mismanagement.  Unless it is renewed, it will sunset after 31 March 2011, and unless the county can develop a strategy to get a handle on it and reearn the publics confidence between now and then, it ought to.  

The Post-Dispatch has read Eagleton’s FBI file and reading through the article, the thing that comes into stark relief is just how important it is to get a handle of the FBI and domestic spying.  If the law enforcement arm can go after Eagleton for 20 years because he made a joke about one St. Louis agent while sitting at a table in a coffee shop in Las Vegas in 1954 – the agency can’t be trusted with the unbridled power they currently have to spy on all of us.  

Can we finally pass this bill this session?  I-70 is the crossroads of the nation and it cuts right across the center of Missouri and cuts right through our two largest population centers.  This state needs to be levying fees on the tons and tons of radioactive waste that is transported through our state via I-70 every year – and if Yucca Mountain comes on-line, that tonnage will increase.  If the law was in place, the state would have taken in over $130,000 last year – not a lot of money, but every penny matters, especially in tight times.   Passage has bipartisan support and is frankly a no-brainer.  So can we get it passed this session?    The lege is bound to irritate me no end between January and May, so can we at least delay my coming stroke for a week or two and get off on the right foot by passing this?  

Army Corps of Engineers sues Ameren over Taum Sauk disaster  Three years after a breach in the Taum Sauk reservoir flooded Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park with over a billion gallons of water and destroyed the caretakers residence, miraculously sparing the lives of the sleeping residents, the ACoE has filed suit against Ameren, the St. Louis based power company which operated the hydroelectric power plant where the breach took place because debris from the flood continues to damage Clearwater Lake, a popular southeast Missouri hunting, fishing and boating destination.  In January, Ameren agreed to a $180 million settlement with the state, but the lawsuit filed by the corps alleges that the breach caused “an unknown amount of sediment and debris to flow into the Black River and be deposited into Clearwater Lake.” The lake is about 30 miles south of Taum Sauk.  The corps’ Little Rock, Ark., district office owns and maintains Clearwater Lake and its dam in Wayne and Reynolds counties. The lawsuit said that the sediment from the breach has led to reduced storage capacity of Clearwater Lake Reservoir and reduced the life span of the lake project. The suit also said the lake’s natural resources have been damaged.  The suit seeks recovery of expenses incurred by efforts to remediate the increased sediment that is damaging the lake.

Finally!  Kansas City readers know all too well that we have had a long, sad and infuriating history of absentee landlords letting their properties go to hell, and they take entire neighborhoods down with them.  A few years ago I blew up at an Action Center call taker who gave me the run around when I called about a problem property in my old neighborhood and snapped “don’t give me that crap.  When they don’t pay their fines, slap a lien on the property and if they don’t pay up, seize it.  The only reason they don’t do anything is because the city doesn’t do anything.”    A decade later, they are taking my advice and doing just that.  And guess what?  Compliance is breaking out all over the place!  Checks for fines are pouring in from far flung places all over the place.   Previously, the city issued Municipal Court tickets to owners whose properties had code violations, but owners living outside Kansas City usually blew them off.  Municipal judges issued bench warrants, but unless the owners returned to Kansas City and then had some sort of contact with law enforcement and got arrested, nothing happened. Their properties could continue to decay, hurting property values all around them.  Finally, last year, the General Assembly authorized the change to administrative citation, and it’s working.  Because the administrative citation doesn’t involve criminal penalties such as jail time, the city can move much faster against offenders and can impose fines even if the landlords fail to respond to violations. Under the new rules, a landlord has 20 days to pay the fine, or it doubles.  In egregious cases, a separate fine can be assessed each day the violation continues, which can become a large lien against the property. That can make it harder for owners to sell, and that tends to get their attention and foster compliance.