Editorial Roundup: Missouri

Kansas City Star. July 8, 2021.

Editorial: MO Gov. Mike Parson pretends we should run for our lives — from one CDC epidemiologist

With Missouri ranking dead last in keeping its people safe from COVID-19 and one of the Springfield hospitals overwhelmed by unvaccinated COVID patients already out of ventilators, Gov. Mike Parson is responding the only way he seems to know how, with a family-sized plate of counterproductive partisan prate.

Right in keeping with his lax, leisurely and often incomprehensible approach to this whole pandemic, Parson is taking aim not at the virus that’s killing people but at federal efforts to address the crisis.

“I have directed our health department to tell the federal government that sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination would NOT be an effective OR welcome strategy in Missouri!” Parson wrote on Twitter on Wednesday night.

Missouri and Greene County had requested help from the federal government. Of course they did, because we’re leading the country in new infections and in the prevalence of the more infectious and deadly delta variant.

But now Parson is characterizing the federal “surge” team that we asked for and need as a scary bunch of intrusive government agents you’ll soon find camped out on your porch.

In fact, the government agents in question include one Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist, who arrived in Springfield on Wednesday to work on genetic sequencing, and one communications specialist who’s coming next week to help local officials address vaccine hesitancy.

Run for your lives, because an epidemiologist walks among us?

All this because President Joe Biden said, “We need to go community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people. … We’re going to put even more emphasis on getting vaccinated in your community, close to home, conveniently at a location you’re already familiar with.”

Door-to-door outreach will only happen where that’s what the community wants, the White House has said. But of course, that hasn’t kept Parson and other Republicans from putting politics ahead of public health.

Because it was Tuesday, Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene responded with another vile Nazi comparison, tweeting, “covid is a political tool used to control people. People have a choice, they don’t need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations.”

Governor, could you please press pause on the too-cool-for-COVID posturing that got us where we are in the first place? There is a reason that 93% of Democrats say they either have gotten vaccinated or plan to do so, and only 49% of Republicans say the same.

You, sir, are part of that reason, and it’s killing your own people; it’s the unvaccinated who are on ventilators.

Thanks in no small part to your consistently inconsistent “If you want to wear a dang mask, wear a mask” messaging that flag-waving, freedom-loving Missourians could ignore COVID precautions, no county in southwest Missouri has more than 35% of its population fully vaccinated; statewide, the number is just under 40%.

If you can’t say anything helpful, maybe just take the day off.

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Jefferson City News Tribune. July 10, 2021.

Editorial: State, county give needed boost to public defenders

We commend Cole County and the State of Missouri for working to improve the state’s woefully underfunded public defender system.

We commend Cole County and the State of Missouri for working to improve the state’s woefully underfunded public defender system.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers earmarked $1 million to hire 15 new public defenders to eliminate some waiting lists for public defender services across the state.

That happened after Gov. Mike Parson took the leadership to boost funding for the agency in his proposed budget.

As a result, the Public Defenders Office in the Cole County Courthouse — which serves Cole, Miller and Moniteau counties, will add another three attorneys to the existing nine in the office. As we reported Tuesday, that is expected to happen in August or September.

The County Commission, meanwhile, is moving forward with a plan to house the additional public defenders.

The plan calls for the second floor of the Carnegie Building, adjacent to the Cole County Courthouse, to continue to house public defenders offices while using the basement of the building for the space needed to house the incoming public defenders. The public defender’s office was first located years ago in the Carnegie Basement.

Western District Commissioner Harry Otto said the plan will allow the Cole County Public Defenders Office to stay in one building, rather than be split into two buildings.

Public defenders offices throughout Missouri have been short-staffed for years. That can create long wait times for defendants, compromising their constitutional right to a speedy trial. It also means existing public defenders have large caseloads, which means they don’t have the time to adequately represent their clients.

That’s not the way our justice system is supposed to work. So we support measures by the county and state to balance the scales of justice for the accused.

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St. Joseph News-Press. July 7, 2021.

Editorial: Griffin put region on the map

It’s likely that Missouri may never see another state politician quite like Bob Griffin. It’s even more likely that Northwest Missouri won’t see another with Griffin’s statewide clout.

Griffin started his political career as a Clinton County prosecutor in 1962 and was elected to the Missouri House eight years later. He rose to become the longest-serving House speaker in state history, serving in that position from 1981 until a federal investigation forced his resignation in 1996.

Griffin died this week, at the age of 85, in Columbia. In his day, he wielded considerable power at a time when Democrats held a majority in the Missouri General Assembly.

In politics, he subscribed to the theory that you reward your allies, punish your enemies and remain consistent. Upon his death, the Missouri Independent relayed how he opened doors for rising female politicians and assigned one political opponent to a windowless office.

His legislative achievements included a major overhaul of education funding in 1993, with increases in corporate and individual income taxes, following a court ruling that Missouri wasn’t doing enough to support public education.

He wasn’t one to back down or hide behind carefully worded statements. After he was arrested for a DWI in the early 1990s, he appeared at St. Joseph’s old D&G Restaurant, unlit cigar in his hand, and told the Buchanan County Democratic Club that the News-Press reporter was a “known Republican hack.”

It’s possible he held on too long, that a decade or more in power contributed to the public fatigue that resulted in voter support for legislative term limits. He pleaded guilty in 1997 to federal charges of bribery and mail fraud in connection to payments from a lobbyist.

He was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison, but President Clinton issued a pardon on his final days in office. It was another indicator of Griffin’s influence.

In Cameron, Griffin is remembered less as a powerful dealmaker or a fallen political star. He was someone who brought money and influence to a part of the state that often gets the cold shoulder in Jefferson City.

The Griffin tenure brought two state prisons and a veterans’ home to his hometown. Those were economic plums that didn’t go unnoticed in St. Joseph.

“His impact over here was huge,” said Jack Briggs, a former economic developer from Cameron. “Those are gigantic job creators.”

Briggs said Griffin also was generous with his own contributions and fundraising efforts for Cameron, bringing in more than $200,000 for the city’s animal shelter as well as money for new restrooms at the country club.

Whether you remember him as a no-holds-barred politician or a friend of a small town, there’s no doubt Bob Griffin made his mark.

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