The Springfield News-Leader, May 28
The loss of John Q. Hammons on Monday feels a bit like losing a founding father. He may not have lived in the era of John Polk Campbell, but what he brought to Springfield has forever changed the city's face and focus.
Fountains, buildings, a street and even a baseball field bear his name, a testimony to the construction company he founded in the 1940s. But those monuments represent more than development. They demonstrate the vision and the heart of the man.
Small in stature, Hammons was a visionary with a large presence in the Springfield area. A country boy with a teacher's education, he demonstrated that he had a head for business and a heart for his community.
After returning from military service, he embraced the building boom that followed World War II and began a successful career in construction. Eventually he developed shopping centers and subdivisions on Springfield's south side, opening up the city for its future growth.
Branching into hotels, he not only made a fortune for himself and his company, he established Springfield as a place to visit, hold conferences and host sporting events and tournaments.
An Ozarks native who never lost his connection with home, Hammons used his fortune to help others. He donated $1 million to his alma mater Missouri State University in 1976 to build the John Q. Hammons Student Center, which continues to serve the campus. Hammons didn't stop there with his support of the university. In addition to the Hammons House dormitory, Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts, named for his wife, and JQH Arena, the latest building made possible through his generosity, Hammons lent his creative spirit and optimistic passion to the school over the years.
Perhaps one of his greatest achievements for the city was his ability to bring the St. Louis Cardinals to town. He negotiated with the Major League Baseball team to establish a minor league team in Springfield to play in a state-of-the-art ball field built by Hammons. Hammons Field not only hosts the Springfield Cardinals, it is the home field for the MSU Bears.
He built the tallest building in Springfield, financed Hammons Heart Institute on the Mercy hospital campus making Springfield a medical destination, supported the arts, created the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and won nearly every award — locally and nationally — given. And still, he meant more to us.
We have lost a founder of a vision for Springfield, a vision of education, creativity, health and excitement.
The Kansas City Star, May 27
End the death penalty in Kansas and Missouri
Sadly, Missouri and Kansas are not among the states whose lawmakers have understood what an unjust and costly system capital punishment is. Measures to abolish or even temporarily halt the death penalty have gone nowhere over the years in both legislatures.
So it's time for citizens and enlightened lawmakers to plan ways to make this matter of life and death a top priority in these two states for the next legislative sessions.
The arc of history is bending toward justice when it comes to the death penalty, and there's no good reason Missouri and Kansas should lag behind and continue to be on the wrong side of both history and justice.
Both states continue to support capital punishment even though the evidence is clear that operating a system designed to execute prisoners is much more costly than sending them to prison without the possibility of parole when convicted of heinous crimes.
In Kansas, 13 men have been sentenced to death since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1994, but no one has been executed.
A 2003 study calculated that the litigation and incarceration expenses of capital cases are 70 percent higher than what it costs the state to seek justice in murder cases in which the death penalty isn't in play.
In 2008, for instance, the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice estimated that the annual cost of the present death penalty system there was $137 million. By contrast, it estimated that the annual cost of a system that instead imposed a maximum penalty of life in prison would be $11.5 million.
So if this were merely a matter of economics, the death penalty should be tossed out.
But, of course, it's much more than that. Despite the costliness of capital litigation, the prospects for error are much too high.
The Innocence Project reports that, through the use of DNA evidence, 18 death row prisoners so far have been exonerated. They already had served a total of 229 years behind bars in 11 different states. That should never happen. Nor should execution of the innocent, but the only way to be positive it doesn't is to ban capital punishment.
There's more: Killing people who are accused of killing people simply puts the state on the same debased moral level as the criminals. And although such executions certainly deter the now-dead prisoner from committing more crimes, there is sound research to suggest that capital punishment has no deterrent effect on people who may commit offenses that could result in a death sentence.
There's a compelling argument that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. What's incontestable is that by permitting the death penalty the United States is keeping company with such countries as Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Uganda. By contrast, all 47 members of the Council of Europe have either established a moratorium on the death penalty or abolished it altogether.
Surely it's time for the U.S. to join the abolition movement. Kansas and Missouri should follow Maryland's recent example and become the 19th and 20th states to adopt a sane and civilized approach to this matter.
The Washington Missourian, May 23
The start of every legislative session is similar to the start of every baseball season — hope springs eternal.
But by the end of the session, five sometimes grueling and exasperating months later, there is usually a sense of relief that the whole affair is over.
That was the case again this year.
The session, which began in January with a Republican promise of a "Triple E" agenda of economic development, energy policy and education, ended last week with Democrats describing it as a triple dose of extremism.
A few meaningful bills passed, many more failed and there was even more missed opportunities by our state legislators especially with respect to their top goals. In short, it was a fairly typical legislative session.
There was predictable political infighting among Republicans who control both chambers by wide margins. There was also plenty of the political gamesmanship and partisan grandstanding that have characterized the past few sessions.
But was the session a success? That depends on who is doing the scoring. To be sure, Republican legislators served up the obligatory accolades calling it a success and "historic" while Democrats criticized it as "an abject failure."
One way we like to measure the session is by judging it against the state's motto, "The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law."
So did our public servants honor our state motto this past session?
They did with respect to a few issues, including finally passing legislation to fix the state's bankrupt Second Injury Fund. The 70-year-old fund that covers workers with pre-existing injuries has been insolvent for a number of years with unpaid claims of more than $28 million to more than 1,000 injured workers.
Lawmakers deserve credit for getting this done.
Republicans are also claiming credit for passing the first corporate and personal income tax cut in over 90 years.
The new tax law would make some major changes to the state code over the next decade and is projected to reduce state revenues by about $700 million annually when it is fully phased-in.
Proponents say the bill will make the state more competitive for attracting businesses. We are not so sure about that claim since Missouri is already a low tax state.
We're all for lower taxes but we agree with critics of the legislation who say this legislation doesn't address the real problem with the Missouri individual income tax — it's incredibly complicated.
The Legislature should have taken this opportunity to overhaul the system for the better by simply flattening the brackets and modernizing the tax code.
It may not matter. Gov. Jay Nixon has signaled he may veto the legislation out of concern for its impact on the state's ability to fund public services with less revenue.
If the cuts do indeed result in devastating cuts to schools, public safety, parks, and other services throughout the state as critics project, then we would argue the welfare of the people has not been served. ...
The Joplin Globe, May 22
"Why" has no answer
Just hours before, there was breakfast and laughter. There were pictures on the walls and memories in every room.
But in seconds, those joys of life were reduced to a concrete slab by a rage of nature that man will never fully understand.
As the tears flow and people embrace, one question rises above all others: Why?
Weep softly or shout in rage. It matters not. The answer to that one word has haunted man since the dawn of time and will follow him to eternity's edge.
As mortals, we are equipped to handle how, what, when and where. We analyze, we report, we document, we reconstruct. We find answers.
But the sad and bitter truth is that there is no answer to "Why?"
As smart as we think we are, as enlightened as some claim to be, not one of the billions of us sharing this rock have the answer to that question.
Two days shy of today's two-year mark of our own pain here in Joplin, the people of Moore, Oklahoma, are, sadly, feeling theirs.
The images are eerie: A tree stripped bare, metal in its limbs as a mother carries her daughter wrapped in all she has left — her love. The hospital, the schools, the businesses and homes. ... The destruction is all too familiar.
As we look back today, we would ask you to remember our day of pain, then respond to those in Moore who are living theirs.
We have come a long way since that Sunday afternoon of May 22, 2011, but we still have a long way to go.
The people of Moore are only two days into a horrific journey. Please give them a hand and, if you have the inclination, a prayer or two as well.
Though we will never get an answer as to why, we can ask: "What can we do?"