St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 15
John Diehl and the curse of Gen. Sterling Price:
It's often said that the speaker of the Missouri House holds the second-most powerful job in state government. That may well be true, but the job carries with it the Curse of Gen. Sterling Price.
Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country, who announced his resignation Thursday after a sexting scandal with a college freshman, is but the latest example. Our theory is that Price, a governor who became a Confederate general who fled to Mexico rather than surrender, messed up the speaker's seat for everybody between 1840 and 1844.
In the last four decades, 12 people have held the second-most powerful, etc. Two of them went to prison. Two got involved in sex scandals. Four of them failed in bids for higher office. Two cashed in as "political consultants"; one moved up to the state Senate. Two got appointive political jobs; one of them, Republican Catherine Hanaway, is campaigning for governor but has been wounded by a consultant's role in an attack ad that may have contributed to an opponent's suicide.
In the era of term limits, the speaker usually has only two years to monetize the job. Mr. Diehl was well on his way until his self-destruction. Somewhere, Gen. Price, who died in poverty, is laughing.
Joplin Globe, May 14
If you carry a gun, get the training:
It could have ended in tragedy.
Instead, the weekend accident involving a dropped gun and a 6-year-old on a playground only resulted in a bullet piercing a slide.
An off-duty Webb City police officer went to rescue his child, who was at the top of the slide and unable to get down. He was carrying a semi-automatic pistol in a concealed-carry holster with a pants clip. The gun fell from the officer's pocket to the slide deck, and before he noticed, a young boy picked up the gun and fired it. In addition to the officer, his son and the 6-year-old, another child was on the deck and a couple of other families in King Jack Park on Saturday when the incident occurred.
We are relieved that we reported an accident and the likelihood of some type of disciplinary action for the officer rather than an injury or fatality. We're sure the officer feels the same way.
This officer had been well-trained in how to use and carry a firearm. Still, there is always the risk of an accident. Imagine how much we elevate that risk every time some lawmaker decides it's OK for people to carry concealed weapons without either a permit or any kind of training.
Yet our neighbors in Kansas have just passed such a law that will take effect in July. Arkansas passed the same law — called constitutional carry — a few years ago. Residents of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Wyoming and Vermont are allowed to carry concealed weapons without a permit or training.
When Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed the legislation he noted that carrying a gun is a constitutional right. "We're removing a barrier to that right," he said.
By removing that "barrier," in our view, we have also taken the safety off. By disregarding the potential for setting up even more accidents, legislators and the governors who sign these laws increase the odds of tragedy.
And now, apparently emboldened by the success in passing a law that lets anyone older than 21 carry a gun without training, there are legislators in Kansas who say they will work to lower the age for carrying concealed weapons to 18.
We would encourage those who use firearms for hunting or for protection to get training, whether the law requires it or not. Do it for yourself, as well as those who you will encounter.
Your life and theirs will depend on you knowing what you're doing.
St. Joseph News-Press, May 17
Sheriff makes the right call:
Given the options, Buchanan County Sheriff Mike Strong chose transparency. We're all better for it.
In the early morning hours last Tuesday, a man died when struck by a tractor-trailer rig while walking along the westbound lanes of U.S. Highway 36 on the Platte River bridge, east of St. Joseph. This tragedy soon was to be compounded.
A driver called law enforcement officers about 3:30 a.m. to report he thought he had struck a deer in a construction zone on the bridge. Two deputies were dispatched to the scene, but no evidence of a deer strike was confirmed. The deputies left the scene.
Then, about sunrise, a second motorist passing by saw a body along the roadway and called law enforcement officers again. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said it was notified about 6:30 a.m.
"Bottom line, we screwed up," Sheriff Strong said on Friday.
"During the investigation there were some serious communications issue between the deputies, and some assumptions they made were incorrect and led to what we consider some pretty serious errors .
"We have addressed it and there will be consequences for the deputies involved."
Ultimately, the sheriff is responsible for ensuring the public's expectations for service are met by all members of his staff. If not, it comes back on him.
Knowing this, the sheriff was right to use the collective pronoun "we" to describe the failure of his office to locate and secure the body of the pedestrian immediately after the accident.
At the same time, he was open in explaining the deputies dispatched to the scene were relatively inexperienced and calls to investigate deer strikes are uncommon, so no standard protocol exists.
All of that is remarkably more detail than we have seen provided at other times by government agencies prone to hunker down in the face of public criticism. We would like to think this openness will be rewarded with greater trust from the public.
The Kansas City Star, May 15
$82 million verdict sends message to debt collectors:
A Jackson County jury's whopping verdict against a debt collection firm sends exactly the right message.
Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC, was soulless in its pursuit of Maria Guadalupe Mejia Alcantara of Kansas City. It harassed and frightened her, even though Alcantara hadn't generated the debt that the company was seeking repayment on.
The company refused to listen to Alcantara and her lawyers when they said Portfolio was going after the wrong person. It balked at providing information when the case got into court.
Jurors considered all of this when they slammed Portfolio with $251,000 in damages and $82 million in punitive damages.
The case began more than two years ago, when Portfolio threatened to take Alcantara to court over a credit card debt of $1,130.
Fortunately, she was able to find lawyers to help her, first at Legal Aid of Western Missouri and later with Slough Connealy Irwin & Madden. These advocates recognized that a company was preying on a low-income immigrant woman because it thought it could get away with it.
As it turned out, it couldn't. Whatever its outcome upon appeal, the verdict should cause Portfolio and other debt collection agencies to cease with abusive tactics and do a better job of identifying their targets.