With the election only four days away and with our streets, radios, and televisions flush with political messaging, citizens will head to the local polling stations where, collectively, they will once more make critical decisions about our future. However, with all the negative advertisements and the murky political doublespeak, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of what is at stake in this election.
By Ryan Madden Staff Writer With the election only four days away and with our streets, radios, and televisions flush with political messaging, citizens will head to the local polling stations where, collectively, they will once more make critical decisions about our future. However, with all the negative advertisements and the murky political doublespeak, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of what is at stake in this election. In order to decipher the political coding and attempt to see through the campaign ambiguity, the Boonville Daily News spoke with representatives from the three levels of government: Boonville Mayor Julie Thacher, State Representative Candidate John Wright and US Representative Vicky Hartzler. Ther goal was to find out what those in, and seeking, office think are the major issues facing Boonville, Mid-Missouri and similar communities around the state. Local Government On the local level, in speaking with Mayor Thacher, a resident of Boonville since 1973, it appears that the most important election issue facing the community is what is called The Storm Water and Local Parks Sales Tax Initiative. It is, at its heart, a measure that would increase sales tax by one-half of one cent for the next 25 years. The main focus of the initiative is to help pay for mandated maintenance and repairs to our wastewater treatment plant. “The majority of the money will be going towards that,” Thacher said. “The upgrades mandated by the EPA and DNR will add up to probably 20 million dollars, so we're talking about a lot of money. We're looking at rate increases no matter what but this will help to offset some of the rate increases that will be coming.” “short term, we have a lot of people here who are on fixed income so they can control their spending and their sales tax. However, the rate increases on their water bill – they really can't control that. So I think this has a greater impact for them to support this to help those outside of Boonville to pay for the upgrades,” Thacher said. An example of this, Thacher said, is a guy driving down the Interstate from Alabama decides he needs a cheeseburger, so he stops at McDonalds and pays a few cents sales tax. Then he's helping to pay for those upgrades at the local water plant. According to the Thacher, the feedback so far has been a “mixed bag” and for some it's sort of a sensitive subject. The parks issue, she says is a secondary issue and a lot of people were putting an emphasis on that. "I think people understand the waste water issues and why the money needs to go towards that, but I think they're a little reluctant about the parks side of it.” Speaking on her expectations for the Initiative going forward, Thacher said, “I think once people understand that the council will put the focus on the wastewater aspect of it, they'll understand that this is a very important tax.” With the rest of the county elections going unopposed and the city elections slated for April 2013, the focus locally lies square on the Sales Tax Initiative. On her hopes for the state and federal elections, Thacher said she would like to see a lightening of restrictions and regulations on small communities. “It's just killing us,” Thacher said. “It's not just Boonville, it's all communities.” However, she is not convinced that the type of change required to do just that is right around the corner. “In the next 2 to 4 years, we won't see much change here locally. It takes so long to get these types of things fixed,” Thacher said. Despite having little confidence in getting expensive regulatory costs curbed, Thacher is optimistic about the future of the greater Boonville community. “I have a creed that I want Boonville to be attractive, clean, safe, and healthy in everything we do. I try to always do what I think is right, and from the feedback I get, I think people are happy with the direction that we're heading,” Thacher said. State Government “We in mid-Missouri possess a special set of values that have always made us a great community: thrift, hard work, personal responsibility, and civic engagement. We know that, although we've had some economic bumps over the last few years, our strength lies in those values that have been passed on to us by our parents and grandparents. And we know that the path to a strong economic future lies in those very same values," John Wright said. Missouri 47th Congressional District candidate John Wright is a Columbia Native and a graduate of Hickman High 1994'. He graduated Yale College in 1998, where he graduated top of his class, and graduated Yale Law School in 2005. “Our economy has been soft over the last few years due to a major financial crises that affected the entire country starting in 2008, but I think we're coming back. Missouri businesses are starting to grow and hire again and the job market is showing signs of improvement,” Wright said. Despite these signs of growth, he said however, much of the 47th District has yet to feel the effects of these economic indicators. When asked what specifically the district representative can do to in Jefferson City to effectuate change and improve the lives of people here in Howard and Cooper Counties, Wright said it is about focusing on education, infrastructure and fiscal responsibility. "First, we should work to expand access to our universities, community colleges, technical schools, and worker retraining programs through student loan and scholarship programs. Second, we can put Missourians back to work today by undertaking smart, targeted investments in infrastructure. This includes not only taking up the deferred maintenance on our roads and highways (I-70, in particular), but also extending high-speed Internet and wireless access throughout our rural communities. As business leaders will tell you, high quality infrastructure is an important part of a business-friendly Missouri. Finally, we must maintain our dedication to fiscal responsibility in government,” Wright said. Wright points out that under Governor Nixon, we have had a balanced budget without having to raise taxes, and proudly speaks of Missouri's AAA credit rating. “We should be very proud of that, because fiscal responsibility will help ensure that we can continue to make smart investments in education and infrastructure in a sustainable way into the future,” Wright said. “The right to vote is one of our most sacred rights as Americans, our unique opportunity to have our voices heard in our political process. On that election day, our voices as Americans all count equally. Your vote counts as much as Warren Buffett's vote or Donald Trump's vote or even President Obama's vote. That's a very special thing and we must not take it for granted.” Federal Government Vicky Hartzler is from Archie, MO a small town south of Kansas City with just over 1000 people. She served as a Missouri state representative from 1995 -2000 and is currently serving as US Representative for Missouri's Fourth Congressional District. On her way from Sedalia to Boonville, Hartzler, while on a “jobs tour,” spoke to us about what she considers to be the major issues facing Boonville and Missouri in the run up to the elections. “I think the number one issue is growing our economy and increasing jobs so that people have good paying jobs and more take home pay. I'm working to get regulation, litigation, and legislation off the back of our small business owners so that they can hire more people,” Hartzler said. Hartlzer stated ways she feels will get businesses hiring more people. “One thing we can do is repeal Obamacare. Another thing we can do is to encourage the use of American made energy, to reduce the fuel and energy costs to encourage more businesses to locate here in American so that we can get those manufacturing jobs back. We can also lower the corporate tax rate,” which she says, at its current rates, makes the Unites States “less competitive,” Hartzler said. While decreasing foreign energy independence and lowering the corporate tax rate seem like daunting tasks, Hartzler said that federal legislation and policies affect communities like Boonville. “The average family in the Boonville area has seen their gas prices almost double the last four years. We need to get those prices back down and let families keep more of their hard earned dollars. Those are things I want to focus on for the average family,” Hartzler said. On education, Hartzler said that educational policy should be handled at the state level, but does believe in the federal government helping to usher children towards the fields of science, technology, engineering and math – something she would like to see trickle down to the Cooper and Howard Counties. As a sitting representative, Hartzler is acutely aware of the anti-incumbent sentiments that most people have towards Congress, and when asked about the partisan gridlock in Washington, she mainly places the blame on the Senate. “Most of the reason that Washington is broken is because the Senate is refusing to vote on hardly any bills, so you can't get to the point of compromise in a conference committee. So hopefully that will change with some of the leadership in the Senate. We have to have help from the Senate in order to pass legislation,” Hartzler said. Despite this congressional disconnect, Congresswoman Hartzler does see some room for compromise between the parties. “I think there is a lot of common ground and I want to continue to find it. I think we can,” Hartzler said.