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Leaving the Oak Tree

Leaving the Oak Tree

After seven years, the St. Joseph folk-bluegrass quartet band Under The Big Oak Tree will play its farewell show tonight.

Details on Page B4

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Freshman frolic | Missouri Western hosts event to welcome class of 2023
Western hosts Griff Up downtown event for college freshmen

For the first time Missouri Western State University hosted the Griff Up downtown event to welcome the class of 2023 to St. Joseph.

The event took place at Coleman Hawkins Park at Felix Street Square in order to get student acquainted with a new area.

There was music, games, face painting, free shirts and 16 different businesses offering special promotions for the night.

Students also had a chance to explore local businesses through a scavenger hunt across Downtown.

Mayor Bill McMurray and Western President Matt Wilson were at the event to meet incoming students.

“It’s so fun to engage with the students and see their excitement with classes starting on Monday,” Wilson said.

The event was apart of the freshmen Griffon Edge program that helps students get acclimated to college life.

“It’s been a long day for them because we kicked off the program with a pep rally early this morning,” Wilson said.

Christian Sarna is a second year mentor with Griffon Edge and thinks this event benefits many of the students.

“A lot of the students that aren’t from St. Joseph will never go Downtown because they don’t know it’s down here,” Sarna said. “It’s a great opportunity to branch out from campus.”

Griffon Edge lasts until Sunday with freshmen participating in other meet and greet events, community service and tours around campus.

President Matt Wilson is excited to start his first year as president and is looking forward to working with the Western faculty.

“Our faculty is truly committed to the student and making sure they get the best education possible,” Wilson said. “We want to put them in positions where they can get careers and impact our community.”

The event brought out a large crowd of students eager to explore downtown and kick off their college careers with classes starting on Monday.

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Riverwalk trail remains closed after flooding

Tons of silt left behind by recent floods have kept the Riverwalk Trail locked behind gates, and expected flooding this weekend could mean those gates will stay locked longer.

The trail, over a mile in length, is roughly half-covered in a layer of three to four feet of sandy sludge, according to the St. Joseph Parks Department.

Efforts have been made to clear the walkway with machinery, creating walls of earth on both sides of the trail higher than five feet in some places.

“What we’ve tried to do is come to come in and clean the sidewalk itself,” Assistant Parks Director Jeff Atkins said. “It’s kind of like plowing a real deep snow.”

Atkins said removing all of the silt will require machinery and trucks, and the City isn’t sure yet what they will do with it.

Environmental law prohibits dumping the dirt back into the river and dumping it into the nearby wetlands, which means it has to be hauled off site.

“Just that in itself is a logistics nightmare because there’s so much quantity of things that need hauled away and we’ve got to take them through the yard at the nature center over the narrow walk bridge,” Atkins said. “So, we’re not going to be able to bring big trucks in, which is really going to add to the length of time that it’s going to take to get all the silt out of here.”

Parks says the water and large silt walls around the trail pose a safety concern for pedestrians.

“We hate it being closed, we truly do,” Atkins said. “If we could open it today we would open it today, but it’s just not safe yet, and until we can safely open it, we just won’t be able to.”

On Thursday, flood waters were back on the trail and a predicted rise in river levels over the weekend means more silt could be coming and work will be again delayed.

The Parks Department does not know when the trail could reopen.

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'Drag Queen Story Hour' critic faces backlash over petition to cancel event

What was originally a reading event for children has turned into a lightning rod over the use of a St. Joseph library.

In September, the library plans to host an hour-long event hosted by a drag queen to support the LGBTQ community. Lara Muse, a Country Club Village Resident, wants to see the library cancel the event, going so far as to create a petition for those in opposition.

Because of that petition, Muse said she’s received harassing messages on Facebook and over text message. Some of those messages, viewed by a News-Press NOW reporter, threaten to call family services to have Muse’s children removed from her home.

Some of the messages home in on the word “pedophilic,” a word Muse used in her online petition. Muse’s husband, Donald Muse, is a registered sex offender. He pleaded guilty to child molestation in the first degree in 2006.

“This is a blatant attempt to push a sexual and pro-pedophilic agenda, using a public library and therefore public funds as the platform,” Muse said in her petition.

The victim in Donald Muse’s case, whom News-Press NOW isn’t naming, said some people have gone too far with their comments. The victim said her children have received inappropriate messages of a sexual nature.

“I just honestly believe the harassment and threats need to stop,” she said. “As the victim, I’m setting the record straight.”

St. Joseph Public Library Director Mary Beth Revels said anyone who sends hateful messages isn’t representing the library, and called for those messages to end.

“Nobody should be harassed,” she said. “I can tell you the library has received some not very nice messages as well.”

“I would ask anybody who thinks they’re doing the right thing by being mean to stop,” Revels said.

Despite the petition, which has over 1,000 signatures as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Revels said the library will not cancel the event. With protesters expected, the library hired two off-duty police officers to provide security.

“We want protesters to be safe. We want counter-protesters to be safe,” Revels said. “We certainly want to see the people who are here for this fun program to be safe.”

More than 400 people have responded to a Facebook post for the event saying they’ll attend. Revels expects more people to attend than the library has capacity for.

Muse said the petition wasn’t meant as a personal attack against the performer who plans to read during the event. Rather, she said she didn’t think the library should be exposing children to such a lifestyle.

“Drag Queen Story Hour” will be hosted Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 6 p.m. The event is the fourth installment of a series titled “Celebrating All of US.”

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Red ink will increase for federal budget

Consider America’s annual budget deficit in another way: The red ink for a single year could fund St. Joseph’s municipal government, at current spending levels, until the year 8761.

The Congressional Budget Office, which provides nonpartisan analyses of revenue and spending matters for the U.S. government, reported Wednesday that the federal deficit will be an average $1.2 trillion in each of the years between 2020 and 2029.

The deficit for the current fiscal year will hit $960 billion.

“The nation’s fiscal outlook is challenging,” Phillip L. Swagel, the CBO’s director, said in a statement released with the report.

He regarded federal debt as on “an unsustainable course,” one foreseen as worsening in the next decade because of an aging population, increased spending on health care and rising costs from interest on the debt.

“To put it on a sustainable course, lawmakers will have to make significant changes to tax and spending policies, making revenues larger than they would be under current law, reducing spending below projected amounts or adopting some combination of those approaches,” Swagel said.

Putting a local perspective on the national numbers, the projected annual deficits would:

Fund the City of St. Joseph, at 2019 spending levels, for 6,742 years

Fund the St. Joseph School District for 9,160 years.

Pay off the St. Joseph Blacksnake Creek Combined Sewage Project 17,910 times over.

Add $3,642 to the debt owed by every man, woman and child in St. Joseph (and every American), or about $280 million for this one community.

The CBO said its projections changed with congressional passage earlier this month, and with President Trump’s signature, of the Bipartisan Budget Act, a measure lifting the debt ceiling for another two years, eliminating a possible government shutdown beyond the 2020 elections.

It also added $320 billion in spending beyond current levels.

U.S. Reps. Sam Graves, of North Missouri, and Steve Watkins, whose district includes Northeast Kansas, both voted against the measure in the U.S. House.

Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran voted for approval of the budget bill, while Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley voted in opposition. All the lawmakers are Republicans.

“When the entire federal budget depends on four or five people striking a deal among themselves, something is not right,” Hawley said at the time of the budget deliberations. “The budget process has collapsed, and that collapse is breaking Congress.”

Organizations focused on federal budget accountability reacted to the report’s release on Wednesday.

“Between the budget deal, the tax cuts (of 2017) and other recent unpaid-for legislation, policymakers have roughly doubled near-term deficits over just the past few years,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the bi-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Mark M. Zandi, co-founder and chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, said on C-SPAN Thursday morning that the federal tax cuts that took effect last year have not supported business investment as intended.

“Budget deficits and debt are rising very, very rapidly,” he said regarding the CBO report. “Debt loads are going to rise. ... If the starve-the-beast kind of theory has any validity, it’s certainly not working because the size of the U.S. government is increasing very rapidly.”