Several months back, I wrote about various columns the News-Press or Gazette used to run, such as the “Fact Finder,” a “Woman’s View” and “Gazing at Sports.” For some bizarre reason, I forgot to include the Commentary page.
Also known as the Sunday Op-Ed page, this began in 1975 and consisted of columns written by News-Press reporters (and occasionally, an editor). The idea was to give a personal voice to issues these men and women covered every day.
Let’s have a look at a few from the early days:
Police reporter Mary Helen Burrowes has disagreed with City Councilman Larry Koch in the past, but they do agree on this: Salaries of firefighters and police officers don’t need to match. The council is examining the matter.
“I don’t see why the police chief and the fire chief should draw the same salary,” she wrote in 1978, “or what logic dictates that a fire captain and police captain get the same pay. We should pay according to the man, not the job.
“And also, in the field of municipal government, does a man lose his job if he is incompetent? Maybe it should work that way, but it doesn’t.”
David R. Bradley Jr., who was covering the 1976 elections, called on all candidates in the Sixth District Congressional race to reveal their sources of income and investments.
“The public deserves to know who they are electing to office and where his interests lie,” he wrote in a column that June. Missouri has passed a strict campaign finance and disclosure law, but it doesn’t apply to federal candidates.
“When a person decides to run for public office,” Bradley wrote, “he has to open himself to public scrutiny.”
Also in a 1976 column, managing editor Robert L. Slater noted that the big issue for the county this election year dealt with the fate of the deteriorating Courthouse: Should it be renovated? Or demolished and built anew?
In a recent News-Press survey, the renovation side outvoted the demolition side by more than 5 to 1. Slater pointed out that Presiding Commissioner L.R. Sollars favored demolition and was planning a November bond election for a new courthouse.
“I think Commissioner Sollars should reconsider his plan,” Slater wrote. “I simply don’t believe public support for a new courthouse is present in two-thirds of the voters.”
In a 1975 column, Jack Suesens, education reporter, said school officials must redraw district boundary lines for Noyes School if it is to remain open. The same goes for Sherwood and Blair schools, which also face sharp enrollment declines.
“Three alternatives are possible,” Suesens wrote. “Attendance areas can be changed, some schools can be closed, or things will stay as they are.
“We cannot believe the last option will even be considered.”
There soon will be three new parking garages Downtown, and City Hall reporter Frederick W. Slater said officials are looking at fee structures. One idea is to charge 25 cents an hour, while another would offer an option for a $20 monthly permit.
“Then there are the persons who believe the structures should be free of any charges,” Slater wrote in 1976.
“Fortunately, City Public Works Director Frank L. Endebrock is contacting other cities to see what they do. This should serve as a guideline for the local decision.”
The Commentary page got a little lighter in the 1980s, with topics ranging from Saturday movie matinees to visiting the elderly. We’ll examine those next time.