Here we go again. In a bitter 6-4 vote, before a standing-room-only crowd, the Kansas Board of Education adopted new curriculum standards last week that cast doubt on the theory of evolution. Whatever one thinks of the theory of evolution, there's a larger issue at stake. The dispute in Kansas isn't ultimately about the merits of the theory of evolution, or whether all the alternatives are, as opponents argue, based on religious faith. The bigger fight is about who gets to impose their beliefs on whom. It's just the latest symptom of a deeper illness that necessarily afflicts a school system where all the educational decisions are made by government bureaucrats.
Missouri's asset forfeiture laws avoid a conflict of interest by prohibiting law enforcement officials from keeping forfeiture profits. Instead, the money is dedicated to a public education fund. And under Missouri law, seized property cannot be auctioned off until its owner has been convicted of a crime. But some law enforcement officials don't like those sensible safeguards for property rights.
It's true that the McRee Town was in distress. Some buildings had problems so serious that condemnation and demolition was the only option. But the use of eminent domain to seize and demolish entire city blocks was unfair, unnecessary, and wasteful. It destroyed badly needed affordable housing and uprooted dozens of poor people, most of whom were forced to start over in another bad neighborhood. A better renovation plan for McRee Town would have focused on helping those already living and working in the neighborhood by expanding the stock of affordable housing.
A group calling itself the Coalition for a Healthy Future wants to more than quintuple Missouri's cigarette excise tax, to 97 cents a pack, and use the proceeds to help finance Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor. The proposal, which the group hopes to put on the November 2006 ballot, is bad policy. It's regressive, and it's unfair to smokers. Voters should reject it, just as they rejected a similar tax hike in 2002.
Tuesday's recall of St. Louis Alderman Thomas Bauer puts all Missouri public officials on notice: voters won't put up with politicians who abuse the power of eminent domain for the benefit of well-connected private developers. Voters in the 24th Ward were outraged after Bauer attempted to seize several homes and businesses at the corner of Manchester and McCausland in order to make room for a QuikTrip gas station.