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Morning headlines - Monday, May 14, 2012

(via Flickr/IndofunkSatish)

Citizen's committee wants to know what public wants in transportation

A series of statewide meetings designed to take the pulse of transit needs in Missouri kicks off in Chesterfield later today.

House Speaker Steven Tilley put together the Blue Ribbon Citizens Committee on Missouri Transportation Needs in early March. Tilley said in a statement that he wants to "start a conversation" to ensure that Missouri’s transit system fosters economic growth. Members include transportation, political, business and union leaders.

Co-chair Bill McKenna says he'll work hard to keep the committee's report from gathering dust on a shelf.

"I hope we have a report at the end that's effective enough that it kind of moves the Legislature to take a look and say hey, this is a way to move our state forward," said  McKenna, who was a member of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission from 2001 to 2007. "We've got a lot of people unemployed, and we've got a lot of needs. It seems like we ought to put those two things together." But he said the hearings are important simply for educational purposes.

Kim Cella, with the mass transit advocacy organization Citizens for Modern Transit, said her group plans to emphasize the need for additional support for transit.

"We know that for every dollar that Missouri invests in public transit, there's a $4 return to the state," she said. "In this economy, there are very few investments that have that kind of return for our dollar."

The first meeting starts at 1 pm at the MoDOT Transportation Management Center, located at 14301 South Outer Forty Rd. in Chesterfield.

The other meeting locations and times are:

  • May 21 – MoDOT Northwest District Office, St. Joseph, MO
  • June 1 – Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Springfield, MO
  • June 29 – Show-Me Center, Cape Girardeau, MO
  • July 9 – ARC City Activity Center, Columbia, MO
  • July 23 – MoDOT Northeast District Office, Hannibal, MO
  • August 6 – Gamber Center, Lee’s Summit, MO

Veterans advocates seeking information on VA medical centers

A national veterans advocacy group is looking for input on the quality of health care at the Veterans Administration medical centers in St. Louis.

The American Legion will host a town hall meeting on Thursday at its Post 397 in St. Louis. American Legion representatives also plan to visit the VA facilities to interview patients, staff and administrations.

The meeting and visit are part of the legion’s “System Worth Saving” task force, whose members visit around 50 V-A medical centers a year, then report to Congress, the White House and senior V-A leadership.

The John Cochran medical center in Midtown has come under heavy scrutiny in the past two years for improper sterilization practices and poor customer service.

Attorney for Birds Point farmers not worried about dismissal

An attorney for more than 140 southeast Missouri farmers who are suing the federal government over last year’s intentional breech of the Birds Point levee says his case remains strong – despite a ruling Friday that dismissed a large chunk of the lawsuit.

Federal judge Nancy Firestone dropped two counts of the suit that involved a “takings” claim. She wrote that the May 2011 breech was just the second time in 75 years that the floodway had been activated, and therefore the farmers could not prove that the breech would lead to frequent, inevitable flooding in the future.

The attorney, J. Michael Ponder says his clients can get just as much money from a breach of contract claim. And he says Judge Firestone has yet to consider another claim in which the farmers seek compensation for the government’s failure to pay for damages caused by sand and gravel deposits.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.