A reminder to register to vote before Oct. 8

Monday, September 22, 2008

These days, getting the right to vote is far easier than in my grandmother's time, when women weren't considered, well, suitable to make such weighty decisions.

These days, you must merely be 18 years old by election day, a citizen of the United States and registered to vote in your state. It's a simple task to register and — especially in local elections — a single vote carries great weight.

You can lose your right to vote by landing in prison or being on probation or parole after a felony conviction. Anyone convicted of a felony or misdemeanor related specifically to voting also loses the right to cast a ballot.

If you've avoided any of those penalties, know that the deadline to register is Oct. 8.

For details on registering to vote, call the Cape Girardeau County Clerk's office in Jackson at 243-3547 or the Cape Girardeau office at 335-9060. In Scott County, call 573-545-3549. The Bollinger County Clerk's office can be reached at 573-238-1900.

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The annual budget hearings for Cape Girardeau County have begun. Today, in fact starting just after 9 a.m., the commissioners will review their own budget — no small matter, either. Though some items, such as commission vehicles, are paid for through other county departments, the day to day operations are a different matter. In 2008, the commission's budget was $353,483; by July 11, the commissioners had spent $173,784.36. As with most organizations, public or private, salaries and benefits appear to be the biggest costs. The gross salaries for 2008 were $256,340. Next year's budget reflects $265,451 on the budget line for pay.

I've just begun going through the tentative list of budget figures from a half-inch-thick packet of worksheets from the county auditor's office.

In my early days as a reporter, budget hearings seemed endless and kind of boring. But one city's mayor livened it up considerably, because she was the mother of 11 children. She always reduced battles over her city's budget to the issues a household would face.

It always, for her, came down to how expending those taxes reflected the values of the voters. It will be interesting to watch the commissioners as they conduct the hearings and make decisions on spending our money in 2009.

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Among last week's paper blizzard were two reports from Unicom Arc — you may not recall the St. Louis-based company's name, but you may recall two surveys, one for people who live here in the community and one for those who merely visit, intended to figure out what folks believe will draw them to downtown Cape Girardeau. The first draft of the community survey didn't contain a whole lot of surprises, according to Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape, and the second draft may not either, though it will be more detailed.

The city has already begun moving on one of the more prominent wants: downtown parking. Though it might seem an obvious improvement, Mills said getting that information validated is a critical part of developing a strategic plan.

Here's a couple of statistics from the visitor survey: Asked what they wanted most to see downtown, more than 85 percent said special events; 75 percent of the 181 surveyed said they visited the riverfront for a special event.

Questions, suggestions or tips for Lost on Main Street? E-mail pmcnichol@semissourian.com or call 335-6611, extension 127.

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