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Q&A: City Council candidates discuss priorities, visions for future

Sunday, March 23, 2008 | 4:10 p.m. CDT; updated 5:58 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In early March, the Missourian submitted a series of five questions to each of the candidates for Columbia City Council. What follows are their verbatim responses.

KAREN BAXTER Q&A

Q: What will be your priorities if elected to the City Council?

A: My primary objective will be to inform the residents of the First Ward about the issues that are on the agenda of the City Council, how those issues might impact them personally, financially or in the quality of their life, what options the City Council might have in making a decision regarding those issues and what they feel would benefit the citizens in the First Ward, in particular, and in Columbia as a whole. I intend to encourage all citizens to get involved in city government.

Q: What do you want the people of Columbia to know about the First Ward that they perhaps don’t already know?

A: It is a great place to live and work. I want everyone to know that the First Ward is full of many gifted and talented people who have ideas and skills that they have gained from a combination of education and life experience, who are willing and able to make major contributions to our ward and to Columbia as a whole. I think within the borders of our ward are people with solutions to all the challenges our ward faces. Getting out of our comfort zone is not easy but the rewards can be great. Working with new people in new settings can be challenging, but I think we are up for it.

Q: Thinking beyond your resume, how do your personality and personal experiences make you a good candidate for representing the interests of the First Ward?

A: I am an optimist. I am enthusiastic. I once became the animal control officer because I went to complain about a dog chasing my child on her way home from school. I was told there was no current “dog catcher” and everybody complains but nobody wants the job. The staff member challenged me to take the job, and I did. All the experience I had was a love of animals and a desire to succeed. But I changed the perception of “dog catcher” in that town with my commitment and professionalism. There is not a person in the First Ward that I cannot identify with in some way.

Q: How would you balance the interests of your First Ward constituents with the interests of all Columbia residents?

A: The interests of the First Ward should be consistent with the interests of all Columbians. Crime, jobs, cost of living, schools, parks, streets, sidewalks, utility costs, access to activities and a whole lot more are concerns across the community. Being an advocate for the First Ward should mean being an advocate for all of Columbia. If one benefits, in the long run, we all benefit.

Q: If the First Ward were to reach its full potential, becoming as vibrant and healthy as you want it to become, how would you envision its role in and importance to the rest of Columbia?

A: The Columbia of the future, the Columbia that the visioning groups have dreamed of, will not be easy to secure, but any little steps we take in that direction are important. I want the residents of the First Ward to see themselves as the “can do” people. I want them to be examples of what people working together can accomplish. I want them to put aside their preconceived ideas about their neighbors and take some chances. Be the “Daniel Boone” of your neighborhood. The First Ward will lead and not follow, be first and not last.

JOHN CLARK Q&A

Q: What will be your priorities if elected to the City Council?

A: My priority will be to work for a First Ward renaissance with the content of that renaissance to be defined by the stakeholders in the First Ward.

Implementation priorities: Growth management and sub-area land-use planning for the Columbia area and figuring out an efficient, effective, timely and equitable method to pay for necessary public infrastructure; and increased visibility and support for First Ward issues on the council and across the city.

Specific foci:

• Housing: Affordable and both in central-city neighborhoods and downtown.

• Structured time opportunities for kids: To help them grow up well.

• Community policing: Add 20 to 25 beat officers over the next three to five years.

• Downtown revitalization concept planning: Doing it right.

• Economic development that reduces underemployment and unemployment.

• Neighborhood associations

Q: What do you want the people of Columbia to know about the First Ward that perhaps they do not already know?

A: Between Providence and College, the First Ward extends from Stadium Boulevard to Business Loop 70. North of Broadway, it extends from College to Clinkscales. The First Ward contains five different areas, each with their own opportunities and challenges:

• Precinct 1E: With most of MU and on-campus housing.

• Precincts 1B & 1A: With the downtown between College and Providence.

• Precincts 1A & H: With 950 households (70 to 80 percent rental), 300 to 400 businesses, four public schools, one college and much more.

• Precinct 1D: With much of the historic black community, businesses on Broadway, North Providence and the Business Loop and 70 to 80 percent residential rental.

• Precincts 1C, F and G: Mostly residential, mostly smaller, owner-occupied and directly threatened by the same forces that made 1A, D and H, 70 to 80 percent residential rental.

Q: Thinking beyond your resume, how do your personality and personal experiences make you a good candidate for representing the interests of the First Ward?

A: I believe that we are all in this together. We are all Columbians; we will all thrive together, or we will all just get by together. I believe in citizen participation/engagement in public decisions that affect our lives, and I believe that government should facilitate that participation/engagement. I have a fire in my belly to make Columbia a better place by facilitating such participation.

I have the necessary combination of the vision and faith that we can change our world; the patience, persistence, energy and experience to doggedly work for change; and the generosity of spirit, coupled with independence to effectively advocate for and work with the residents of the First Ward and the council for a great future for the First Ward and Columbia.

Q: How would you balance the interests of your First Ward constituents with interests of all Columbia residents?

A: This question tends to assume that such interests are routinely in conflict. I reject that assumption. In most cases, the interests of First Ward constituents are the same as those of all Columbia residents. For instance, we would all be better off with real community policing provided by a police force with 20 to 25 more beat officers.

For a less clear example, consider the investment of substantial sums of money (in the form of long-term, low-interest loans) to dramatically improve the insulation and energy efficiency of older homes in the central city, making them more affordable, and to simultaneously reduce peak demands for power and natural gas for all of us. Such opportunities abound if you have the will to look for them.

Q: If the First Ward were to reach its full potential, becoming as vibrant and healthy as you want it to become, how would you envision its role in and importance to the rest of Columbia?

A: The First Ward is currently the only central-city ward. Most of the other wards are wedge-shaped and extend for miles to the east, south, west and north. The First Ward is made up of different areas, each with unique opportunities and challenges. To the extent that Columbia becomes the vital regional economic, educational and cultural center that many of us are working for, the central city will be crucial to that success. Benefits and burdens will attach to such a role. I will work to make sure that the burdens we shoulder will enrich the lives of those who live and work in the First Ward and each of its component areas, not just the city as a whole or in the abstract.

PAUL STURTZ Q&A

Q: What will be your priorities if elected to the City Council?

A: I will spur the First Ward into its rightful spot as the center of Columbia life through innovative housing solutions, youth services and affordable cultural opportunities. We must signal our city’s moral obligation to increase opportunity and quality of life here by making landlords more accountable, improving police protection and accountability and giving more attention to sidewalks, schools, streets and parks. We will encourage smart, green, living-wage jobs that don’t imperil our natural environment, while stimulating new and existing businesses. We must prepare First Ward residents to be competitive job candidates by offering reliable transportation, affordable day care, and access to basic neighborhood services. I will strongly advocate for comprehensive planning, will make myself accessible to constituents and will facilitate ward representation on boards and commissions.

Q: What do you want the people of Columbia to know about the First Ward that they perhaps don’t already know?

A: The First Ward is diverse and vibrant, encompassing downtown, MU and historic neighborhoods that stretch from College Avenue to the ARC and from Broadway to the freeway. We have an opportunity to build a model small city in the Midwest, one that takes care of its own while attracting the best and brightest, and which features a robust, pedestrian-friendly city center. We can use creative planning to enhance the environment for Columbia’s residential, business and cultural communities while retaining a strong mix of homegrown businesses, and incorporating new and restored mixed-income housing units. With the North Central Arts District, including Orr Street, we can use policy to support the market-driven renaissance occurring in the downtown economy based on cultural and arts-related businesses and jobs.

Q: Thinking beyond your resume, how do your personality and personal experiences make you a good candidate for representing the interests of the First Ward?

A:I like to think about big projects and possibilities, not just problems. This approach is what made Ragtag and the True/False Film Fest a reality. But obviously I haven’t done any of this by my lonesome. I’m able to communicate the ideas to people, help get them to share the vision and enthusiasm and above all, get them to participate, to take ownership. I’m an open-minded and curious person who enjoys meeting a wide range of people. This makes me well-suited to represent the breadth and scope of the First Ward. I thrive on give-and-take collaboration with others, which allows a far better end result. I am also a very hopeful and positive person. I try to elevate groups to call on their higher natures.

Q: How would you balance the interests of your First Ward constituents with the interests of all Columbia residents?

A: After decades of public policy that encouraged sprawl, we must make a strong case that we all benefit from an enriched center that includes the First Ward. Our downtown is and should be considered the heart of Columbia, and it’s a point of pride for all of us. It means more jobs; it means cultural, entertainment and dining experiences; and for those who live in the First Ward, it means home. We need to attend to the basics here: safe neighborhoods, affordable housing, nutritious food, effective schools, living-wage jobs and competent health care. With on-the-ground improvements — investing in early childhood development, job creation and mixed-income housing — we will stabilize a currently volatile situation in which some residents have lost hope for their future.

Q: If the First Ward were to reach its full potential, becoming as vibrant and healthy as you want it to become, how would you envision its role in and importance to the rest of Columbia?

A: If we are able to build a sustainable, thriving center of our town, we will prove that even the most intractable challenges can be solved with good planning, inclusive collaborations and hard work. The First Ward can become the village within the city at large and become the focal point for a lion’s share of our investment. By concentrating our investments in the city’s center, we can avoid costly outlays for sewers, police, fire stations and roads on the outskirts of town. If we can focus on creating energy-efficient developments, we can avoid hundreds of millions of dollars spent on new power plants. This is growth with an eye to the future — one that doesn’t mortgage our children’s quality of life for short-term gain.

ALMETA CRAYTON Q&A

First Ward incumbent Almeta Crayton has yet to submit her questionnaire. The Missourian will post her responses here as soon as they are received.

LAURA NAUSER Q&A

Q: What will be your priorities if elected to a second term on the City Council?

A: My priorities for my second term are public safety and economic development. I truly believe that we need to re-focus our efforts as a community toward public safety, families, youth and job creation. Successful families, educating children and a steady supply of good quality jobs are key factors in dealing with public safety issues. Currently, I am working on gathering data and information in the area of crime prevention policies and strategies. I believe that the city should develop an action plan and policies to deal with crime through prevention, intervention and strong enforcement. I hope to present this information to the City Council in April.

In the area of economic development, I believe that as a city, we have become too comfortable. We rely on MU as our economic engine. MU is a tremendous asset to the community as a partner and catalyst for economic growth, but the city needs to have its own plan and policies to foster economic growth through job creation and retention. Our community now competes against cities all over the world for new job opportunities. We need to take a serious look at our economic policies and strategies to see how we can improve our economic future. We need to actively lobby the state government to continue to initiate policies that make Missouri an attractive state for new business. Most important, we need to commit to properly funding our efforts to create new economic opportunities, whether it is through selective incentives, increased marketing or targeted infrastructure improvements aimed at attracting specific industries.

Q: What do you want the people of Columbia to know about the Fifth Ward that perhaps they don’t already know?

A: The Fifth Ward is growing. We are slowly inching toward McBaine. The schools in the Fifth Ward consist of Mill Creek Elementary, Gentry Middle School and Rock Bridge High School. Cosmo-Bethel Park is located in this ward. We are a relatively newer ward in the timeline of the city, so we do not share many of the issues that other wards have, such as a lack of sidewalks or infrastructure needs such as old sewer lines, etc.

Q: Thinking beyond your resume, how do your personality and personal experiences make you a good candidate for representing the interests of the Fifth Ward?

A: The demands on council members are increasing as the city grows. We must deal with infrastructure issues, social issues and policy matters. In addition, we must be accessible to our constituents and the public, along with being visible to the community, which requires us to attend many functions and meetings. I do not feel that my traits or abilities represent only the interests of the residents of the Fifth Ward. I am their representative and their voice. They have a vested interest in the outcomes of my decisions, as do the residents of other wards.

On the personality issue, I guess that I would consider myself an expert at multi-tasking. The busier I am, the more I accomplish. I think that this personality trait allows me to balance the many activities and jobs that I am involved in with my personal and family life. My son, Ryan, summed it up a week or so ago when he thanked me for being so involved with the community and still making sure that I have time to spend with him and taking care of what is important to him.

As far as personal experiences, this is an area that is hard to separate from my resume, as so much of my drive and personal achievement come from my work and school background. The personal experience that I would say sets me apart from the other candidates is the fact that my husband and I are small-business owners, so I know how government regulations and taxes affect businesses and the employees.

Q: How do you balance the interests of your Fifth Ward constituents with the interests of all Columbia residents?

A: In my opinion, the Fifth Ward does not have too many controversial or major issues that happen in our ward. Therefore, many of the issues that I vote on are community issues. While I represent the Fifth Ward, I must always look at the entire picture. I would always promote and advocate the best possible outcome for my constituents; however, at the end of the day, my final decision must be for the public good.

Q: In what ways do you or can you reach out to residents of the Fifth Ward to ensure you are representing them well?

A: I have always had an open-door policy for the people of my ward. I have always tried to make sure that I return my calls and respond to e-mails. Sometimes it takes me a few days to get back to someone, although I make every effort to do so. I have always made myself available whenever a constituent or group has requested to meet with me. I know that some council members have coffee shop hours, when they are available to meet with people on a walk-in basis. However, I feel that since I make myself available for individual requests, I still have an employer that I am responsible to, as well as a young son at home whom I must consider when I schedule my appointments.


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