COLUMBIA — Around 25 people attended a candidate forum Saturday at the J.W. "Blind" Boone Center. Central Columbia Get Out The Vote (CCGOTV) hosted the forum, so residents could question candidates for both the county commissioner and assessor positions and voice their concerns - concerns that differ from those of residents living in the more rural parts of the county.
"Infrastructures issues are much more important for the rural parts of the county," said Vernon Forbes, CCGOTV member. "They want better access to better water, electricity and roads. These already exist in abundance here in central Columbia."
The candidates for Boone County southern district commissioner, Karen Miller and Sid Sullivan both attended the forum and outlined their plans for the county.
Miller, the incumbent, said that the county should further invest in technology so the public could have easier access to information. She also said that state officials had advised the county to come up with a single economic plan. Currently, there are many in use for different factions within the county and they are not consistent.
Sullivan spoke of an "out of control" bureaucracy and his desire to bring new ideas together on the county's development, including a master plan that could let people know where future residential, commercial and recreational areas would be located.
Incumbent Tom Schauwecker and Barbara Bishop, who are competing for the job of Boone County assessor, also answered questions from the public and each other.
Schauwecker first spoke of the value of the county's current policy of taking vehicle identification numbers that detect specific upgrades such as leather seats and navigation systems that make some cars more valuable than others. He then asked Bishop if she thought it was fair for those with more valuable vehicles to pay higher taxes. Bishop said that she thought it was fair but was concerned about lack of a public input.
"Three years ago, this was not discussed publicly," said Bishop. "We did not know until we opened our taxes."
Bishop brought up the fact that Schauwecker had referred to taxpayers as "bozos," "joe six-pack," and as "hanging from chandeliers." Schauwecker denied calling the public bozos and said that he had asked for forgiveness for the two other remarks he made during private conversations.
Schauwecker was asked by the public about discrepancies in property values between city properties and larger properties outside of the city. Shauwecker said there were laws on the books that prevented larger plots of land from incurring higher value.
"It's not fair, but it's law," Schauwecker said.
In addition to the candidate's issues, residents also had some things on their minds.
Forbes said that too much of the county budget is spent putting people in jail.
"The increasing rate of incarceration for central Boone County comes at the expense of roads," Forbes said. "The rest of the county wants roads, but it can't happen because so much of the budget is spent incarcerating people."
Rebecca Schedler, a member of CCGOTV and the Ridgeway Neighborhood Association, said that her neighborhood has conducted a survey and said the biggest issue on the minds of residents was trash.
"It looks terrible," said Schedler. "You don't want to invite your friends to come over and have them drive past trash on the street. It's disgusting."
Most of those who attended were either affiliated with CCGOTV or were related to the candidates, but those who came to learn more were happy with the forum.
"I wanted to learn a bit more about the county offices and get a better understanding of these issues," Kramer McLuckie said. "All of the candidates spoke well."
Linda Tremaine agreed. "I thought it was very spirited and interesting," Tremaine said. "It shows that they care if they are out here in the community."