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Roper, Watkins dismiss blog reports of scheming

Letter from assistant city manager also criticizes Heart Beat report
Saturday, January 31, 2009 | 10:23 p.m. CST; updated 10:31 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 31, 2009

COLUMBIA — Some city officials are laughing at recent reports of a behind-the-scenes scheme to oust certain council members, and others are feeling perplexed. Either way, a Wednesday blog post by Columbia Heart Beat publisher Mike Martin has caused a stir.

Martin’s post described a Jan. 22 private meeting at the Columbia Country Club, where he alleged that Bob Roper, chairman of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee, had discussed the need to pay council members and to rid it of “activist” members such as Paul Sturtz, Karl Skala, Jerry Wade and Barbara Hoppe of the First, Third, Fourth and Sixth wards, respectively. The meeting was attended by Mayor Darwin Hindman, several former mayors, City Manager Bill Watkins and former City Manager Ray Beck.

Responding to Martin’s post, Hindman on Thursday night refuted the notion that he had participated in any such discussion. Although Skala thanked the mayor for addressing the issue, he said in an interview Friday that he was confused.

"I'm sort of experiencing cognitive dissonance," Skala said. "Somebody is not quite telling the truth."

Roper and Watkins also refuted Martin’s report on Friday.

"What was really going on is that it was a gathering of a bunch of folks who really like Columbia, Missouri, and want to make it better," Roper said, adding that he attended the meeting to get the others’ opinions on whether paying City Council members is a good idea. Whether to pay council members a stipend or salary is an issue that’s been debated publicly for years.

Watkins said no conversation about ridding the council of certain members ever took place.

"It's not even that this was blown out of proportion," Watkins said. "It's that (the post) isn't accurate."

Martin cited anonymous sources "familiar with the meeting" as saying "attendees also discussed the pressing need to remove 'that guy in the fishing vest' — Mr. Skala — in favor of 'business people who just can't afford the time off to do the job without getting paid.'"

"It's no secret the Chamber (of Commerce) would like a different kind of council," Skala said. "And I have no doubt that the message Mr. Roper got across was that paying the council would encourage more business-minded people to apply, but I'm not anti-business by any means."

Hindman said Thursday that the country club meeting was simply a reunion and not a "cabal" setting city policy behind the scenes. The mayor said that with so many city politicians in one place, it was only natural that the discussion turned to city affairs. He emphasized, though, that the group set no policy agendas.

Former Mayor Clyde Wilson mentioned the gathering at a Tuesday meeting of the Downtown Leadership Council. But Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine, who also attended the downtown meeting, said Martin’s blog took Wilson’s words out of context.

"Mike Martin's blog describes a behind-the-scenes conspiracy of some sort as a public discussion at the DLC meeting," he said. In a letter to Martin, St. Romaine wrote there was no factual evidence to back up Martin's insinuations "that removing 'activist' City Council members was discussed by DLC members and that this proposed 'scheme' supposedly 'shocked' the entire membership."

"No conversation like that took place at the meeting," St. Romaine said in a telephone interview Friday.

As far as the label "activist," Roper said he doesn't recall that word coming up at the country club gathering. Either way, Skala said he doesn't mind the label.

"I've been an activist all my life," he said. "And by definition, running for City Council means you're an activist on some level."


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Comments

Ray Shapiro February 1, 2009 | 1:32 a.m.

When is the next mayoral election?
Will the city council decide to replace our current city manager, before their authority to do that is lessened?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 1, 2009 | 2:26 a.m.

I think the next mayoral election is a year away.

How do you see the council's authority to remove the manager being lessened? The only way for that to occur is a change in the city charter, a recall of the allegedly-targeted members, or their defeat in elections over the next two to three years.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 1, 2009 | 3:32 a.m.

I believe our Mayor and the City Manager just about as far as The Jolly Green Giant could boot them through the goal post of life.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 1, 2009 | 4:05 a.m.

Of coarse they are going to back peddle like hell what do you expect them to do when openly confronted in public with this information.

Reminds me of when Slick Bill Clinton kept claiming "I never had relations with that woman" when the evidence was right their saying he did. Such as it is with this tape missing a huge portion and the hard line back peddling.

Give us all a break here for a change the good ole boy elitist club has been caught with it's pants down around it's ankles and aiming at or was aiming at giving somebody a screwing.

This is no different than any town across the entire nation as all have these good ole boy elitists clubs that do or try to do all city business from behind the scenes.

I grew up around this crap all of my life where I lived in Northern California. I listened to it daily in the coffee shop I frequented before and after work.

There is nothing different about these types here.

I wonder how much behind the scenes political BS gets ironed out in the back room at Lucy's every morning.

(Report Comment)
marvin saunders February 1, 2009 | 6:13 a.m.

These people are not good ole boys,good ole boys are hard working and honest!Our mayor is and never will be a good ole boy.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 1, 2009 | 9:42 a.m.

>>> why are we spending so much time on this? <<<

Because the future direction this city needs to be going is at stake and as such it is very important we as citizens stand up and say which direction we want that to be.

(Report Comment)
Miguel Sanchez February 1, 2009 | 11:56 a.m.

Maybe the cognitive dissonance Skala is feeling has something to do with what he puts in his drinking cup during the city council meetings.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 1, 2009 | 12:41 p.m.

What are you drinking Sanchez? Lime Kool-Aid?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 1, 2009 | 5:12 p.m.

ray too many citizens have been drinking the kool aid for far too long.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 1, 2009 | 8:00 p.m.

From Trib blog on this matter:
{landmine says...
An Executive style of a salaried mayor-council type of government might work, if we have the right people representing the voters and residents of Columbia.
(New York City has that type of government structure.)
What kind of "strong mayor" would Mr. Hindman make?
What would happen to Mr. Watkins?
Would it be better for us right now to just elect a new mayor and give someone else a shot at being City Manager?
Is it time to replace Mike Hood at the Department of Parks & Recreation or would he tolerate this city giving more attention to jobs, secure neighborhoods/schools and health and human care services? (If we should ever get our priorities in order.)
When will Columbia begin to grow up, as well as out?
When will Columbia move on from just being a Walmart/College town, with a significant transient population, intimidated by drug trafficking/violent gangs?
When will our city leaders figure out how to get a tape recorder that works?}
Gee, that landmine sounds smart...

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 2, 2009 | 3:24 a.m.

It will take more than a landmine to wake up the sleepy and complacent in this town I guarantee you.

That is some potent kool aid they serve out of city hall.

(Report Comment)
Michael Scott February 2, 2009 | 7:49 a.m.

I agree with punk. I can't believe we have spent so much time reporting on a blog which we all know are not factual news stories. There is no way for the Missourian to even verify this "anonymous source", and who even knows what "familiar with the meeting" means! Can't we find some real news to report about?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 2, 2009 | 8:14 a.m.

Michael Scott because this is important to all citizens of Columbia and Boone County to be informed of what has been going on behind the scenes for years at your tax payer expense!

That is why this is so important and must be kept in the public spotlight so that our Bike Trail Building Mayor and our Park Building City Manager can be seen as they really are in only wanting to further their little pet projects while police,health,education,family,housing and road maintenance services and development fail to grow miserably!

That is why we post about this outrageous attempt at this obvious cover up by those accused.

(Report Comment)
Michael Scott February 2, 2009 | 10:41 a.m.

Thanks charles. I agree that we all need to be concerned about where our tax money is going. I guess the bottom line for me is that if these conversations really did happen, there should be no outrage, as the "activist" council members people want to get rid of are the ones behind the bike and park initiaties. If you look at the pet projects from Skala, Hoppe, and Sturtz, I bet you won't find one positively related to police, health, education, family, housing, road maintenance services, or development!

In tough times like today, we need council people who will put aside their agendas and do what's in the best interest of Columbia. So far I am not seeing that happen. Hopefully things will change after April.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 2, 2009 | 11:28 a.m.

Michael Scott neither will you find those things in the Mayor nor the City Manager so maybe we should oust everybody then according to your thinking?

I would much rather have Skala,Wade,Hoppe,Sturtz and Nauser on the Council than our Mayor and present City Manager any day.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 2, 2009 | 11:36 a.m.

It seems to me that bike and park initiatives are carry overs from Ray Beck who groomed Bill Watkins and Mayor Darwin.
From what I have seen on community broadcasts and in person, it is Bill Watkins who is manipulating our city council and the council trys to represent their constituency, as best as possible.
Bill Watkins does not represent me.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand February 2, 2009 | 11:44 a.m.

So Bill Watkins is Darth Sidious?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 2, 2009 | 12:36 p.m.

Some examples that city council members present initiatives from the "voters" of Columbia:
http://booneliberty.org/StopTheBan/Smoki... -
http://www.students.missouri.edu/~norml/...
Bill Watkins and the Mayor at work...
http://archive.columbiatribune.com/2008/...
Walker Parking Consultants and Peckham & Wright Architects Inc. depicts a high-rise parking garage the city is planning on Walnut Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. A parking lot now occupies the site.
"We’re not deciding to build it, but we’re coming close," Mayor Darwin Hindman said last night at the city council meeting. "By asking for the detailed drawings and specifications, a large investment, it wouldn’t make sense that you’d make that investment and then not build it."

Several council members again raised the issue of the city creating retail space in competition with the private sector. Hindman noted that the Special Business District has endorsed the project. "While it does build some retail space that perhaps a developer might build somewhere else, it’s where it needs to be to benefit downtown," he said.

A Bill Watkin's initiative:
B191-06 Authorizing the Douglass Park pool improvement project; calling for bids;
appropriating funds.
The bill was given second reading by the Clerk.
Mr. Watkins explained the planned improvements included renovating the pool shell,
plumbing and mechanical systems and possible minor improvements to the bath house at an
estimated cost of $299,000. The City’s FY06 budget included an appropriation of $149,000
of which $99,000 was from Community Development Block Grant funds and $50,000 was
from parks sales tax funds. An additional $150,000 was included in the November ballot
issue and in order to award the construction contract in late summer, those additional funds
needed to be appropriated.
http://www.gocolumbiamo.com/Council/Minu... -

Mayor Hindman is a strong advocate of parks and trails and an interconnected non-motorized transportation system and encouraging active healthy lifestyles.
A little bit about our Mayor's priorities:
http://www.gocolumbiamo.com/Council/Meet...

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin February 2, 2009 | 12:40 p.m.

BEAT BYTE -- 2/2/09
Breaking News from the Columbia Heart Beat
http://columbiaheartbeat.blogspot.com

1) "Ropergate" No Surprise, Says Local Attorney

COLUMBIA, 2/2/09 (Beat Byte) -- Calling a private meeting about major changes to the City of Columbia
charter "something that goes on almost every day around Columbia," prominent local attorney and KFRU/Columbia Business Times Sunday Morning Roundtable co-host David Shorr demolished efforts by meeting participants to tone down the Watergate-style rhetoric surrounding their alleged intent: To consolidate power and replace or discourage so-called "activist council members."

Earlier reported by the Columbia Heart Beat, former Columbia mayor Bob Pugh hosted the Thursday, Jan. 22 meeting at the Country Club of Missouri. Sources say that except for Tom Anderson and Rodney Smith, former Columbia mayors, former city manager Ray Beck and Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Hank Waters attended, as did current mayor Darwin Hindman and current city manager Bill Watkins. Tribune columnist Bob Roper, widely rumored to be considering a run for mayor in 2010, allegedly addressed the group about council pay, mayoral veto power, and related issues described in a "letter of invitation" that included the agenda.

Branding the meeting "Country Club-gate, Columbia-gate, Chamber-gate, or what have you," Shorr told a radio audience Sunday morning that, "pro-development vs. anti-development, pro-business vs. anti-business, pro growth vs. anti-growth groups meet each time one group decides they want to replace another group they don't like. They talk about who they want or don't want in public office and what kind of makeup they want on governing bodies. It's just like when the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association gets together. It's perfectly acceptable and god bless 'em."

More at: http://columbiaheartbeat.blogspot.com

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 2, 2009 | 12:52 p.m.

Ayn Rand:
Koo Koo Ka-choo...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBRss3HUi...

(Report Comment)

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