Sixth Ward candidates hold first campaign forum in Columbia

The two address urban sprawl, energy, police oversight at Muleskinners luncheon
Friday, February 27, 2009 | 7:24 p.m. CST
City Council candidates Rod Robison and Barbara Hoppe answer questions at a luncheon hosted by the Muleskinners, a local Democratic Party club, on Friday afternoon at the Elm Street Ballroom. The luncheon was the first public speaking event for Hoppe and Robison, who are both running for the Sixth Ward council seat.

COLUMBIA — In their first campaign appearance together, Sixth Ward candidates Barbara Hoppe and Rod Robison answered questions on a range of subjects, including future energy sources and their stances on creating a citizen review board for the Columbia Police Department.

Roughly 50 people showed up at the weekly Muleskinners luncheon to hear from incumbent Hoppe and Robison, her sole challenger in the April 7 election. Many of the answers Hoppe gave to members of the club for Boone County Democrats reflected the experience she has gained in her three years of service on the City Council.

One member, for example, wanted to know what the council can do about urban sprawl.

“Well, the City Council is working on that in terms of growth-management planning,” Hoppe said. “There is a lot to be done in terms of encouraging mixed-use development and incentives right now in terms of revitalizing downtown and creating development appropriately.”

Robison was more general in his response.

"As far as this problem, I'm not real sure exactly what all the city could do to stop the sprawl,” Robison said.

On other issues, such as energy, both Robison and Hoppe voiced their personal thoughts.

"I really think that the mayor was on the right start," Robison said, referring to Mayor Darwin Hindman’s October letter to AmerenUE endorsing the idea of building another nuclear power plant. "I think looking at the second Callaway nuclear plant — I think that's something that Columbia's going to have to look at in the future. The solar power and the wind power just isn't up to speed yet."

Hoppe disagreed.

"Our best options are pushing renewable but not doing anything long term because renewable will be cheaper in the long run," Hoppe said. "But the big thing is reducing demand by increased conservation in buildings, and this could tie in beautifully with creating green jobs and green technology."

The candidates did find common ground on whether the city should establish a citizen review board for the Police Department. A committee appointed by the mayor last year recommended the council move forward with the idea, which has been debated for years.

Robison, who worked as a volunteer for the Police Department, has praised its work during the campaign. Still, he told the Muleskinners that a citizen review board “is a great idea.”

“I think it will be a real asset,” he said.

Hoppe said that now is the time to establish the board.

“I’ve been an advocate for the citizen review task force, and then for the citizen review board, and I understand we were just waiting for the new police chief to push that forward,” Hoppe said. “This Police Department is good, and they need to feel like they are getting support from the community.”

Although “balance” is the one-word slogan for Robison’s campaign, both candidates commented on bringing about balance on the council. Robison said the economy has thrown the city out of balance and has brought an increase in property crimes. Also, he said he wants to focus on balancing between what the city wants and what the city can afford.

Hoppe expressed a similar view.

"Balance, for me, is making sure that the economy, the environment and the community all work together to synergize, actually, and help each other," Hoppe said. "I think I've worked hard the past three years to create a balance."

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