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Columbia City Council candidates tackle downtown issues

Friday, March 20, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 12:15 p.m. CDT, Friday, March 20, 2009

*CORRECTION: The two applicants for tax increment financing are The Tiger Hotel and the Trittenbach Development at Tenth and Locust streets. An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the applicants.

COLUMBIA — Much like the city itself, discussion at the League of Women Voters forum Thursday night revolved around Columbia's downtown.

Second Ward City Council candidates Allan Sharrock and Jason Thornhill and Sixth Ward candidates Barbara Hoppe and Rod Robison answered questions on topics including use of eminent domain and how far the city should go to provide incentives to downtown developers. The election date is April 7.

One audience member, John Clark, was interested in how the candidates stood on the use of incentives such as tax increment financing, a method that allows all or a portion of the additional tax levied on a development project to be reallocated towards financing that project. Currently, The Tiger Hotel and the Trittenbach Development at Tenth and Locust streets* have applied for tax increment financing.

Thornhill said he would like to gauge other downtown businesses on whether the use of tax increment financing is appropriate and take a look at "peer cities" who have used these incentives in order to "start off on the right foot."

His opponent, Sharrock, felt differently.

"As a school teacher, I am very concerned about these upcoming TIF (tax increment financing) projects, and I think a lot of other citizens should be, also," Sharrock said.

Sharrock said the tax revenue that would be reinvested into projects should go where it was originally intended, such as providing money for public schools.

Sixth Ward candidates opinions were similarly polarized on the matter. Hoppe said she feels the city was doing a good job of creating a "strong, vibrant" downtown and that The Tiger Hotel's history made it an important aspect of downtown. She said she would vote in favor of allowing the hotel to use tax increment financing.

Robison said that he felt there were issues and infighting between groups in the downtown area and would not go so far to use tax increment financing in many circumstances.

"I would move a little slowly with some of these tax incentives," Robison said.

Software tester John Schultz, 38, asked the candidates about the proposed use of eminent domain to purchase the property that is now home to Bengal's Bar and Grill and adjacent areas for the State Historical Society of Missouri.

"The city needs to do everything possible to acquire that land," Robison said, citing the project's potential economic impact.

"Being a longtime Columbia resident and Hickman graduate, I hate to lose anything to Jefferson City," Robison said.

Robison and Hoppe both expressed optimism that the historical society would be able to negotiate a deal with landowners and that eminent domain would not be necessary. Hoppe also detailed the city's efforts to negotiate and facilitate the deal.

Thornhill said the economic and educational impact the new historical society construction and facility would have, in addition to the potential for $40 million in federal stimulus money, made the project worthwhile.

Thornhill said he thought the land, a half-block bounded by Elm Street, Lancaster Drive and Fifth and Sixth streets was a good location for the society.

"I think eminent domain has its place," he said.

Sharrock disagreed.

"As a city councilman, I will never use eminent domain to acquire another person's property in order to give to another entity," Sharrock said.

Schultz said he came to get the candidates' views on votes to use eminent domain, a process he said forces landowners to negotiate with the city.

"I think everyone except for Allan Sharrock dodged the question," Schultz said.

Continuing the downtown theme, Peg Miller asked the candidates what they thought of the city and Special Business District's plan to install mobile security cameras downtown.

Sharrock cited what he said was a recent study showing that, while such cameras don't deter crime, they do help capture felons.

"To me it's a budgetary issue," Sharrock said. "How much can we spend?"

Thornhill said he thought the city may not have communicated the project well enough to citizens.

"I think it's a trial-and-error thing for the city," Thornhill said. He said that, if it is proven effective, he supports anything the city can do to deter crime.

Robison said that, as a law-abiding citizen, he didn't fear the cameras.

"If I'm not doing something I shouldn't be doing, I don't mind if there's somebody filming me doing it," he said.

Hoppe tried to put the surveillance in perspective.

"You could post two policemen on the corner and that's surveillance, also," Hoppe said. "It seems like a small and reasonable experiment."


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Comments

Wes Upchurch March 20, 2009 | 11:16 a.m.

Good for Allan Sharrock.

Eminent domain should only be used for truly public resources, such as roads and highways. Taking away private property to give to another entity is wrong!

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock March 20, 2009 | 1:48 p.m.

Thanks Wes. I am actually surprised more people are not blogging about this story.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 20, 2009 | 8:18 p.m.

"I would move a little slowly with some of these tax incentives," Robison said.

Doesn't sound like the pro-business candidate. Hoppe was spot on about the development of the Tiger Hotel business downtown

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock March 21, 2009 | 10:37 a.m.

The Tiger Hotel didn't work out as a hotel. Then it was given historical funds to turn into a home for the elderly, that didn't work out. Now they want more money. That may have been why Robison said to move slowly with that issue. I am not speaking for him but you wasn't there and that was the topic of conversation.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin March 21, 2009 | 11:12 a.m.

Polling numbers for 2nd and 6th ward city council candidates are as follows:

Barbara Hoppe, Ward 6
180 (74%)

Rod Robison, Ward 6
64 (26%)

Jason Thornhill, Ward 2
41 (62%)

Allan Sharrock, Ward 2
25 (38%)

Votes so far: 310
Days left to vote: 16

Cast your vote and read candidate answers to our survey at
http://columbiaheartbeat.blogspot.com

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 21, 2009 | 1:26 p.m.

Tim, if you are claiming that Hoppe is more pro-business than Robison, how do you reconcile her tacit approval of eminent domain against a private business? What do you think such an attitude by at least the city manager and mayor says to other property owners downtown?

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 21, 2009 | 8:38 p.m.

John,

When I vote for someone, I look at the big picture. Your devotion to one issue blinds you. why in the heck would I vote for someone who had no idea how the city worked, that never volunteered his time on a city commission, or attended his neighborhood association meetings? He offered nothing new at the LWV forum. His meaningless platform of balance? If you think replacing a popular, accessible city councilperson that looks at all sides with someone who had no clue how the bus system worked is better for the city, just because of one issue, that makes no sense to most voters.
Personally I am against eminent domain when it used to give property to a private entity. However I respect Hoppe for not pandering the the one issue fringe voter in hopes of getting votes

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 21, 2009 | 9:44 p.m.

Tim, if Hoppe votes to take Bengals using eminent domain, why should any other business owners in downtown put one more dime into their properties, knowing the city might take them? What if the Missouri Theatre needs more room in the future, is Shakespeare's safe?

Hoppe would have gained my respect if she had answered the question I put to her about her support or not for eminent domain (Allan Sharrock was the only one who said yay or nay on the idea, the rest hemmed and hawed). I did not ask the candidates what they thought of the project itself, only the possible condemnation by the city.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a recall petition for council members that vote to use eminent domain to take the Bengals property. It is that big a deal with a lot of residents, ask the former board of Sunset Hills that was turned out en masse by the voters a couple years back.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 21, 2009 | 11:53 p.m.

It is a big deal to a very small amount of people. Hoppe is a liberal and wouldn't of gained politically with you even if she agreed with you on this issue. Believe it or not, only 15% of registered voters will come to the polls and even less will want to sign yet another petition from another ax grinder. It is best to hope for an alternative site or a successful negotiation.

BTW I thought Libertarians were against foreign intervention and the "initiation of force" Didn't see the local libertarians at the peace rally. When it comes to economics and property, you guys are having a tea party, when it comes to civil liberties and war, AWOL. How about concentrating on the top part of the Nolan chart once in a while.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 22, 2009 | 1:58 a.m.

Well Tim, I spent Friday night at the ACLU networking event and had kid-watching duty Saturday. Suffice it to say that I didn't feel like keeping track of them on the courthouse square. Additionally, we Columbia Libertarians decided a few years back to focus more on local issues, witness our focus on eminent domain and the smoking ban among other topics.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 22, 2009 | 2:02 a.m.

One more comment, how many of the typical (yes, I'm stereotyping a bit) peace protesters are at the top of the Nolan Chart and not the left side? Based on the quiz results a couple of the guys collected at the Eagle's tea party and Gary Nolan's political leanings, you can probably guess where more 100/100 types could be found.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 22, 2009 | 2:16 a.m.

OK, I lied, one more thing I forgot to mention for you to consider. I also spent Saturday morning helping pack three pallets of Girl Scout cookies and other goodies to Marines deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, so you'll have to pardon me if I would rather loaf around the house with the kids when that was done.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 22, 2009 | 9:55 a.m.

Right....so the federal budget is a local issue? Can't have it both ways, I've known Libertarians from other states that would shake their head at the narrow focus of local libertarians here in regards to economics and property rights. You meld in with republicans. You never differentiate yourselves from them publicly. I have met Libertarians that have protested this war, the war on drugs, as well as taxes. In the 90's, I thought the LP was going somewhere. Apparently it chose to stay fringe. The only true vocal libertarian out there is Ron Paul which ironically a Republican.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 22, 2009 | 11:46 a.m.

The tea party was an opportunity to find more libertarian-leaning people in the area using the quiz, and we received contact information for a decent number of people. How many people scoring in the upper part of the Nolan Chart do you think I would have found at the peace protest? Would it make you happier if I acknowledge that the end result from the tea party will be the same as from the peace protest - our federal legisltaors will ignore us for the most part?

Frankly, I don't care what other Libertarians in other states think about our local focus. There is too much division and splintering in the party, especially at the national level, for me to get involved in those philosophical arguments. Working locally gets us away from unproductive bickering, while our state party can network with other states and the national party on bigger issues, such as taxes and drug policy issues.

You say we meld in with the local Republicans, but I didn't see any of them working against the smoking ban. I didn't see Republicans (or Democrats, for that matter) proposing changing Columbia's eminent domain ordinances to prevent private property going to another private party. I haven't seen any Republicans (or anyone beside me!) speak before the council the three times red light cameras have been discussed. I'm going to guess the Republican state chair wasn't at the recent NORML/SSDP conference at Mizzou. Shoot, was the chair of the state Democratic Party even there?

(Report Comment)

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