Welcome to the paddocks of the Columbia Raceway. News that the six-time champion, The Peddling Mayor, will not be returning to the great race has set in to motion the speculators asking who will stand in the starting gate next April. P.M. will not be a contender on April 6, 2010.
This is not another accolade for Darwin Hindman, The Peddling Mayor. Names have surfaced as possible candidates with more to come, each having a vision of Columbia’s future meeting their own personal and political agendas.
There are problems and directions that the next winner of the coveted “Councilman at Large” seat cannot avoid. The new mayor will be able to see Columbia and Boone County not only through the next decade, but for the 2020s and beyond.
Jobs — Columbia is a town of four industries: education, medicine, insurance and retail. Three of the four are professional and the last offers minimal salaries. Columbia has lost its manufacturing base, the blue-collar jobs offering salaries greater than 150 percent of the official poverty rate. He or she must focus on rekindling the American dream.
The First Ward — Here is a true example that separate is not equal. Poverty, blight, gangs, drugs and violence seem to prevail over jobs, affordable housing, public service, honor and commitment to educate our future leaders. This is not a race issue but an economic issue that can be solved in the foreseeable future. This does not mean adding more police patrols. This means encouraging our kids to seek a future that includes mentors, social services and incentives to succeed and improving the lives of their children’s children in Columbia.
Public Transportation — Our bus system, routes and timetables do little to promote alternative, or for some, primary transportation. Our new mayor needs to champion a maximum 20-minute wait between buses during the workday, to run from six in the morning to 11 at night and create a grid system to eliminate extended traveling time and waiting at the Wabash Terminal. Champion a regional transportation district with Boone County, Jefferson City, Boonville, Fulton and Moberly.
The transition from U.S. 63 to Interstate 70, from Walmart to Home Depot, must be redesigned to allow a seamless transition from south to north without our version of a traffic jam and from highway to highway without traffic lights interfering with commerce.
Crime – More specifically gang violence. Our children enter the world of street gangs, drugs and violence because they do not see any other future when they are at their most impressionable age. Single parent families, matriarchs or patriarchs, are holding multiple jobs to make ends meet and rarely home.
Even more specific, creating a mentor program to bring our children together with leaders of the community who are not only successful, but, without trying to be disrespectful, from the same race and culture. The city’s lower social-economic residents, unfortunately, also represent our city’s minorities. Though our president is the first to hold the office who is of mixed-race, our children only see his image. There needs to be more.
City Council – Two things need to be completed in the next four years. As a city of more then 100,000, not including a large percentage of more than 35,000 students at our colleges, we will need to add one or two members of council to represent all of Columbia’s citizens and businesses.
The second is to provide compensation for the offices now staffed by volunteers, which would allow more people to consider leadership in the future. Don’t be fooled, mayor and city council positions are full-time jobs. Unless one has the financial means, well-qualified middle and lower income citizens are not entering leadership races.
Of course, there is making sure that the lights stay on, the water stays clean, the garbage is collected, the snow is removed from the streets and the city’s budget is kept on track and balanced.
This is more than a run for the most important volunteer city job. Hindman set the bar high, leading Columbia to be one of the best cities to live and work in. You will not be Hindman’s replacement. You will be the next step in building our fair town.
David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.