Columbia's Third Ward council race features familiar names

Kespohl to take another run at defeating Skala
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 8:36 a.m. CST, Tuesday, January 12, 2010

COLUMBIA — Gary Kespohl, who got 48 percent of the vote when he ran against Karl Skala for the Third Ward seat on the Columbia City Council in 2007, will compete with Skala for the position again this year.

Kespohl, owner of Central Missouri Computer Center Inc., said he disagreed with a number of Skala's votes but decided to run after Skala at the Jan. 4 council meeting pushed a proposed amendment to the city charter that would require the city manager to seek the advice of the council when hiring or firing department heads. Kespohl said that’s a bad idea that would cause confusion among department heads about whether they’re working to please the city manager or to please the council.

How to file for council

The deadline for filing to run for City Council is Jan. 21. Candidates running for ward positions must collect a minimum of 50 signatures from registered voters in their ward. Those running for mayor must collect at least 100 and not more than 150 signatures from registered voters citywide. The petitions are then submitted to City Clerk Sheela Amin for validation.

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Skala said Monday that the proposal would make the hiring or removal of a department head more a matter of their competence than of their loyalty to the city manager, who would continue to choose and interview independent of the council.

The City Council is scheduled to decide whether to put five amendments to the city charter on the April ballot for voter approval on Tuesday. If Skala’s amendment wins the council’s approval, it would become the sixth such ballot measure.

A lifelong resident of Columbia, Kespohl, 62, serves as the Third Ward’s commissioner on the Parks and Recreation Commission and as treasurer of the Columbia Special Business District Board of Directors. He also serves on several other local boards and has long been active in the Daniel Boone Little League.

Kespohl trained as a computer programmer and worked as a manager in that capacity for the Columbia Insurance Group before he was promoted to vice president in charge of its computer operations. He opened his own company in 1982. He is married and has two grown sons, who also live in Columbia.

Skala, 63, said on Monday that he’s “not surprised that I have opposition. I would have been surprised if there were none.” Having two candidates in the race, he said, “raises the level of the discourse.”

Although the election is three months away, Skala said his campaign staff is ready.

Given the close results of the 2007 election, Kespohl, too, is ready for another round. Three years ago, Skala got 908 votes on election day; Kespohl got 845.

“We only lost by 63 votes,” Kespohl said. “This time, I’m gonna take a good hard look at (Skala's) voting record.”

Aside from the charter amendment, Kespohl said he also was disappointed with Skala’s stance on the construction of a bridge across Grindstone Creek north of LeMone Industrial Park, his vote against rezoning to accommodate Landmark Hospital in the Third Ward and his opposition to downtown security cameras.

As for his opposition to installing cameras downtown, Skala said research presented to the council found that enhanced police presence was a more effective crime deterrent. He said he was representing the wishes of Third Ward constituents when he voted against the Landmark rezoning. And he opposed the Maguire Boulevard extension and bridge because he felt that it would disturb a sensitive environmental feature and that it was too close to Highway 63 to serve as an effective traffic outlet.

Skala is a former director of the Swine Hormone Research Core at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. He has served on the city Planning and Zoning Commission and the Columbia/Boone County Energy and Environment Commission. He founded the Hominy Branch Neighborhood Alliance and is a member of the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition.

The positions of mayor and Fourth Ward council representative also will be filled in the April 6 election. Thus far, Jerry Wade, Sal Nuccio, Sid Sullivan and Paul Love have declared their candidacies for mayor. Tracy Greever-Rice, Sarah Read and Rick Buford are running for the Fourth Ward seat that Wade is leaving open as he runs for mayor.

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Larry Bossaller January 12, 2010 | 8:00 p.m.

Most major corportations have a "Board of Director's" who are responsible to the stockholders. The stockholders in the City of Columbia are the citizens of Columbia. The Board of Directors select a President to run the company on a daily basis, but the President is an executive to uphold the Board's decisions and etc. The President submits most of all major decisons to the Board for approval. Therefore, the employees know they are actually working for the Board. To allow some City Manager to be the sole boss is somewhat weird and unprofessional. Another CHANGE is needed to modernize this City.
The City Manager needs to work with the City Council on all major decisions on department heads and etc. In fact, the Board needs to approve all major decision. The "old way " is outdated and immature. Karl is on the right path.

Karl( and other Council members) needed to do their own research on the Camera issue and not be influence by other Council members who were opposed to the Safety camera situation. This was very unprofessional by the Council members and demostrated a lack of professional management experience. The police chief would always said he would rather spend the money on personnel instead of camera's. I did my own research and found the item to have pro's and con's. Many big cities do have the camera's. I constantly see pictures from cities camera's on CNN showing crime.

I found it almost funny that the City Council were worried about the money that would be spend on camera's for human safety issues, yet they spend much money on many other projects and put "human safety" on the back burner.

The City Council members and City Manager need to be honest and truthful. When they say they are going to do something, do it or people can't trust the city government. This is unacceptable and CHANGE IS NEEDED if they can't be honest.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin January 13, 2010 | 11:59 a.m.

Good for you Larry! Very well said, both here and on the Trib's site under a similar story.

City Manager Bill Watkins was on KFRU radio with David Lile this morning, hemming and hawing about new challenges to his power, some of them prompted by Third Ward councilman Karl Skala.

I called to remind Watkins that if it weren't for his many back-room dealings, with Trib publisher Hank Waters and company, people wouldn't be so worried about what they see as a pattern of abuse of power.

Last year alone saw Mr. Watkins:

1) Attend and engage in a meeting where removal of certain "undesirable, activist" council members -- Wade, Hoppe, Skala, and Sturtz -- was on the agenda and openly discussed (so called "Country Club Gate")

2) Single-handedly champion and place on the council's agenda without their knowledge or consent not one, but two bills to use eminent domain to take private land from the Raders and the owners of Addison's, okaying the use of $250,000 in city CVB funds to make the transaction happen

3) Ignore a knowledgeable whistle blower, 35-year city employee Bill Weitkemper, who has uncovered a systematic under-billing of large sewer users that is costing the city $1.6 million annually

4) Lose a Water and Light director -- Kraig Kahler -- he had just recently hired over domestic abuse problems that escalated into multiple homicides

5) Openly threaten a city council member -- Karl Skala -- with removal from the council for essentially asking too many questions about the hiring of new police chief Ken Burton and new water and light director Kraig Kahler

6) Meet repeatedly with Tribune publisher Hank Waters to privately plan such downtown redevelopment options as the new parking garage; the use of eminent domain; the reconstitution of a Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority; and how to spread tax incentives like TIFs to major players

This is not acceptable nor is it professional on his part, and I applaud Councilman Skala and his peers -- who voted 6-1 to explore a new "advise and consent" council role -- for having the courage to say "enough is enough."

Mr. Watkins is not King Watkins and city council members are not his serfs.

(Report Comment)
Larry Bossaller January 13, 2010 | 12:13 p.m.

Columbia Heartbeat,

Thanks for your information. I have printed it and will use it in the future.

We NEED CHANGE in many ways in this town. Laws are ignored, many games are played, and priorities are not in proper perspective with the City Government of Columbia. Therefore, we need the "power of the people" to correct these problems.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance January 13, 2010 | 2:34 p.m.

<<<Aside from the charter amendment, Kespohl said he also was disappointed with Skala’s stance on the construction of a bridge across Grindstone Creek north of LeMone Industrial Park, his vote against rezoning to accommodate Landmark Hospital in the Third Ward and his opposition to downtown security cameras.>>>

Apparently Kespohl is out of touch with his own neighbors. The Country Club Estates neighborhood (his own neighborhood) was overwhelmingly against the Landmark development. I think Skala was all for having that kind of facility, but insisted it was in the wrong spot.

As for downtown surveillance cameras, I think there is better use for public funds than to subsidized surveillance cameras for private business and taxpayers expense.

(Report Comment)
Dean Andersen January 13, 2010 | 3:53 p.m.

Bravo Columbia Heartbeat! Bravo! I applaud your comments. Karl helped expose unethical practices with in city government, and increase accountability amoung city employees. Karl should be commended and supported for his role in exposing abuse of power in this town and striving to put that power back where it belongs, in the hands of the citizens. I applaud Karl's courage, passion, insight, and fortitude. Columbia needs more public servants willing to stand up to unethical, behind-closed-door government, and support fair practices that protect the working citizens of this community.

Karl is exactly the kind of person I want representing me on City Council.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance January 13, 2010 | 5:01 p.m.

My only question for Skala is what kind of vest is he wearing? I'll have more questions later...

(Report Comment)

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