Columbia's Third Ward candidates debate public safety, revenue

Muleskinners host first debate of the campaign season
Friday, January 29, 2010 | 6:26 p.m. CST; updated 1:55 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 30, 2010

COLUMBIA — Public safety and strategies for boosting city revenue emerged as major issues during a debate between incumbent Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala and challenger Gary Kespohl, hosted by the Boone County Muleskinners Friday at Stephens College.

About 50 people attended the meeting, which marked the first candidate debate of the campaign season.

Kespohl and Skala agreed the city needs to increase development fees, but had very different ideas of how to increase revenue. The challenger emphasized the importance of increasing development in Columbia to create growth in property values. Skala said that while development is important, real estate tax revenue and economic growth are different things.

Kespohl is eager to tackle the city budget, but said revenue for Columbia must come from residents and from higher fees on development.

“At some point in time, we’ve got to realize that all of our city revenues come from people who are in this community," Kespohl said, "and we may have to raise property taxes. We may have to raise sales taxes.”

Skala said he wants to approach the revenue problem by taking a closer look at Columbia's tax base. Sales taxes and real estate taxes aren’t enough, he added.

“Past over-reliance on sales has taken the place of good planning. The City Council has often approved developments because it returned the largest amount of revenue, but they weren’t very well-planned.”

Public safety came up in several questions concerning Tasers, red-light cameras and the possible installation of cameras downtown.

Kespohl said he has been disappointed by Skala's voting record on issues regarding public safety, and by crime rates in Columbia during the past year. But he supports red-light cameras and favors security cameras downtown.

“If those cameras can save one life, I am for them,” Kespohl said.

Skala, who initially opposed security cameras downtown, said the council did the right thing when it put the issue on the April ballot after residents presented the council with an initiative petition. He said the lack of convincing data about the cameras' effectiveness doesn’t justify the cost of the cameras.

Both Kespohl and Skala favor equipping police with Tasers, and they agree that officers need more training on when to use them.

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Glenn Rice January 30, 2010 | 8:59 a.m.

A camera can't save a life.

A police officer can.

The Missourian ought to publish a story on exactly how much these so-called "safety" cameras would cost (especially by comparison with police salaries & equipment costs). It would be really helpful to see some actual numbers before we vote.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz January 30, 2010 | 11:19 a.m.

Glenn, even if voters pass this ordinance, the council would have to pass a separate ordinance to approve a contract with a camera vendor. Thus, the numbers aren't really relevant at this time since there's likely a wide range of systems and prices that might be under consideration.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin January 30, 2010 | 12:04 p.m.

I, um, REALLY hesitate to bring this, um, up, uh but...
(cringe) the title is mis-spelled: it says "saftey" instead of "safety."

It's okay -- really! I understand. I do. I really do!

DEAR READER: As copy editors are cut, accuracy declines

Are we, uh, cool Tom? No more bashing? I mean, like, um, I'm just trying to help.... :)

(Report Comment)
Glenn Rice January 30, 2010 | 9:17 p.m.

Right John, but I'd rather not see this get even that far along. The ballot initiative says nothing about costs, and will be interpreted as a mandate if passed. All it says is "...for public safety...cameras..." and who's gonna vote against public safety? Even if there's no evidence that (a) cameras enhance public safety, (b) there's an actual "downtown crime wave" (rather than a couple of high-profile incidents), (c) the cameras are worth their $unknown cost, or (d) the increased downtown police presence is ineffective in preventing crime or catching offendors?

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance January 31, 2010 | 12:24 p.m.

"If cameras can save one life, I'm all for them"

Did Kespohl really say that? If he did, he's very ignorant on how cameras work. They just record, it will not turn into a Transformer and smite the bad guys. I can't believe this guy's incompetence. No wonder the Chamber wants this guy to win, he'll be easy to manipulate. Plus if he so concerned about crime, he should start with is own rental properties.

Skala is the clear choice in this election.

(Report Comment)

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