COLUMBIA – All four Fourth Ward Columbia City Council candidates discussed business incentives and development on Friday afternoon. Only three were able to discuss the visioning process.
In the basement of Stamper Commons on the Stephens College campus, candidates Tracy Greever-Rice, Sarah Read, Rick Buford and Daryl Dudley answered questions during a forum held by the Columbia Muleskinners.
The four candidates expressed interest in offering incentives to businesses thinking about setting up shop in Columbia. Buford and Dudley both said that they favor incentives such as tax abatements and that Columbia needs to focus on drawing in businesses.
“If we’re going to remain competitive,” Buford said, “we’re going to have to (offer incentives).”
Greever-Rice was less enthusiastic although still in favor of incentives. She said that tax abatements or cash offerings are only a few of the many tools that the city has at its disposal and that the long- and short-term consequences have to be weighed carefully.
Read was even more skeptical of offering incentives.
“I don’t think they should be used unless it’s a truly catalytic project,” Read said.
She said she would like the city to use micro credit and promote shovel-ready sites along with Columbia’s quality of life. Micro credit programs extend loans to poorer groups or individuals to spur entrepreneurship, according to Microcreditsummit.org.
Greever-Rice, a member of the Visioning Commission, and Read, who prepared a draft Visioning Implementation Report when contracted by the city, both said they thought that over 800 people getting involved with the visioning process was one of it’s strengths.
“Eight hundred is not a successful snapshot,” Buford said. “I don’t believe the present visioning report, as it sits, is as representative of the community.”
Dudley admitted that he was not familiar with the visioning process and was embarrassed to say so.
Members of the audience had mixed reactions to the candidates. Truman Storvick, a professor emeritus at MU, thought the candidates’ answers were vague.
“You never get specifics with these candidates,” Storvick said. "It’s pretty general politics.”
Kay Callison, a semi-retired freelance editor and writer, thought that two of the candidates stood out from the pack.
“To me, the race is between Sarah Read and Tracy Greever-Rice because of their credentials,” Callison said.