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Fourth Ward Candidates address development issues at forum

Monday, February 22, 2010 | 10:39 p.m. CST; updated 10:59 p.m. CST, Monday, February 22, 2010

COLUMBIA — The same types of development issues that strengthened the Westmount Neighborhood Association were the focus of its Fourth Ward City Council candidate forum.

Roughly 30 members of the Westmount Neighborhood Association gathered in the Friend's Room of the Daniel Boone Regional Library to meet and question candidates Tracy Greever-Rice, Sarah Read and Rick Buford.

Ken Schneeberger, former president of the association, said the association wants to preserve its "walkable neighborhood." Members even came together to purchase a 2.9-acre property at Garth Avenue and Lathrop Road to prevent an apartment building from being built, Schneeberger said.

Members of the neighborhood association were concerned that residents were not made aware of proposed developments early enough and asked the candidates what they would do to fix the problem.

Both Greever-Rice and Buford said that community-level education would help folks to be more aware of development in their areas.

Read echoed education but also emphasized that the city should take a more proactive role in getting neighborhood associations informed, an answer that impressed association member Robert Johnson.

"I was happy that Read talked about being proactive instead of having everyone inform themselves," Johnson said. "It shouldn't be just up to you."

Johnson said that proposed developments in the past have gone under the neighborhood association's radar, despite a large number of engaged association members.

The group also wanted to know how the candidates viewed the proposed rezoning of the Great Hangups property on the corner of Broadway and West Boulevard from residential to planned commercial that was withdrawn before the council could vote on it.

Buford said he was not in favor of the proposed rezoning because he did not believe that a pre-existing business justified the change. The property owners need to take the neighbors into heavy consideration, he said.

Read said she would have sat down with the "various interested entities" to find a solution, including having a "broader conversation" to find an equitable solution.

Greever-Rice said she thinks that the current policies for infill development are ineffective. She said the policies were designed when the fringe of the city was being developed and infill requires more considerations such as the visual aesthetics of the property.

One member said that walking through the neighborhood during the winter was sometimes done with "risk of life and limb" because of icy sidewalks and wanted to know how the candidates would address the issue.

Buford said that it was the property owner's responsibility to clear sidewalks — as the current city ordinance says — and clearing sidewalks was "not in the budget."

Read echoed Buford but said the city could do a better job of listening to complaints and fining folks that fail to clear their sidewalks.

Greever-Rice didn't think the issue was as simple. She said that the city should look at the balance of resources and the policies to determine whether the city could clear areas with lots of "multimodal traffic."

Daryl Dudley is also running for the Fourth Ward seat but was unable to attend.

The election is April 6. The last day to register to vote in the election is March 10.


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Comments

Dan Goldstein February 23, 2010 | 9:29 a.m.

"Read said she would have sat down with the "various interested entities" to find a solution, including having a "broader conversation" to find an equitable solution."

Has anyone from the Westmount Neighborhood Association talked to 6th ward residents who were concerned about the Cross Creek Development? In this case Sarah Read was hired by the developers to have one of her dialogs to find a solution. All those residents willing to sign a legal non-disclosure document were invited to the closed door meeting. Sarah presented the results of this meeting to Council and by the legal agreement no one else who participated was allowed to comment. Sarah decided that she would not even tell the council who was present at the meeting. The result was Mr. Wade changed his vote based on the "input" from the neighborhoods.

At this time Mrs. Read was also working for the City Manager's office as a consultant on visioning. I am sure she also believes in her heart that she was doing what was right for the citizens, and her employers at the time, the City Manager and the Cross Creek developers, did not sway her opinions in any way. I am not convinced. Was it made clear to the Council and the 6th ward neighborhood associations who Mrs. Read's employers were?

Ask the Sunset neighborhood association members who came and talked to them and helped them get up to speed very quickly when the Great Hangups rezoning come on the radar. Tracy Greever-Rice met with them. She listened to them and she informed them of their rights. No legal non-disclosure agreements needed to be signed, no closed meetings, and no consulting contract from a developer was needed.

My questions to Sarah are, given your past connections working for the City Manager and Large Developers who are these "various interested entities" who should be part of a "broader conversation"? Do they include the neighbors? Or only developers and the City Managers office? Would people not willing to sign your legal restrictions be invited to participate?

(Report Comment)
James Eldridge February 23, 2010 | 2:56 p.m.

Dan, I understand your desire to get your next door neighbor elected to this post, but that's no reason for misleading and disingenuous comments like the one above. You suggest Sarah wouldn't include neighbors in the conversation after giving a specific example of her bringing in neighbors. Throwing around loaded words doesn't change the fact: the neighborhood *was* consulted.

Anyway, point is Sarah is a skilled mediator, and if you've seen any recent council meetings you ought to know that the council is in dire need of people who can run meetings.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin February 23, 2010 | 3:40 p.m.

I thought all the anonymous nicks -- like "With Brains" -- had been deleted from here and you were required to register with a real name?

(Report Comment)
James Eldridge February 23, 2010 | 3:52 p.m.

But that's my name!

(Report Comment)
Jake Sherlock February 23, 2010 | 4:07 p.m.

Mike,

You're correct. I've sent an e-mail to With Brains to explain that he/she needs to post under his/her real name or else their posts will be deleted. I'm waiting a short time for a reply.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin February 23, 2010 | 4:09 p.m.

I am, at this very moment, dialing Missourian911 to report this egregious violation of blog policy....

The line is ringing....

"Missourian911 operator. What's your violation, please?"

Campaign operative, on story about Fourth Ward Candidates addressing development issues.

"Assumed name, please?"

With Brains.

"Definitely sounds like an operative. Any profanity?"

No, ma'am.

"Any words like 'disingenuous,' or names of specific candidates?"

Yes, ma'am. Both.

"Definitely an operative. We'll dispatch Jake Sherlock or Rob Weir to look into the situation. And our apologies for the inconvenience."

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin February 23, 2010 | 4:10 p.m.

Wow! That new Missourian911 service really works!

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin February 23, 2010 | 4:11 p.m.

Thanks Jake!

Wowsa! That new Missourian911 service really works!

(Report Comment)
James Eldridge February 23, 2010 | 4:52 p.m.

Ok, so now that I've been "outed" (thanks Jake for the speedy restitution!), perhaps someone would care to address the actual content of my comment? What I said is true: the neighborhood *was* consulted. Furthermore, they were pleased with the process and results of the mediation.

Also, Dan *is* the other candidate's next door neighbor and has been involved in her campaign, yet I'm the one being accused of being an "operative." Frankly, I think the fact that Mike focused on shutting down my comment rather than engaging it is very telling.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin February 23, 2010 | 5:54 p.m.

James Eldridge (if that's your real name):

Dan Goldstein's comments aren't disingenuous from what I've seen.

Ask Jim Muench or Brian Treece or any of the neighbors in the Cross Creek dispute how they felt about Sarah Read's "mediation" services, and what you are likely to hear is very much akin to what Mr. Goldstein earlier relayed.

As for me, I was most disheartened to hear from Mr. Goldstein that, before I showed it to him, he -- the chairman of the Visioning Commission -- had never before seen the year-old, $50,000.00 contract between City Manager Bill Watkins and Sarah Read to write the Visioning Report.

By cagily avoiding a full-blown contract/RFP/bidding process in hiring Mrs. Read -- for the whopping fee of $150/hour -- it looked like Mr. Watkins, as usual, was having his way without input from either public or council. And on Visioning, no less -- the so-called nadir of public dialogue in this town!

What a bunch of hooey!

Just like the time Mrs. Read -- as president of Columbia Parents for Public Schools (CPPS) -- bellied up to the School Board's trough for a one day, $1,200.00 contract to help "guide" them through the passing of Phyllis Chase.

This during tight budget times when Sarah was the one person who should have known better -- as president of CPPS no less!

And like the time Mrs. Read, with Jerry Wade's support, attempted to belly up to the city council trough for a $10,000/two day "cyclist/driver" mediation conference, compliments of the GetAbout stash.

Most of us, Mr. Eldridge, have to get by in this one-industry town without hefty contracts from public agencies that tell us they're perennially broke and raise our taxes every chance they get.

I, for one, am sick to death of the quiet hypocrisy that guides so many public agency decisions here -- and the behind-the-scenes collusion between local businesses that get public agency contracts and those agencies.

Like Mr. Goldstein, I do not look forward to having any more behind-the-scenes "playas" -- like Mrs. Read -- on the city council.

We have enough of that nonsense in the offices of the city manager and Columbia's mayor-at-large, Hank Waters.

And darn it: Shame on Sarah Read for going along with these selfish, smug, backroom, double-dealing good ol' boys!

I hope the fifty thousand was worth it.

(Report Comment)
James Eldridge February 23, 2010 | 6:56 p.m.

Mike (if that's *your* real name),

If you think $150/hour is a "whopping" fee for a top-notch lawyer, you don't know much about lawyers.

If you think non-disclosure agreements aren't appropriate for mediation, you don't know much about mediation.

If the chairman of the Visioning committee hadn't seen the contract for the consultants in charge of the Vision plan, it certainly seems like that's an incrimination of him, not her.

If you think it's bad for a council member to have had previous dealings with the council, I've got no help for you.

Also, your discussions of "one-day" and "two-day" projects leave out a great deal of preparation time. Put into an hourly basis the fees are once again reasonable for a professional.

Taken as a whole, your comments sound just like the same old anti-intellectual, anti-professional junk we've been hearing from a certain segment of the political spectrum for a long time. I'm tired of hearing that "regular people" instead of "politicians" should run our government. Let me ask you this: do you want "regular people" instead of "pilots" to fly our airplanes too? Government is hard work that takes specific skills. It's not a bad thing to know how it works.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin February 23, 2010 | 7:40 p.m.

James Eldridge:

My what an elitist, sneering tone!

If you're implying Sarah Read is a "top notch" lawyer and that we're lucky to have her for the low rate of $150/hour, I'd like to know on what you base that claim?

None of her "contracts" allowed the public to even glance at her credentials, nor did they allow the public -- paying her bill -- to decide if it wanted or needed a "top notch" lawyer to handle non-legal tasks like writing a Visioning report or leading the school board through a "team building" exercise.

As for the chairman of the Visioning Commission (it's not "committee") not having seen Sarah's three (3) contracts after over a year, how many ways does a volunteer commission need to ask to be kept abreast of developments like this before its Staff liaison -- assistant city manager Paula Hertwig Hopkins -- listens and delivers?

And how many times do we have to hear Mrs. Read crow about "open communication" and "facilitated dialogues" to understand that, quite obviously, she doesn't practice what she preaches?

Finally, Mrs. Read hasn't had "previous dealings with the council." She's had previous dealings with city manager Bill Watkins. There's a big difference, in case you haven't noticed.

You say, "I'm tired of hearing that 'regular people' instead of 'politicians' should run our government."

Please -- encourage Mrs. Read to use that line at forums.
And put in on brochures. Maybe even do some robo-calls with it.

That's a vote-getting little ditty if ever I've heard one!

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance February 23, 2010 | 8:35 p.m.

Read is too close to the good ol' boy network. Disclosure agreements? You kidding me!?

Tracy's dealings are in the open and works for the citizen. I urge people to vote for Tracy.

(Report Comment)
James Eldridge February 23, 2010 | 10:59 p.m.

First, about the Crosscreek Development. You say, "Ask Jim Muench or Brian Treece or any of the neighbors in the Cross Creek dispute how they felt about Sarah Read's "mediation" services, and what you are likely to hear is very much akin to what Mr. Goldstein earlier relayed."

I haven't seen any negative comments about the process from the people you mentioned, and their neighborhood associations voted resoundingly for the mediated decision: http://www.columbiamissourian.com/storie...

If I can find the article Jim wrote about it, which is very positive about the process, I'll let you know. In any case, you seem to be speaking for "all the neighbors" and claiming they were against the process when they voted for its result by huge margins. So basically you're just making stuff up.

Now, about this: "If you're implying Sarah Read is a 'top notch' lawyer and that we're lucky to have her for the low rate of $150/hour, I'd like to know on what you base that claim?"

Well, here's a good start: http://www.martindale.com/Sarah-J-Read/9...

Her AV rating is 5/5 (preeminent), and her peer reviewers agree she "Meets Very High Criteria of General Ethical Standards," your little smear campaign notwithstanding. Educational and past work credentials are outstanding. So when you imply the counterclaim (that she's not "top-notch") just what are *you* basing it on?

(By the way, Google will show you this stuff. Just a word to the wise...)

On the contracts (some particular reason you're using scare-quotes on "contracts" like that?), they all went through appropriate, normal processes, and as you've found are a matter of public record. Nothing has been hidden from the public. Are you suggesting that we're supposed to have some sort of town-hall referendum on all the city's contracts? The people elect representatives (and those representatives hire staff) for just this purpose.

Your complaints on the Visioning Commission chairman "not being informed" of contracts are just about laughable. You do realize that the contracts in question were in place *before* the commission was created, right? That's about all I can say: once again, your narrative might be compelling fiction, but it's not fact.

One quick word about this jingoistic "elitist" nonsense. I want the most experienced, most effective people available to run the government. That should be what we all want. Calling it names doesn't make the counterargument any less absurd.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin February 24, 2010 | 8:16 a.m.

Firstly, I certainly hope you aren't Jim Eldridge, the city administrator in Kearney, Mo. listed here, who has worked with our city managers:

http://www.ci.kearney.mo.us/Kearney-Cont...

If you are, I'd take a dim view of your involvement here.

To the discussion, both individuals I mentioned and many others were put off by the confidential nature of the CrossCreek mediation, the fact it wasn't transparent and open. They testified as such at the council meetings and have continued to express their concerns since that time.

As to your second point, what does it matter if Sarah Read is a good attorney if none of her credentials were chosen from a field of potential bidders in a public, transparent fashion?

Her selection to write the city Visioning Report for three payments totaling $50,000.00 deliberately bypassed this public process, and even bypassed the very commission she was writing about, which was indeed in full bloom -- with Mr. Goldstein always involved -- long before Mr. Watkins handed Sarah this special deal.

Here's Mr. Watkins' in-house memo on the issue:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/26211073/Bill-...

Notice that Mr. Watkins cc's that memo to NO elected officials.

And here's a Visioning Commission 1/5/2010 letter to the city council objecting to several elements of the report Sarah wrote:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/26211073/Bill-...

That letter is pretty damning. It reiterates a long stated objection to
"inequitable access to city administration"; openly worries about "public confusion"; and calls Sarah's report "The City Manager's report," saying it is "inappropriate to treat the consultants [Sarah Read's] report as an expression of the wishes of the citizen's groups who drafted the 13 Vision Statements."

Here's assistant city manager Paula Hertwig-Hopkins, defending Staff's decisions on the matter:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/26212557/Hertw...

And yes, we do have "town hall referendums" on all the city's contracts.

They're called City Council Meetings.

(Report Comment)
Dan Goldstein February 24, 2010 | 9:53 a.m.

Hi Mr. James Eldridge,
Wow, quite a lot of anger here. First, yes I am Tracy Greever-Rice's neighbor. Tracy and Glenn and their two kids Charlie and Kate, and Valentine their dog and their two fluffy cats, have been good neighbors and have earned our respect and support. I do not see the issue here.

I have been open an honest about my support for Tracy and my strong belief that she is the most qualified candidate to represent the 4th ward. If you want to see what I have posted on the Tribune site you can find me under the pseudonym of dangoldstein. I am who I am.

But, I also am curious who you are. You seem very angry about any slights against Mrs. Read and especially anything to do with questions about her city contracts.

I have to admit I googled around to see who Mr. James Eldridge was and, like Mike above, the only likely candidate I could find was the city administrator of Kearny Mo. And yes the fact that I found this name on a web site for a city admins organization that also listed our City Manager and our assistant City Managers was curious.

But lets not jump to silly conclusions. Just to dispel this silliness can you let us know who you are. You seem to know a lot about city politics, yet you played at not knowing who Mike Martin was? A 4th ward person who is at least moderately into local politics who does not know Mike Martin? Love him, or hate him, he is pretty well known. Mike maybe you are falling down on your job if there is a 4th warder that doesn't know you!

So let us know who you are, Mr. James Eldridge, so silly rumors are not confirmed.

Peace, and I hope all who read this are able out get out and enjoy this gorgeous sunny day!

Dan Goldstein

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger February 24, 2010 | 10:35 a.m.

Mr. Eldridge concludes his last post with "One quick word about this jingoistic "elitist" nonsense. I want the most experienced, most effective people available to run the government. That should be what we all want."

In that case, let's just go ahead and elect/appoint/elevate Ms. Greever-Rice to the councilship; on experience, she wins, hands-down.

(Report Comment)
James Eldridge February 24, 2010 | 3:03 p.m.

On the substantive points: Since I've already exposed several outright falsehoods in your previous statements, I'm confident readers of this thread will forgive me for not spending my time researching any more to refute your new misinformation. Suffice to say that the letter on the Vision report is so rife with factual inaccuracy as to make it less than worthless. Also you continue to allege impropriety in the contracts where there is none. Considering your previous fantasies have left you with zero credibility and my previous positions have been well-sourced, I think my simple assertion of this is probably enough for the neutral reader of the thread.

Now, about who's who. Apparently some have missed the irony in my questioning whether "Mike Martin" was the above poster's real name. Obviously, I don't have any particular reason to doubt his identity. Neither did he have any reason when he questioned mine. On the other hand, there doesn't seem to be anything to stop someone from coming on here and posting as anyone else they choose. So yes, I know who Mike Martin is; that doesn't mean the poster above is Mike Martin at all. This really should raise serious questions about the wisdom of the Tribune's policy...but that's another matter.

And finally, Dan, I'm not sure where you're seeing "anger" above (unless you're talking about Mike's posts, which doesn't seem likely) but reading back through my comments I don't see it. I certainly take issue with sustained misinformation and fallacious arguments, but that's just because I consider attacking people with falsehoods to be rather bad form. And let's be honest: you *did* show up and immediately begin attacking the candidate; you shouldn't react so indignantly that someone might counter such attacks. Furthermore, do note that everything I've said has been related to the issues and candidates' qualifications. It's you and Mike that have repeatedly used suppression, insults and ad-hominem.

Oh, and as for your demands that I tell you more about myself, no thanks: I prefer to let the truth of my words and the strength of my arguments stand on their own.

(Report Comment)
James Eldridge February 24, 2010 | 3:20 p.m.

Oh my. Please excuse my typo; obviously I meant "Missourian" in place of "Tribune." The Trib's policy on this matter is completely appropriate and typical of a newspaper site. Sorry about that.

(Report Comment)
Rob Weir February 24, 2010 | 3:53 p.m.

Mr. Eldrige:

The poster known as "Mike Martin" is the real Mike Martin. No doubt about it.

Rob Weir
Director of Digital Development
The Columbia Missourian
weirr (at) missouri.edu

(Report Comment)
Gregg Suhler February 24, 2010 | 4:15 p.m.

A comment on Mr. Sweet’s article and 4th Ward candidate Sarah Read as informed by being a participant in the Cross Creek Development mediation while past-president of Timberhill Road Neighborhood Association…
After the Stadium63/Cross Creek development initially was turned down by City Council vote, and following discussion with City Council members, a cross section of neighbors, and going through several developer/neighborhoods meetings I reached the conclusion that only appropriate mediation would likely advance community interests. I initiated a meeting with by-then lead developer John States of Little Dixie Construction and told him I thought that in light of the accumulated history that skilled mediation stood the best chance getting decent results for all concerned. I also indicated that I thought the developers, as advocates for change, should view the costs of professional mediation as one of their costs of doing business, and that any mediator needed to be acceptable to all the interested parties. Mr. States then inquired around for a mediator and the best name he could come up with was Sarah Read.
Up to this point, much of the Stadium63/Cross Creek events comprised a case study in how not to get things done to anyone’s satisfaction. Dialogue of the interested parties was strained at best; one meeting had ended in a heated blowup and walkout. The majority of the site-area had been cleared by then and famously described as a “moonscape”.
Sarah Read’s subsequent acceptance as mediator by the neighbors and developers was followed by her inclusively developing the field of interested parties and then the mediation itself. Even choosing a type of mediation suitable for the situation took more know-how than we participants had evidenced.
The approximately 2:1 acceptance of the mediated agreement by the neighborhood’s votes in their respective meetings was made a part of City Council Meeting proceedings.
I note here two consequences of that whole process:
1. The City is working in a more proactive fashion with informing neighborhoods--mainly through formed Neighborhood Associations—as to development and general self-government.
2. A broad appreciation evolved among almost all of the participants for Sarah Read’s mediation skills augmented by her considerable leadership, management, awareness, and just plain savviness and common sense in working with other people to get worthwhile things done.

I, for one, would like to see Sarah Read on our City Council.
Gregg Suhler

(Report Comment)
Dan Goldstein February 24, 2010 | 4:31 p.m.

So...

Are you the James Eldridge who is the city administrator of Kearny Mo. and who is in a city administrators organization with Bill Watkins?

Just say yes or no..

Dan Goldstein

(Report Comment)
James Eldridge February 24, 2010 | 5:35 p.m.

Dan,

First, no. I am not that person. I also don't see why you would find it "curious" that a city administrator from Kearny would be in an organization for city administrators. Or were you saying it's curious that our city manager was in such an organization? Either way, it seems perfectly normal to me...not sure why you're suggesting that's some undue affiliation.

But anyway, since you're so hung up on it, I'll say again: I'm not that James Eldridge.

More importantly, why should it matter one bit who I am? I want a discussion based on ideas, while you consistently seek personal attack-based mudslinging. I'm not interested in that, so I'll be taking my leave of you.

Have a nice day.

James

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 24, 2010 | 5:55 p.m.

Good job, Mr. Goldstein.

It just seems to me that "people" who have never posted on the Missourian ever before start coming out of the woodwork, and then try to blur who they are.

All over a political campaign.

And then, they try to blur the issues and facts.

Debate over an issue is all fine and dandy, but when they don't have a leg to stand on.....Sheesh!

(Report Comment)

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