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City Council candidates debate development, economy issues

Monday, March 22, 2010 | 11:32 p.m. CDT; updated 12:44 p.m. CDT, Friday, March 26, 2010
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala passes the microphone to Gary Kespohl, who is running against Skala for the council position, after answering a question on tax-increment financing during the debate hosted by the Columbia Missourian on Monday evening.

COLUMBIA – Columbia City Council candidates took only a handful of opportunities to challenge each other's views at Monday night's candidate debate, hosted by the Missourian.

The Missourian accepted question submissions before the debate. Candidates for mayor, the Fourth Ward seat and the Third Ward seat responded to a slate of questions including ones on economic growth and development, budget and tax revenue issues.

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Here are some of the highlights:

MAYOR

The mayoral candidates — Sid Sullivan, Jerry Wade, Paul Love, Bob McDavid and Sean O'Day — were the first to address questions. Candidate Sal Nuccio declined an invitation to attend.

The candidates separated themselves from one another in response to whether Columbia should increase or decrease funding of social services and in what areas or programs the candidates would want budget changes.

  • McDavid argued that the city needs to become more efficient in order to fund social service programs. "There are ways to run this city better and we need to do that."
  • Love had "the grim answer" about social service funding and argued that the money just isn't there. "We are going to be short, many millions of dollars for the next two years."
  • Sullivan said he "would very much argue for the increase in social services." He said the bad economy has led to a greater need for social services. Sullivan said streamlining inefficiencies, such as the city outsourcing many tasks that staff members could complete, would lead to a greater amount of available funds.
  • Wade said the city doesn't have just one budget and when you look at available funds for social services, there are many tough decisions. The pool of money that could be allotted for social service programs must also cover public safety, Wade said.
  • O'Day echoed that inefficiencies are a great place to find extra funds.

FOURTH WARD

Fourth Ward candidates Tracy Greever-Rice, Sarah Read, Rick Buford and Daryl Dudley took on the second round of questions.

The candidates addressed a contentious issue in the widening of West Broadway from two to four lanes and went into varying degrees of depth on the topic. West Broadway is close to a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Dudley argued that West Broadway was a bottleneck. "The short answer is I want to widen West Broadway." During the rebuttal period, Dudley added that traffic on the street meant idling cars and a hazard to the environment.
  • Greever-Rice said she felt "very strongly that we need to protect this historic neighborhood."
  • Read said she wanted to protect the character of the historic properties on West Broadway. "I'm not in favor of widening West Broadway unless it is for more sidewalks or bike lanes."
  • Buford said he would like to at least see left turn lanes "so we can have traffic flowing by and not stopped by a left hand turner."

THIRD WARD

Third Ward candidates Karl Skala and Gary Kespohl took advantage of the debate to take a few jabs at one another.

The two were asked how they plan to impact economic development to assist families living at or near the poverty line or facing an increasing gap in wages.

  • Skala argued that there is a difference between economic and real estate development. He said that places such as the Ewing industrial site offer economic development by bringing in industry. The antithesis, Skala argued, was Crosscreek Center, a planned 64-acre development near Stadium Boulevard and U.S. 63 that will include a Taco Bell, a BreakTime convenience store and a Toyota dealership. "How many Taco Bells and convenience stores do you need?"
  • Kespohl said he thought Crosscreek "would have been a great development" had the council not delayed it. He challenged Skala's belief that restaurant and fast food jobs are lesser quality than those brought in by employers such as Analytical Biochemistry Labs. He used one of his tenants as an example, saying that the unemployed mother would love a job in a restaurant.

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Comments

Mike Martin March 23, 2010 | 7:57 a.m.

Mr. Kespohl brought up his tenant? Amazing!

Crime Free Housing? A Columbia City Council candidate's criminal tenants

"Tough on crime" City Council candidate Gary Kespohl discusses his tenants and their crimes, Parts 1 & 2

http://www.columbiaheartbeat.com/2010/03...

http://www.columbiaheartbeat.com/2010/03...

(Report Comment)
Michael Scott March 23, 2010 | 9:11 a.m.

I find it hard to believe that anyone can critizize Kespohl based on the action of his tenants. He certainly can't be each one of them at all times of the day to make sure they behave.

Just look at Karl Skala. He has had his fair share of run-ins with the law, including spousal abuse. Is that better than an honest landlord that doesn't beat his wife?

(Report Comment)
Dale Jones March 23, 2010 | 9:37 a.m.

Michael...I totally agree! Mike. you might want to get some counseling to get your priorities straight.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 23, 2010 | 10:02 a.m.

Disgusting, but not surprising, that this baseless accusation from Kespohl supporters surfaces again. Got any proof of that allegation, "Michael"?

From a story at the Tribune earlier this month where the unfounded smear was brought up by Kespohl supporters:

JimRobertson (Jim Robertson) says...

We concluded the 20-year-old application by Karl Skala's ex-wife for an order of protection was not newsworthy in the context of this election. Anonymous opponents of Skala have decided to make it an issue, and that's their right, but I'm confident in our decision. Though the order was granted, as is common in domestic disputes, the allegations resulted in no legal action.

Jim Robertson
Managing Editor

http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2010...

Karl and I don't agree about a lot, but I'm sure having fun telling those who ask me about the Third Ward race to vote for him instead of a shady campaign.

(Report Comment)
Dale Haley March 23, 2010 | 10:19 a.m.

I will be really sad if Kespohl sleazes his way onto our city council. Yesterday I got a robo-call with outlandish charges about Karl Skala. As I listened to the nonsense, delivered in an over-the-top voice of doom and gloom, I just knew it would be anonymous and no one would admit to purveying this trash, but, nope, the Kespohl campaign proudly claimed it at the end.

I would really like Mr. Kespohl to stop wasting his time and our time attacking Karl Skala, who has been on the council for 3 years and before that Planning and Zoning--we all know what Karl stands for--and talk more about himself. He is downright Nixonian (Richard, not Jay) in character when it comes to answering questions about himself, and I really don't believe he belongs on the city council.

(Report Comment)
Kip Kendrick March 23, 2010 | 10:21 a.m.

John,

I agree. The handling of the Kespohl campaign has been completely negative and definitely shady. It is discouraging that their campaign has focussed on attacks and less on actual issues. Many of these attacks are character attacks based on misinformation. Many people in the third ward received robo-calls yesterday from Gary's campaign with more misinformation. I hear that Gary is a nice enough guy; I don't think his campaign tactics speak well for him.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 23, 2010 | 10:39 a.m.

("Kip Kendrick says:

John,

I agree. The handling of the Kespohl campaign has been completely negative and definitely shady. It is discouraging that their campaign has focussed on attacks and less on actual issues. Many of these attacks are character attacks based on misinformation.")

My concern is that our town's Chamber of Commerce endorsed Kespohl.
Maybe they would have been better off if they withheld any official Third Ward endorsement, considering that their chosen candidate's campaign tactics might be considered a reflection on how the Chamber does business.

(Report Comment)
Ed Ricciotti March 23, 2010 | 3:09 p.m.

This is probably the most negative campaign I've seen in city politics in a very long time. The stakes are high for those who would benefit from a Chamber dominated council. The amount of misinformation and sleaze I have read lately would make anyone's head spin. I know that Kespohl supports want us to fire Skala, but why should we hire Gary Kespohl? His apparent flip-flop and the denial of emails about Landmark, his problem with criminal tenants, and his inexperience in city government doesn't make him an appealing replacement either.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin March 23, 2010 | 9:21 p.m.

"Dale Jones" (fake name) and "Michael Scott" -- You don't have to believe me on what a scourge these slumlords renting to criminals are. Here's a different article, where the Mayor himself condemns it!

Nuisances put focus on arrests
Homes of offenders draw scrutiny of city council.
http://archive.columbiatribune.com/2008/...

Problems at a central Columbia rental home have prompted city leaders to take a hard look at what they can do about properties that are home to people accused of crimes elsewhere in the city.

An existing nuisance property ordinance targets homes where illegal activities occur, such as assault, drug violations, trespassing, stealing, discharge of firearms and armed criminal action. If three or more such activities occur in a four-month period, the city can close the property for a year.

But the ordinance does not deal with properties where chronic offenders live. One property with a history of harboring people accused of crimes is a duplex at 802 Wilkes Blvd., where Columbia police have gone 38 times since May 2006 on a variety of calls, including a knife assault in December, a drug investigation, disturbances and a burglary.

Mayor Darwin Hindman said such properties drag neighborhoods down. "That house is a nuisance, whether criminal activity takes place at that house or not," he said at a Nov. 17 council meeting.

"I think when you have a house that is obviously a nest for people who commit criminal acts, that should be stopped," he added. "There are philosophical issues of where they’re going to go, and we need to deal with that. But keeping them from doing these things, this is a step we ought to be taking."

The duplex is owned by Fenco Rental Properties, which is registered to Wayne Fenton, who did not reply to calls by the Tribune.

Hindman last week suggested licensing landlords. "In my opinion, we should not allow people to utilize property in such a way that’s unfair to neighbors. Furthermore, allowing this to go on helps breed crime in Columbia, and it is more difficult to commit crimes if" individuals "don’t have a base out of which to operate."

Willy McFarland, a Wilkes neighborhood resident, said yesterday that the area had improved since a duplex resident suspected of drug activity and another Wilkes resident suspected of prostitution moved away. Not too long ago, he said, as many as 60 cars a day would drive between the duplex and the home of the suspected prostitute.

(Report Comment)

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