City Council candidates debate development, economy issues
March 22, 2010 | 11:32 p.m. CDT
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.
Here are some of the highlights:
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 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 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.