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Columbia Missourian

Columbia City Council change up for debate

By Missourian staff
April 8, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
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Breakdown of 2010 municipal election results by precinct. Select a race and precinct to see totals.

COLUMBIA — The results of an election that saw nearly $180,000 spent on candidate campaigns ushered in a new City Council and the possibility for significant change in Columbia.

With fists in the air, Don Stamper, executive director of the Central Missouri Development Council, and Fred Parry, publisher of Inside Columbia, celebrated the final results.

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"Trifecta!" Parry said at mayor-elect Bob McDavid's election night watch party.

The mood at other watch parties across town took a decidedly different turn. Crowds gathered around mayoral candidate and outgoing Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade, Third Ward incumbent Karl Skala and Fourth Ward candidate Tracy Greever-Rice at their respective parties went from anxious jubilation to somber quiet.

Although all three candidates carried the majority of the precincts closest to the central of Columbia, it wasn't enough to beat the candidates endorsed by the Chamber  of Commerce.

"Almost as if there are two Columbias that have emerged," First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz said. "I think it's sort of mirroring how we used to see Columbia and Boone County being two separate things. The county has moved into the outlying parts of the city. It's a very striking thing when you look at the results precinct by precinct."

Hank Ottinger's jaw dropped as he learned Daryl Dudley slipped past Greever-Rice to secure the Fourth Ward seat. The chairman of the Osage Group of the Sierra Club sat by the door of Teller's Gallery and Bar and looked up, shocked, at the crowd of Greever-Rice supporters hearing the final tally.

"What I find most troubling is that the three newly elected people on council have no prior experience in city governance," Ottinger said. "This isn't a small town anymore, and you need strong council people, I think, who have some kind of background in the way city governance works.

"The candidates who were running, Skala and Tracy Greever-Rice, had that experience. It will be interesting to see how council adapts to that."

Mayoral candidate Sid Sullivan said the race was determined more by money than it was by good candidates.

"I think people in Columbia will wake up to what has happened, and I think the chamber members will have to reconcile with their own leadership," he added.

Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl and Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley won their seats by less than a 100-vote margin. Both their campaign platforms, along with McDavid's, emphasized job growth.

"The development community in Columbia has been at a screeching halt for a couple years, so I only think there is so much that the city can do," Jeff Barrow, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said. "I think the development community is a subset of the national and international community with the economy. From what I know about the elections, the new candidates are talking very strongly about the creation of jobs. I don't really know how they intend to do that."

Although a few faces behind the dais will be different from now on, only time will tell how the new mayor and two new ward representatives might change Columbia.

"I think any time a new group of people comes in, it seems more dramatic than it will be in reality," Sturtz said.

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser echoed Sturtz. New members gain a different perspective once they begin serving on the council, she said.

"Government has its established bureaucracy, and it's difficult to make drastic change quickly," she said. "You have to work with that, and you slowly make progress in the direction you want to change to."

The three winning candidates and Proposition 1, the downtown camera initiative, failed to win a majority in precincts closest to the central city. In the mayoral race, Wade carried most of those areas, and Greever-Rice won the precincts closest to downtown. The Third Ward precinct that reaches farthest into the center of Columbia went to Skala.

"The most remarkable thing about the results is the gulf between the central city and the outlying precincts," Sturtz said. "I think it indicates a wide disparity between people who live near downtown and people living in suburban areas."

Dudley said he lost to Greever-Rice in precincts closer to downtown not because those voters are of a different ideology but because voters there were less aware of him.

"The people who voted for me are the people who I talk to all the time," Dudley said. Through his job as manager of the Hy-Vee convenience store on West Broadway, Dudley said he speaks with hundreds of people every day.

Kespohl said he knew going into the election that the Benton-Stephens precincts, where Skala has a strong following, would be an important area and that he would need votes in many smaller precincts without its help.

"We worked a lot harder at knocking on doors and getting the word out to people through advertisements on the radio and Internet," Kespohl said. "I think this time people knew more about who I am and what I stand for."

All three victors ran on platforms of job growth and public safety. So there's a question about how the council will approach development going forward. Wade and Skala were proponents of smart growth ideologies such as infill and postponing development until proper infrastructure is in place.

Tony Black, president of the Lake of the Woods Neighborhood Association, has been a vocal opponent of a proposed 271-acre residential and commercial development off Richland Road. The council has twice tabled the developer's request for annexation and zoning, saying roads and services are inadequate to support it.

Black thinks the proposal now is likely to pass.

"It looks like we'll get a development in our backyard," Black said. "I think they postponed it because they knew Hindman was out and some of these development guys would come in."

Tom Atkins, one of the developers, donated $1,200 to Dudley's campaign

Stamper said there's no secret to why the election turned out the way it did.

"I think the results speak for themselves," Stamper said. "The community was very concerned about the economy, jobs and public safety. ... I hope that we strive for more balance. We need to continue to support our recreation needs and parks needs, but we also need as much enthusiasm for economic growth and development."

McDavid doesn't think the new members will alter the council to any great extent.

"I'm emphasizing that I don't want to change the cultural nature or the historical character of the city," McDavid said. "That's what adds to the community, and I don't think the character of Columbia will change at all."

Missourian reporters Chris Canipe, Anne Christnovich, Kathleen Pointer and Patrick Sweet contributed to this report.