Mayor voices worries about parks sales tax proposition

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 | 8:28 p.m. CDT; updated 11:18 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 30, 2010

COLUMBIA — Vague language, a polarized political environment and touchy ballot issues might hamper the continuation of the city parks sales tax, Mayor Bob McDavid said Wednesday.

McDavid expressed his concern at a meeting with Boone County officials that morning.

Proposition 1 ballot language

On Nov. 2, Columbia voters will see this question on their ballots:


Shall the municipality of Columbia, Missouri impose a sales tax of one-eighth of one percent, for five (5) years, for the purpose of providing funding for local parks for the municipality?

The current one-fourth of one percent local parks sales tax is scheduled to be reduced to one-eighth of one percent on March 31, 2011. Approval of this proposition would keep the local parks sales tax rate at one-fourth of one percent for an additional five (5) years.

The City intends to use this sales tax to fund projects in the City’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan including renovations and improvements to existing parks, development of neighborhood and community parks, development of trails and greenbelts, and the acquisition of land for parks, trails, greenbelts and open space preservation.



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"We want this to be a well-thought-out vote," he said. "This is about the gift we give to our children and grandchildren."

The gift refers to the City of Columbia's parks and trails, which are funded by a one-eighth cent sales tax. On Nov. 2, voters will decide whether to continue that sales tax, which was established in 2000 and renewed in 2005.

To combat possible misconceptions about the tax, the mayor created Friends of Columbia's Parks to promote the proposal. The committee's formation, which is co-chaired by former Mayor Mary Anne McCollum and Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Vicki Russell, was announced Sept. 8.

"We want people to know this is a continuation of a 10-year-old vote," McDavid said, explaining how the language on the ballot might confuse voters. "'Shall impose,'" he said, quoting the ballot. "It sounds harsh and heavy."

Committee member and former Mayor Darwin Hindman agreed.

"First of all, I think it's important that people know it's a renewal of current tax," he said.

He added that some voters might think the tax will fund projects by GetAbout Columbia, which builds bicycle and pedestrian projects through a federal grant.

"I think people see bicycle lanes and they think those are for recreation purposes when they're really for transportation purposes," Hindman said.

The local sales tax finances only Columbia parks, according to a news release. He added that about 14 percent of sales taxes are paid by visitors to the city.

"If we don't support the tax, we'll have to use money from the general fund," he said.

Hindman said parks play an important role in health, family relations and economic development.

"I think it's important for people to understand how important parks are to the community," he said. He emphasized that companies look at parks when they consider moving to an area.

At Wednesday's meeting, McDavid echoed that sentiment. He expressed hope that Columbia would be able to host regional sports tournaments with the addition of more soccer fields. He used the Show-Me State Games, which take place in the city, as an example of Columbia's potential.

Another facet of McDavid's concern is the effect other propositions might have on voters' decisions.

"Our proposition will be among some issues of contention," he said, referring to the proposal to ban Tasers in the city that is also on ballot.

"We have a polarized electorate," he said, indicating that voter negativity could cause the proposal's passage to fail.

"The hope is that through (Friends of Columbia's Parks') advocacy, the ballot issue passes successfully," said Toni Messina, City of Columbia Public Communications director. "They will also raise funds to conduct public education campaigns."

Hindman said Friends of Columbia's Parks would give presentations to different civic groups and be responsible for creating ads and brochures promoting the sales tax.

"We are assigned to go out and tell people and educate people about the benefits of parks," he said.

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Ray Shapiro September 29, 2010 | 9:31 p.m.

("The City intends to use this sales tax to fund projects in the City’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan including renovations and improvements to existing parks, development of neighborhood and community parks, development of trails and greenbelts, and the acquisition of land for parks, trails, greenbelts and open space preservation.")

The mayor should be more concerned that the actual use of this money has been declared with loose intentions.
The use of monies should be specified as restricted funds, not intended.
(What recourse do taxpayers have if the monies are not used as intended?)
Also, if GetAbout has federal monies for parks and trails, why is more money for these "intentions" needed from this proposed tax continuation?
Personally I would like to see a request for something other than a Mike Hood P&R slush fund.
The Phillips Lake property and the purchase of the Crane property are two examples where monies are spent in grabbing up private land, while we have only one Park Ranger on payroll.
Meanwhile, more parks are being built by the city in private subdivisions, such as the Cascades, in areas where the developers can't even fill the empty homes they have built.
And, don't even get me started on who, why and how money gets directed to Douglass Park projects while the trout program at Bethel gets canned and Stephen's Lake becomes an unnatural colored, turtle infested swimming hole, void of bass.
Better the city tells us why and what P&R will specifically use this money for, than allow them to continue with unchecked partnerships with
developers, "Bob the Builder" and real estate deals.

(Report Comment)
Tammy Miller September 30, 2010 | 9:11 a.m.

A couple of clarifications for Mr. Shaprio.

1. There is a detailed list of proposed projects at the following link:

2. Trout program is restored for the 2010-11 season. The City is contributing $1,600 and the Mid-Missouri Trout Unlimited Chapter is donating up to $1,000.

3. Missouri Dept of Conservation indicates that both Stephens Lake and Twin Lakes are two of the most heavily fished lakes in the County and their stocking and fish management efforts reflect the high use. There has not been any chemicals applied to either lake due to efforts of volunteer programs such as the Columbia Aquatic Restoration Program (CARP).

4. There is one Park Ranger, but up until 2004, the City did not have any park rangers. Currently, the Ranger handles about 23% of all calls to City parks, trails and facilities. An additional ranger is a priority for the department and we support the current city budget which includes additional police and fire fighters.

If Mr. Shaprio or anyone else wants further explanation and details, please give me a call. I'd be glad to discuss any of these issues and details over the phone or in person.

Mike Griggs,
Park Services Manager

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking September 30, 2010 | 9:42 a.m.

Who's Mr. Shaprio?



(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 30, 2010 | 12:35 p.m.

I have always prefered the Little Dixie lake area as the model "closest to Columbia" fishing hole and recreation spot.
Especially for those who have mobility issues or desire some peace and tranquility for emotional reasons.
Will these "intended monies" for "proposed projects" be used to make the new "Maplewood Barn" and its surrounding perimeter fully accessible to people with disabilities? For seniors? Safe for children?
(Both inside the new building so that people with disabilities can also volunteer to participate as actors/actresses and production people as well as supporters and audience?)
Will these "intended monies" for "proposed projects" also be used to restore and improve P&R's dwindling Adaptive Recreation program which recently recieved cuts?
Or will most of it be used to purchase and "annex" more undeveloped land for the city's real estate portfolio?

Sorry guys. The manner in which the parks and recreation tax bill proposal is written is way too vague for me to vote in favor of it. The spenders at city hall and parks and recreation are given too much latitude with these monies and my confidence in their choices has worn thin over the last decade.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 30, 2010 | 12:43 p.m.

Mark, the better question might be who is Tammy Miller when it sounds like Mike Griggs personally responded to Ray's comments?

(Report Comment)

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