Thank you, Mr. McDavid, for taking the time to speak with my Introduction to Speech class at Columbia College. I do hope the bribe, er, gift was satisfactory. Especially if you have a sweet tooth and are a chocolate lover; and who isn’t?
You engaged the class, speaking to the importance of their voice in our government. We also learned that transforming from businessman to political leader is not like in the movies. It takes time to learn the ropes.
There are a few issues that we did not touch on in our Q-and-A. First is a matter of the city’s intercollegiate pride.
We are aware of your connection to MU and the economic impact Missouri’s flagship of higher education has on Columbia and Boone County. We also know that Columbia’s pride for our university’s sports and academic pursuits is second to none.
However, three other post-secondary institutions in Columbia carry the same, if not greater, pride. Columbia and Stephens colleges and Moberly Area Community College, though much smaller, offer some of the finest education in the state and the country, and they are damned proud of it. None will claim second fiddle to MU.
So why, Mr. Mayor, do you suggest that the city paint new transit buses in the black and gold of MU? Are maroon and white, or blue and white, all that bad? And not the dull blue of the old buses, but high-gloss and bright blues and maroons. Make the buses shine, like our pride.
Mr. Mayor, may I recommend that you declare a Columbia College Week and a Stephens College Week during their respective alumni days, and a MACC Week just because the institution deserves it? Parades and dedication dinners, special events and, of course, clowns, er, political dignitaries. OK, maybe not parades.
Second, there seems to be a major communication problem within your administration, originating from somewhere deep in the City Council offices. The Missourian reported on Oct. 4 that, for the second time, business owners on Business Loop 70 and Providence Road were not notified of a public hearing concerning the construction of proper crosswalks near Hickman High School.
The Missourian reported that First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz "said it was unfortunate that the city was still having communication problems” concerning citizen notification. You told the class that poor citizen communication was the main cause of the proposed high-power transmission lines controversy. In fact, four citizens came to me on Thursday and Friday asking what I knew about the power line and crosswalk problems. I suggested they write letters to you.
My advice: In business you would fire the incompetent person. In government, you reassign him or her.
My third concern is the “great parking meter debate.” You talked to us about the parking garage at Fifth and Walnut streets, but mostly in terms of the city becoming a landlord to the future retail shops to be located on the ground level of the new structure. However, the issue of the distribution of parking meter revenues is now center stage. Let me tell you a story.
In 2002, Denver Mayor Wellington Webb decided to raise downtown parking fees. The city had pulled money from its parking revenues to help pay off a bond. Webb raised parking meter rates to help make up the difference.
One man got mad and ran for mayor himself in 2003 based on the great parking meter fiasco. John Hickenlooper went from being a one-issue candidate to representing the needs of all of Denver’s communities. Watch his commercial on YouTube. John was a two-term mayor of Denver and today is governor-elect of Colorado because of the parking meters.
Do not let this revenue issue make you a one-term wonder. You have proposed using at least half of Columbia's parking meter revenues to support the city's general operations fund, rather than using those revenues to pay off the bonds that helped build the new parking garage. But, like Denver, if we pull from our parking revenues to support something else (the general fund), we will have to make up the difference. We will have to find another way to pay for the parking garage, and nothing says you won't raise prices at the parking meters.
Plus, the city promised bondholders that their bonds would be backed by parking meter revenues. Would it hurt our contract with those bondholders if we pulled revenue from parking meters to support the general fund? And if we broke that contract, wouldn't that hurt our city in future bond sales? Investors will shy away, saying Columbia does not keep its promises.
Finally, Mr. Mayor, you are the mayor. Take a lesson from Darwin Hindman, a simple, quasi-retired resident of Columbia. Stand tall, smile at everybody and sound really excited about whatever you are talking about. Acknowledge Darwin when he rides by on his bicycle, but it is you now sitting in the big chair at Broadway and Seventh Street.
And please, Mr. Mayor, make sure the streets are clean, cleared of snow, and that the garbage is picked up on time.
David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.