Candidate forum addresses issues in Columbia's First Ward

Saturday, March 26, 2011 | 6:58 p.m. CDT; updated 8:33 p.m. CDT, Sunday, March 27, 2011

COLUMBIA —First Ward City Council candidates focused on downtown parking issues and the work of Columbia's Neighborhood Response Team at a forum hosted Saturday by the Central Columbia Get Out the Vote Committee.

About 25 people attended the forum at the Downtown Optimist Clubhouse and submitted questions to moderator Glenn Cobbins.

Candidate Mitch Richards was again the most outspoken against efforts to increase parking meter fines or levy a new tax downtown.

“Instead of looking for ways to cut spending, they look at taxpayers as cash cows,” Richards said of the city. “It’s arrogant, it’s wrong, it’s not being honest with people, it’s not properly addressing the situation.”

Fellow candidate Darrell Foster said he saw tax increases and parking fines as a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

“We have to look at the allocation of our resources,” he said.

Pam Forbes said the new parking garage is forcing the city to raise fines to pay back the garage's bondholders.

“We were backed into this space," Forbes said. "It’s important to look at how we got here and try not to do that in the future.”

Some candidates also spoke harshly about Columbia's Neighborhood Response Team, which they say unfairly targets residents in their ward.

The Neighborhood Response Team was formed in 2000 to improve the aesthetic quality of central Columbia by citing residents for city code violations.

Fred Schmidt said the original idea of the Neighborhood Response Team was different than its implementation.

“When the Neighborhood Response Team was formed, the sales pitch was a lot different,” he said. “The sales pitch was that they would come around and visit with people who had code violations and sit down and talk with them and see if there’s a reason."

The response team launched another round of walking inspections — its second in 2011 — last week, to the chagrin of several neighbors who say they find the group's approach condescending and without context, according to a previous Missourian article.

Schmidt said he'd heard plenty of stories about the response team from First Ward residents while knocking on doors and canvassing neighborhoods.

“It’s very unfairly enforced,” Schmidt said. “Once you’re in the system, you’re in the computer, they’ve got you on a list.”

Richards agreed, saying the team’s actions could be considered a violation of residents' privacy.

“This is not right,” said Richards, whose platform includes a promise to defend privacy rights. “We’re opening the door to allow warrantless searches.”

Richards also noted that citing residents for code violations would just be another cycle to hurt the poor, one of his largest platforms in the election.

“We’re further impoverishing people who are already impoverished,” he said.

Forbes said she hadn't heard about the response team “picking on homeowners,” but that she did notice its inefficiency.

“We have so many dilapidated houses over here,” she said. “I can’t see they’re actually able to do anything.”

Foster remained ambivalent, especially about the enforcement of programs such as the Neighborhood Response Team, but did emphasize their importance.

“We have to have some policies and procedures in place in order to make our neighborhoods safe,” he said.

Foster's biggest criticism was the Neighborhood Response Team's specification of wards and areas throughout the city, saying many residents of the First Ward don’t have the capacity or means to completely fix code violations.

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Steve Spellman March 26, 2011 | 8:29 p.m.

Mitch Richards quotes from one of the Founders' protests & the 4th Amendment, in relation to warrantless searches; and refers to the Magna Carta:

Mike Martin in the Columbia Heartbeat discovers what is behind this guy that is not afraid to speak the truth:

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley March 26, 2011 | 9:32 p.m.

Mitch Richards is a good man who is genuinely concerned for the freedom, liberty, and rights of his fellow man.

One of the things that I think is very telling about the other candidates is how they find matters that are serious to Mitch, to our community, and to society in general humorous.

Mitch Richards genuinely cares about his community and his fellow man. He is the right person for First Ward. We need to get him and more people like him into office IMMEDIATELY! It is the passion that Mitch has to do everything he can to defend the rights of his fellow man that should tell everyone that that has seen him speak for just five minutes that this is the right person to have working for us in the First Ward.

Please allow such a rarity as Mitch Richards to serve you. People like him only come along once in a great, great while.

It is an absolute pleasure and privilege to say that I consider Mitch Richards a friend of mine.

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 27, 2011 | 8:32 p.m.

I am sure Mitch Richards is a good man. However when it comes to city politics, experience really counts. Also Alameta Crayton was a 9 year incumbent that lost with only approx 32% of the vote so that endorsement might not be as much as an asset.

Fred Schmidt has the experience the city needs. He owns a business, involves himself with the city civicly, and has the fiscal know how to represent the First Ward as a whole.

(Report Comment)
Mark Flakne March 28, 2011 | 7:38 a.m.

What the city needs is a strong voice representing the First Ward and Mitch Richards is that voice. As evidenced by the endorsement given by Hank "Eminent Domain Abuse" Waters, Fred is a status quo, go with the flow guy. Fred is a nice person, but "nice" won't get you far on today's city council in respect to First Ward issues.

I have attended countless CPRB and City Council meetings with Mitch. He has his finger on the pulse of this city government and this city.

Mitch’s Home Page

Mitch speaks to the crowd at his Meet and Greet

Mike Martin on Mitch

Mike Martin on Mitch 2.0

Almeta Crayton Press Release

The Watchword on Crayton Endorsement

Mitch’s opening statement at a recent candidate forum

Mitch addresses the Neighborhood Response Team and makes his closing statements

Reference on how armed code enforcement leads to warrantless searches

More on code enforcement and warrantless searches

Mitch speaking at 9th and Broadway during a protest against the downtown surveillance cameras

Mitch responds to CPRB member Susan Smith and her attempt to equate marijuana possession with terrorism

Tribune election coverage

A partial list of Missourian election stories

Hank “Eminent Domain Abuse” Waters snubs Mitch. For the record, Mitch is not a Libertarian, but he was proud to be called “anti-establishment” and glad not to be liked by Hank Waters.

Keep Columbia Free

If you want to know any of Mitch’s views or want a sign for your lawn or business, call or email him. 573.777.2306

Here is a partial webography regarding Mitch. This will give you a start. Many of these links will lead to more information if you take the time to look.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 28, 2011 | 11:54 a.m.

Fred is the status quo? Really? Are you even from around here? Have you looked at the council really? Fred is anything but the status quo. You can spam endorsements and articles all day, but it is experience and know how that people will come out and vote in an April election for.

That said, I encourage Mitch to stay in civic life with the city. We need more young people interested in city politics.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley March 28, 2011 | 12:35 p.m.

Now, Now, Tim.. Don't get your spandex biking shorts in a wad just yet....

Nobody is saying anything "bad" about Fred Schmidt; he seems like a nice enough fellow. I just happen to think that Mitch Richards is a better candidate to represent First Ward on the Columbia City Council.

Mitch has the courage to stand up for his community; even when his stance may not be a popular one but is the RIGHT one!

Mitch is highly intelligent, very articulate, well written, has great communication skills, is a "listener", thinks outside of the box, and has some wonderful and realistic ideas about how to make the city of Columbia a better place for its citizens..

If all we needed was an accountant on the City Council, we would not even have to have elections, Tim. We could just appoint a different local accountant to the board each term.

I think we need someone like Mitch Richards. I think we need someone that has a passion to make the quality of life for the citizens of Columbia far better than it is now.

RIcky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 28, 2011 | 3:05 p.m.

Spandex shorts, really? Again it looks like Richard's supporters have a distorted and incorrect view of the citizens of Columbia. Fred appeals to not just those who bike, but every sort of demographic.

BTW I hate spandex :)

(Report Comment)
Mark Flakne March 28, 2011 | 4:46 p.m.

That's one of Mitch's supporters, Tim. I bike, I wear spandex, and I support Mitch.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle March 28, 2011 | 4:57 p.m.

Godwin's Law, except with spandex and bike debates.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley March 29, 2011 | 2:55 a.m.

I think people need to read a little more carefully.....

I never posted anything derogatory about spandex shorts at all. What I posted was this: "Don't get your spandex biking shorts in a wad just yet..."

That does not seem to be a derogatory statement about spandex shorts... I can't see where that makes any judgment at all about people wearing spandex shorts. Although, it seems to me that getting one's spandex shorts in a wad while wearing them could be a bit uncomfortable; especially if one is wearing them while riding a bicycle......

Does someone here feel a little "defensive" about wearing spandex shorts?

Seems to me that what I was implying is that Tim seemed to be "getting his nose out of joint" just a little over Mark's post with all of the links on it. I arrive at that conclusion from Tim's statement about Mark's post, where he called Mark's post "spam"; right here: "You can spam endorsements and articles all day, but it is experience and know how that people will come out and vote in an April election for."

Now Tim will tell me that he never had his nose broken and he does not like people with broken noses; I suppose.....?

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 29, 2011 | 3:55 a.m.

@ Ricky:

"We are living in a Spandex world
And I am a Spandex girl."

- Apologies to Madonna

[Seriously, I think we as a society owe Madonna a great debt for pointing out, in song, that we are living in a material world. I'm certain we'd never have figured that out otherwise.]

(Report Comment)

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