To the Editor:
Throughout the ward redistricting process, we have seen an unprecedented level of community involvement.
Citizens have joined the discussion to make their voices and their opinions heard.
Trial D has been widely criticized and rejected by neighborhoods and citizens alike. Yet Trial D — championed by two council members for their own political gain — has reappeared again and again, after overwhelming opposition in public testimony, after failing to receive a majority vote of the bipartisan Reapportionment Committee, and after it was judged illegal by non-partisan city staff.
It has now been pushed forward once more by Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley. In its "amended" form, it will be considered equally along with compromise Trial E (the only trial receiving a majority vote of the Reapportionment Committee and trials A and B (both of which were rejected by a majority of the committee).
It is difficult to draw any other conclusion: Councilmen Dudley and Gary Kespohl would like to eliminate the exact precincts that voted most decisively for their opponents in the last election.
Columbia citizens should be outraged that personal political ambitions are being put before the needs of neighborhoods throughout the city.
The public is being disregarded by the people who took an oath to serve all citizens of Columbia.
A process intended to be nonpolitical has become completely about the gains of a few at the expense of many.
As Hank Waters wrote in last Friday’s editorial in the Columbia Tribune:
"(The) Trial D attempt to move the progressive Old Southwest out of the Fourth Ward is seen by political skeptics as a way to secure the ward for Dudley or his like. Trial D also would move progressive Benton-Stephens from the Third Ward, making the district safer for conservative incumbent Gary Kespohl.
"This political baggage gives the council good reason to reject Trial D for a better option. Trial E simply extends the First Ward west above Broadway without affecting Benton-Stephens or the Old Southwest, gaining the needed population and leaving current voting patterns relatively intact."
Trial D is divisive. It will result in hostility toward the council in Columbia’s most politically active neighborhoods. The lasting effects of Trial D will be a Columbia divided.
Segregating wards by voting patterns will lead to stronger and more pronounced divisions on the City Council and pit wards against one another. We must ask the mayor and the City Council if Trial D is worth a divided community.
Do the mayor and the council want the narrow political interests of two council members to saturate city government? Obviously, the answer should be no.
Trial E is a straightforward solution to ward reapportionment. It moves population to balance the wards numerically without benefiting one political ideology over another. Unlike all the other options presented, it has been met with little or no opposition in the community.
Demand Trial E be passed. Say no to partisan politics. Tell the mayor and the council to oppose a wildly unpopular and divisive Trial D.
Kip Kendrick is president of the Benton-Stephens Neighborhood Association.