Financial reports show City Council candidates court business leaders, professors

Friday, February 24, 2012 | 4:31 p.m. CST; updated 11:32 p.m. CST, Friday, February 24, 2012

COLUMBIA — Columbia City Council candidates filed financial reports Thursday, showing Sixth Ward candidate Bill Tillotson out-gaining other candidates by a wide margin.

Four of the five candidates in the running for seats in the Second and Sixth wards reported earnings and expenditures to the Missouri Ethics Commission. Thursday marked the 40th day before the April 3 election, when state law requires candidates raising or spending more than $500 to file a report.


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Barbara Hoppe

Sixth Ward incumbent Barbara Hoppe was the only candidate not filing for the first time. Hoppe reported receipts of just over $3,000 since Jan. 1, including a $100 contribution from Third Ward resident Mahree Skala.

Skala said her friends in the Sixth Ward have praised Hoppe's responsiveness to their questions.

"If they have concerns, she works hard to get back to them promptly," Skala said.

Wayne Brekhus, an associate professor of sociology at MU and Sixth Ward resident, said he has given to Hoppe's campaign in the past because of her responsiveness. He also praised her ability to broker compromises, using the dispute over building regulations between the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and the East Campus Neighborhood Association as an example.

Skala, whose husband served on the council until 2010, said Hoppe's experience was needed. Hoppe is currently the longest-serving member on the council and the mayor pro tem.

"The turnover has been considerable in the last few years," Skala said. "It's important to have someone who has some memory of the history of issues as they have come up."

Progressive Political Partners LLC received $375 from Hoppe's campaign for "strategic planning and management," according to her report. Two successful City Council candidates and one successful school board candidate employed the group's services in last year's municipal elections.

Bill Tillotson

Hoppe's opponent, Bill Tillotson, received the endorsement of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce last week. He reported receipts of more than $8,200 from Jan. 23 to Feb. 18, including several contributions from Columbia businesses.

The Harold E. Johnson Companies Inc., a construction supplies dealer and storage provider, contributed $250 to Tillotson's campaign. Contributions of $500 were also given by Warnken Properties, a real estate rental company, and Real Estate Management Inc.

Jason Burchfield, president of SilverTree Companies, a real-estate development firm, contributed $250 to Tillotson's campaign. He is a resident of the Fourth Ward.

Burchfield said he agreed with Tillotson's pro-growth economic stance. He said he was supporting Tillotson because economic growth is a citywide issue.

"It's a vote for the community, not necessarily for the Sixth Ward," Burchfield said.

Tillotson also reported the most expenses to date of any candidate in the April 3 races. The campaign paid more than $6,000 to Bankers Advertising Company, a business specializing in yard signs and other advertising materials based in Iowa City, Iowa.

In total, Tillotson's campaign spent almost $8,500 during the past month.

Michael Trapp

In the Second Ward race, Michael Trapp reported 26 individual contributions, seven of which came from professors at an area college or university. Brekhus gave the Trapp campaign $300 of the $2,250 it reported earning since Jan. 18.

Brekhus said he met Trapp recently through his involvement in the community, and the candidate struck him as open to the input of diverse opinions.

"I think he has an interest in doing what's right for the community," Brekhus said.

Trapp, who left a favorable impression with several of the city's union workers during a forum Wednesday, also reported a contribution from Skala.

Skala said she didn't know Trapp personally but was impressed by what she has heard and read about the candidate.

"He seems like the kind of person who would have the interests of the individual people at heart," Skala said.

She said she also was impressed by the fact that he worked in human services. Trapp is a substance abuse counselor for Phoenix Programs.

Bill Pauls

Bill Pauls, who received the chamber's endorsement for the Second Ward seat, reported receipts of $931. Among Pauls' contributors were his campaign treasurer, former Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku and David Isaacson, who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at MU. Each gave $100.

Isaacson, who said he has lived on the same street as Pauls for two years, met Pauls through his work with the Hunter's Gate Neighborhood Association. He said he was impressed by Pauls' dedication to serve the community.

"At 62 years of age, you'd think he was 40," Isaacson said.

Isaacson said he contributed to Pauls' campaign because of his civic-minded background.

"All the values that make for a good citizen, he's got them," Isaacson added.

Bob Williams also met Pauls through the neighborhood association. He said he'd asked Pauls to bring him a yard sign as soon as he had some available, a promise he made good on Thursday.

"We're behind him 100 percent," Williams said.

Mike Atkinson

Second Ward candidate Mike Atkinson, whose report did not appear on the ethics commission website, said Thursday that he would be making a "major announcement" about his campaign in March.

"I'm playing my cards close to the chest," Atkinson said.

Candidates will be required to file reports two more times in this election cycle: once eight days before the April 3 election, and again 30 days after the polls close.

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