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Columbia City Council candidates address ward-specific issues

Friday, March 30, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Seats in two of Columbia’s six City Council wards will be contested Tuesday. Each brings its own specific issues to the polls.

The wards were redrawn officially in October. The Second Ward has three candidates vying for its seat: The Candy Factory co-owner Mike Atkinson, retired U.S. Department of Agriculture soil scientist Bill Pauls and Phoenix Programs counselor Michael Trapp.

The Second Ward is the northwest portion of Columbia, stretching from Oakland Gravel Road in the east to near Route E. Most of the ward lies north of Interstate 70 and includes Cosmopolitan Park and Boone Quarries. The population estimate during the 2010 U.S. census was 17,793.

Two candidates are seeking the Sixth Ward seat. Incumbent Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe is running for re-election, hoping for third term on the council. She is challenged by independent insurance agent and Planning and Zoning Commission member Bill Tillotson.

The Sixth Ward covers the southeast part of town, loosely bound by Providence Road and College Avenue in the west and Rolling Hills Road in the east, with some areas along East Fulton Gravel Road that have been incorporated into the city. The ward includes Grindstone Nature Area and Boone Hospital Center. Its population estimate during the 2010 census was 18,229.

We asked the five candidates about their specific, ward-related concerns.

Second Ward candidate Mike Atkinson

Atkinson said people want their city services to operate better. He cited slow snow removal last winter.

"They'd like to see better response times and better city services," Atkinson said of voters.

Atkinson said residents want government to be leaner and more efficient.

"I advocate identifying the areas of wasteful spending in the government and reallocating that money towards improving quality of life in Columbia," Atkinson said.

"I would never advocate raising taxes unless the government is running as efficiently as it possibly can," Atkinson said. "And even then, I'm not sure I would."

Second Ward candidate Bill Pauls

In his campaign, Pauls has emphasized public safety, infrastructure and job creation as his main issues, but he said Monday that he would welcome input from the community on where he should fix his attention.

“If it takes a 40-hour week, a 50-hour week, a 60-hour week, I don’t care what it takes,” Pauls said. “I will take the time to gather as much information as I need.”

Pauls said public safety has emerged as a major concern of the community during the campaign. He said he would follow the recommendations of those charged with making decisions about leadership in the Columbia Police Department, including City Manager Mike Matthes.

“That’s why we hire him and pay him — to do that job,” Pauls said.

But Pauls said his focus wouldn’t be limited to a single area. He said that infrastructure projects, including road and sidewalk improvements, are necessary in the Second Ward and that he’s capable of multitasking.

Second Ward candidate Michael Trapp

"Far and away people are concerned about the condition of the streets," Trapp said of Second Ward residents. "It shows the lack of investment in the infrastructure we have."

Trapp said that depending on the news of the day, community safety, specifically property crimes, could also be a leading concern.

The addition of more sidewalks and traffic-calming measures would reduce those problems, Trapp said.

"If we make a more liveable city, it's going to bring people outside, watching out for neighbors and reducing crime," he said.

"But in general, the crime rate has grown slower than the rate of population."

Sixth Ward candidate Barbara Hoppe

Hoppe said improving the community, economy and environment in a fiscally responsible way is a priority. She cited her work in preserving Stephens Lake Park and securing funding from the national Trust for Public Land for the upkeep of parks throughout Columbia.

“Creating a permanent funding source for parks, beyond what they received at that point in time, freed up a tremendous amount — millions of dollars in the general fund for other purposes,” Hoppe said. “That was a tremendous economic boost to the city.”

Hoppe listed priorities of ensuring traffic safety at Lee Elementary School following the rezoning of an area on Locust Street to allow for the construction of a mixed-use apartment and retail building. Hoppe said she is optimistic the city can do that after helping spark discussion among teachers, parents and the developers, 10th and Locust LLC.

“I’d like to see that through because we hope the long-term improvements will happen by the beginning of the school year,” Hoppe said.

Sixth Ward candidate Bill Tillotson

Bill Tillotson said that Sixth Ward residents are concerned about a range of individualized issues but that crime and road conditions are at the forefront of people's minds.

"When I talk to people, they say they're upset about the condition of public streets," Tillotson said.

Tillotson has also said the community, specifically the Columbia Police Department, should be friendlier to college students in hopes that they will stay in Columbia after graduation.

"They come into drinking establishments and harass (the students)," Tillotson said. "They go onto fraternity and sorority properties and try to give tickets." While it's good that those tickets get paid because they boost revenue, Tillotson said those patrols should be re-assigned to more troubled areas of the city.

Missourian reporter Jacob Kirn contributed to this article. 


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