COLUMBIA — A diverse group of demonstrators gathered in front of the Daniel Boone City Building on Monday to speak out against the enhanced enterprise zone and its related finding of blight.
Among the throng of protesters gathered around a sign proclaiming "FIGHT THE BLIGHT," David Dollens, a 40-year resident of Columbia, said he believes the EEZ will negatively impact the poor and take taxes away from services like schools and transportation.
"It's going to eat the poor up," Dollens said. He asserted that Mayor Bob McDavid would not pick anyone who would represent the people most affected by blight.
Inside, after a two-hour public hearing, the Columbia City Council unanimously voted Monday to pass an ordinance that will re-establish the Enhanced Enterprise Zone Board. The board will replace a previous one the council dissolved earlier this month.
The new board will consist of seven members: one appointed by the Columbia Public School District, one by the taxing districts within the EEZ and five chosen by the mayor.
McDavid said Monday before the public hearing that if the board were approved he would reappoint Randy Morrow, John Strotbeck and Louis Gatewood.
He also said he would appoint attorney Jeremy Root. A member of Citizens Involved and Invested in Columbia, Root has to date been an ardent opponent of the EEZ blight decree. He was recommended by council members Daryl Dudley and Helen Anthony of the Fourth and Fifth wards, respectively.
McDavid also said he would appoint Anthony Stanton, whom First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt and Douglass Neighborhood Association President Tyree Byndom suggested.
Those appointments became official when the council re-established the board.
Toward the end of the meeting, City Clerk Sheela Amin asked for clarification on how long each of the mayor's appointees would serve on the board. State law requires that those terms be staggered.
McDavid appointed Strotbeck and Stanton to four-year terms, Root and Morrow to three-year terms and Gatewood to a two-year term.
The new board will be charged with advising the council on zone boundaries, reviewing applications to join the EEZ and monitoring business activity within the zone.
Hoppe expressed hope Monday that the new board would produce much narrower boundaries for the proposed zone.
The original resolution marked 60 percent of the city as blighted, a contentious categorization that led to opposition from Columbia residents. Many said they felt that blight would lead to decreased property values, an eroded tax base and eminent domain abuse.
Mary Hussmann, a member of Grass Roots Organizing, spoke during the meeting about the council's role in the city.
"Your job is not to build walls but bridges," she said. "The blight/EEZ plan not only damages the reputation of Columbia, but is unfair and costly to the residents of Columbia.”
Keep Columbia Free, a political action committee, announced a plan Friday to circulate a petition to recall the council members who voted in favor of the ordinance and another to put an initiative on the next ballot to rescind it.
The group, said member Mitch Richards, will begin gathering signatures immediately despite the unanimous vote.
"Tomorrow's another day," he said.