COLUMBIA — Mayor Bob McDavid, in talking about his plans to run for a second term, said Monday that a major part of his platform — public safety and improvement in the Columbia Police Department — is similar to the one he advocated during his first bid three years ago.
McDavid became the first during this campaign season to say that he will seek the city's top elected spot. Still, he considers it likely that another candidate will file before the Jan. 8 deadline. The election is April 2.
A continued push for improvements in the Police Department will be McDavid's top priority in a second term, he said. He also discussed his goals for the city bus system and passenger air service at Columbia Regional Airport, two areas in which he has been aggressive during his first term.
McDavid said he has three expectations for the Police Department: a decrease in violent crimes, an improvement in employee morale and increased citizen satisfaction. Although he called City Manager Mike Matthes "very strong" for evaluating the administrative structure of the Police Department, McDavid said actual changes need to come from within the Police Department's management.
"I think these are leadership issues," McDavid said. "The current police chief (Ken Burton) has been around about three years, the city manager about a year and a half. So, we've had some change, but I think it's time to see a result from these changes.
"The police chief is rather new," McDavid continued, saying he wasn't involved in hiring Burton but that he respects the decision of those who were. "And I respect the chief for his stature. But I think the Anderson report said there were some changes that needed to be made."
The report McDavid referenced was done by independent consultant Eric A. Anderson Associates, which investigated reports of declining employee morale and brought them to light in March. The Anderson report said the department's "supervisory culture is approaching toxicity."
Burton said at the news conference that he took full responsibility for the findings, according to a previous Missourian report.
"As chief of police, I own it," Burton said in the news conference.
Transportation is another issue on McDavid's mind. To him, there are three core groups of people best served by public transit: students who commute to campus, students who live downtown and can walk or ride bikes to campus, and lower-income residents who need a broad-based bus system.
But, there's a problem. FastCAT, which was designed to create a 24-hour, expanded route catering primarily to students, has reached only 10.7 percent of the sales goal needed to cover operating costs, according to a report the council received at its Dec. 3 meeting. Only 582 of the necessary 5,441 passes have been sold.
McDavid said the bus system is a work in progress.
"I think we're fundamentally restructuring transit," McDavid said. "Right now, we have a culture of automobiles for the 28,000 students that live off-campus. This really is a commuter campus. So, there's a historical, cultural resistance that we're gonna face.
"People are just not using transit. Our goal is to change that culture."
Ian Thomas, executive director of PedNET Coalition, is running for the Fourth Ward City Council seat with a similar focus on transit as part of his campaign.
"I know that he is interested in expanding the transit system," McDavid said. "We probably have different philosophies on how to do it. My approach is to put a service out there that people want to pay for. Buses aren't free."
A mayor of many hats, the former OB-GYN said his job also requires him to be a salesman. He has advocated making Columbia a friendlier place for businesses to locate and expand and has been one of the council proponents of establishing an enhanced enterprise zone.
McDavid also has exhibited salesmanship in his work to expand passenger air service at Columbia Regional Airport. During his first term, Delta Air Lines beefed up its service to include flights to and from Atlanta, and Frontier Airlines began daily flights to Orlando.
Last month, the city announced that American Airlines would begin daily flights to Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth in February — a development made possible after McDavid and others gathered up donations from businesses and surrounding communities to produce a $3 million revenue guarantee.
American's arrival, however, prompted Delta to announce it is leaving the Columbia market.
"Our goal is to have 48 percent market share by 2020," McDavid said. "To get that, we're gonna need 400 to 600 passengers a day using the airport."
Last year, when Delta planes were running about 80 percent full, McDavid said about 126 passengers were using the airport each day. He thinks the American flights will boost that number to more than 220 by April.
Once demand for seats is up, McDavid said, he expects American Airlines will expand its number of flights. That, in turn, should cause businesses to start pouring in.
The philosophy is simple: "Fill the planes so that more planes will be brought in," McDavid said. "Once we get 'em here, they generally like Columbia."
McDavid, who previously served on the Boone Hospital Center Board of Trustees, won the 2010 mayoral election by garnering 54 percent of the vote in a field of six candidates. He replaced former mayor Darwin Hindman, who had served a record five terms in the office.
Along with the mayoral and Fourth Ward seats, voters also will fill the Third Ward seat on the City Council in the April election. Thomas and incumbent Daryl Dudley have entered the Fourth Ward race, while incumbent Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl and his predecessor, Karl Skala, have filed in that contest.
Those who want to run for mayor must collect at least 100 and no more than 150 signatures from registered Columbia voters and submit them to City Clerk Sheela Amin by Jan. 8. Those who want to run for ward seats must collect at least 50 and no more than 75 signatures.
The city also will hold a special election Feb. 5 to fill the Fifth Ward seat left vacant by Helen Anthony. The deadline to file petitions for that position is 5 p.m. Tuesday. Thus far, Susan "Tootie" Burns, Mark Jones and former councilwoman Laura Nauser have said they will run for that seat.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.