COLUMBIA — The Boone County Democratic group the Muleskinners hosted a forum for candidates running for the Fifth Ward City Council seat that will be filled in a Feb. 5 special election.
The seat was vacated by Helen Anthony, who resigned Nov. 30.
Three candidates are contending for the open council seat.
Susan "Tootie" Burns has been living in Columbia since graduating from MU. She works as a community activist and artist.
Mark H. Jones, a graduate of Central Methodist University in Fayette, is the political director of the Missouri National Education Association.
Laura Nauser, a graduate of Columbia College and previously a city councilwoman, is a program assistant at the Robert L. Perry Juvenile Detention Center.
About 50 people attended the event, which offered the candidates an opportunity to outline their stances on several issues.
The candidates presented distinct views about the issues they would emphasize if elected.
Jones said he would leverage MU as an incubator for jobs in Columbia. He said he would bolster the fire department, address crime and expand the airport.
Nauser said she would promote an environment in which families could be successful through expanded educational opportunities and crime prevention.
Burns said she would address concerns expressed by residents including street and traffic improvements and crime prevention efforts.
The candidates addressed the issue of proposed power lines that could run through Ward 5 neighborhoods, depending on which of the three proposed routes designed by Columbia Water and Light is selected by the council.
Burns welcomed a plan that would include more public comment and a combination of overhead and underground transmission lines.
Jones said he favored the route known as Option B2 because it would affect less private land while ensuring the reliability of the city's electrical grid.
Nauser said that, based on her experience with the issue as a councilwoman, easement costs would not be known until later in the process.
Nauser said the council should discuss creating parking and student housing policies because current policies do not adequately address parking downtown.
Burns said she was skeptical about the impact of student housing upon the residential downtown neighborhood. She said she would demand that developers include parking as part of their student housing developments.
Burns also said she appreciated developers' needs and the fact that Columbia is growing, but historical buildings should be protected.
Jones said he views downtown as a communal asset. He said he would commit to requiring that any dense development also include parking.
Jones said tax-funded expenditures, or the use of any tax incentive, should be highly targeted, open, transparent and accountable. He said he was not in favor of the EEZ that has been proposed for Columbia.
Nauser emphasized that the EEZ project was inappropriate because it designated a large portion of the community as blighted and opened the door for its use against private property rights.
Burns said some companies would come to Columbia anyway, so they would not require any incentives. She agreed with the council's decision to terminate the EEZ advisory board.
American Disability Act
All the candidates were in favor of addressing ADA concerns.
Burns said the city should be careful about expanding the airport until airlines commit to routes.
Jones said there are more students coming from Chicago than Kansas City and that the airport should be able to land more than one plane at a time.
Nauser said the terminal was inadequate but funding renovations would be challenging. She suggested going to voters to approve taxes on tourism and hotels, or forming a regional airport board to share the cost of renovations with other communities.
Supervising editor is Simina Mistreanu.