*This story has been modified to correct Sid Sullivan's comments about development.
COLUMBIA — Mayor Bob McDavid and candidate Sid Sullivan shared the stage in their first public appearance together since declaring their candidacy for mayor.
The Muleskinners hosted the forum on Friday at the the Columbia Country Club. Former staterepresentative Mary Still moderated the event, and Fourth Ward City Council candidate Bill Weitkemper was also present.
For about an hour, the candidates touched on local issues of zoning, development, the airport, gun violence and disability services.
Both candidates focused on the use of incentives to bring business development to Columbia.
McDavid said judgment and prudence are needed in business development. He drew a comparison between the success of IBM, which has brought 600 jobs to the area, and the failure of Mamtek.
Sullivan said business development is necessary, but it should be done in a way that doesn't change the character of the city*. He said incentives are provided to wealthier community members, but benefits don't reach the rest of the city's population.
McDavid and Sullivan also spoke about infrastructure and C-2 zoning downtown.
Sullivan expressed concerns about student housing being built without careful planning.
"We need to take a hard look at how are we going to finance the infrastructure needs that we have for traffic, parking and land use in Columbia,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said city officials must examine the C-2 development to make sure the heritage and ambiance of the downtown area isn’t destroyed. C-2 zoning is used for commercial buildings such as stores, offices and public facilities.
McDavid said this issue is complicated because the purpose of C-2 zoning is to encourage development. He agreed that the concentration of student housing in the downtown area is problematic, but noted that the city must be prepared to accommodate the University of Missouri's estimated 40,000-student capacity. He said he wants students to live close enough to campus so they can walk, bike or use the city bus services.
McDavid suggested that issues surrounding student housing could be addressed by limiting the height of buildings and parking restrictions.
“There may be independent consequences that we have to go over, but this is something we do need to address because I think Columbia is searching for an answer for what the soul and heart of downtown should be,” McDavid said.
McDavid and Sullivan also answered questions about the increase of air service at Columbia Regional Airport.
Sullivan said the Chicago and Dallas flights, popular with MU students, will help provide revenue to fund the airlines.
“We need to look at the future," Sullivan said. "As the airlines consolidate, what kind of passengers are going to be required of Columbia? And can we sustain that level of passenger service to maintain the air service in and out of Columbia?”
McDavid made a similar point.
“Air service is fractured; it’s a difficult market,” McDavid said. "We’re in a use-it-or-lose-it situation right now.”
Before the forum ended, Sullivan made an appeal for the changes he would like to see in city government. He said he wants to see more transparency, accountability and data-driven policies.
McDavid referred to the last three years as successful. He noted the progress made in initiatives to work on pension plans, the bus system and the airport. He highlighted the $1.7 million surplus in the last fiscal year, which he hopes to put toward infrastructure.
Although McDavid acknowledged that issues with public safety still require attention, he said the city needs to continue on the same trajectory.
The Muleskinners will also host the Third and Fourth Ward Candidate forums on the Feb. 15 at Columbia Country Club, 2210 North Country Club Drive.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.