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Third and Fourth Ward candidates discuss 911 tax, rezoning

Friday, February 15, 2013 | 9:24 p.m. CST; updated 11:00 a.m. CDT, Thursday, March 14, 2013

COLUMBIA — Rezoning, revenue from the potential 911 tax and implementing city plans into public policy were among the issues addressed by candidates for the Third and Fourth Ward seats on the Columbia City Council at a forum Friday afternoon.

The forum was hosted at the Columbia Country Club by the Boone County Muleskinners, a Democratic Party group.

Present at the forum were Fourth Ward candidates Ian Thomas, Bill Weitkemper and incumbent Daryl Dudley, along with Third Ward candidates Karl Skala and incumbent Gary Kespohl. Dozens of people filled eight banquet tables to hear the candidates' views.

Council candidates discussed rezoning and how city plans, such as the former Metro 2020 plan and Columbia Imagined, should be implemented.

Dudley suggested a commission sit down and go over the city's past plans.

"All of them have been placed on a shelf," he said. "And Columbia Imagined is the latest one." 

Thomas said downtown would benefit from policies that foster a mix of residents. He also said he thinks the city needs to re-examine its zoning codes.

Kespohl said he would be willing to look at a proposal for form-based zoning, which emphasizes architecture and design more than categories of land use.

Skala said he thinks the answers to the city's zoning challenges are contained in Columbia Imagined. He also jabbed at Kespohl during the forum, citing, for example, the incumbent's support of enhanced enterprise zones.

Weitkemper said city staff should develop policy based on what the council adopts.

The three-eighths-cent sales tax for overhauling the 911 and emergency management systems was another hot-button topic. If voters approve the tax, the city will be able to redirect the money it contributes to operation of those systems now.

Thomas said he supports the tax but doesn't have a position on where the money should go.

Kespohl recommended the money be used to hire more police officers, improve roads and build sidewalks. Skala suggested the money go toward public safety as well as toward roads and sidewalks. Dudley also recommended the money go toward hiring police officers and firefighters and noted that he thinks response times to 911 calls are too long.

Weitkemper said that the public, not the city manager, should determine where the money goes by providing its input to council members.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.


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