Columbia City Council candidates file first round of finance reports

Friday, March 1, 2013 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 8:24 p.m. CDT, Friday, March 22, 2013

COLUMBIA — Candidates for three seats on the Columbia City Council have filed their first round of reports on campaign contributions and spending in advance of the April 2 election.

The reports were filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission as required 40 days before the election. The candidates include incumbent Bob McDavid and Sid Sullivan for mayor; incumbent Gary Kespohl and Karl Skala for the Third Ward council seat; and incumbent Daryl Dudley, Ian Thomas and Bill Weitkemper for the Fourth Ward seat.


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Disparity in mayoral race

Demographically, donors to the campaigns of Sullivan and McDavid, who seeks a second term, represent different groups in Columbia.

Of Sullivan's 28 listed donors, 15 are retirees. 

Many of McDavid's 32 listed donors run or work for businesses that are members of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. Bank presidents, attorneys, real estate agents and doctors make up the majority of his contributor list.

Altogether, McDavid reported raising $12,580 thus far. Sullivan reported raising $2,570. He also took out a $3,000 loan from his wife, Joan Sullivan. The total difference between the two candidates' campaign receipts was $6,810.

Sullivan and McDavid were among five candidates for mayor when McDavid won in 2010.

Although Sullivan trails McDavid by a wide margin in fundraising, supporter Ken Midkiff, a conservation activist who donated $150 to Sullivan's campaign, said he believes Sullivan can win the race. 

"I don't downplay the extent of the influence that money plays in political campaigns," he said. But "I would think that Sullivan's views are more in keeping with the majority of Columbians." 

Midkiff said he supports Sullivan because he thinks he would do a better job at creating legislation than McDavid has during his nearly three years in the seat. 

"The current mayor reacts to propositions," Midkiff said. "Sid Sullivan says that he would be proactive in planning. I think the current mayor does not represent the citizens of Columbia but represents only moneyed interest."

Scott Orr, counsel at the law offices of Edwin W. Orr, LLC, supported McDavid's campaign with a $100 contribution. He believes McDavid, given more time in the position, could become the greatest mayor Columbia has seen in 75 years. 

"I think we're extremely lucky to have a man of his talent willing to dedicate so much of his time without compensation just for the good of the community," he said.

Orr said three key accomplishments have cemented McDavid's status as a great leader: his help in selecting Mike Matthes as city manager, his work to put the city's pension program on solid financial footing and his efforts to improve service at Columbia Regional Airport.

"Mr. McDavid addressed (these issues) forthright, boldly, and he did what had to be done," Orr said. 

Despite the large financial gap between the two candidates, Sullivan said he does not believe his run will go unnoticed. 

"We're still making money and we'll raise money right up until the election," Sullivan said. “I will have enough to get my message out.”

Kespohl's tenure attracts support

Kespohl reported receiving seven itemized donations from Feb. 6 to Feb. 16. Those donations totaled about $1,720. That's almost 82 percent less than the sum that Skala, the challenger, collected.

This marks the third time Kespohl and Skala have competed for the Third Ward seat. Skala defeated Kespohl in 2007, but Kespohl took the seat in 2010.

Kespohl has spent none of his money yet, according to his report.

"We're just getting started. I'm bringing out the signs from my previous campaign," Kespohl said, adding that he is still putting together his campaign committee and that he recently deposited a few more donations.

"There's going to be a fundraiser next week," he said.

The largest donation of $500 came from Larry Potterfield, founder and CEO of MidwayUSA, a Boone County company that sells guns, ammunition, gun accessories and hunting equipment. Potterfield could not be reached for comment regarding his support for Kespohl.

Five of the seven itemized donations equaled or exceeded $100.

The remaining two contributors, Don Rupp and Ray Noll, donated $25 and $50, respectively.

Noll said he has known Kespohl for 30 years. He donated to the incumbent during his run for the Third Ward seat in 2010, too.

"He's the most honest, pragmatic individual I've ever met," Noll said. "I'm very impressed with the work he's done for the city thus far."

Noll was particularly pleased with Kespohl's work on the city employee pension plan that the City Council approved unanimously in July 2012. It offered a solution to the $117.8 million unfunded pension liability and is projected to save the city $50 million over 20 years.

Noll also found Kespohl's work on refinancing the city's bond issue debt impressive. That effort will save the city millions of dollars in interest payments over the life of the bonds.

"He listens to all sides of an issue, and he has no preconceived notions about what should be done to fix a problem," Noll said. "He hears the facts, evaluates them and does what is best for the city."

Rupp, who had not donated to Kespohl previously, said he appreciated Kespohl's business-like approach to spending money as well as his sense of knowledge when forming policy.

"He looks into all the angles, and as a result, he is a very efficient money manager," Rupp said. "That is extremely important."

Kespohl "needs to be re-elected," Rupp said.

Skala and Thomas share supporters

Skala's campaign reported raising $9,471 from roughly 100 donors. That includes two donations of $500, one from Kurt and Patrice Albert, the other from Elizabeth Peters.

Thomas reported raising $16,270, the most of any candidate in this round. Although he has donors from as far as Nashville and Denver, the vast majority are from Columbia and include retirees, Shakespeare's Pizza, radiologists and Gov. Jay Nixon's policy director, Jeff Harris.

Between advertisements and mailings, Skala has spent $575 of that total. Skala's campaign also has hired consultants from Progressive Political Partners, at a cost of $500.

Progressive Political Partners also is working for Thomas' campaign in the Fourth Ward. Skala and Thomas also drew from similar networks of support.

More than 28 donors contributed to both Skala's and Thomas' campaigns. Included in that list are First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt and Susan "Tootie" Burns, who ran unsuccessfully for the vacant Fifth Ward seat in February.

Thomas' campaign has also received support from Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe.

David Sapp, a retiree, donated $100 to Skala's campaign in addition to a $50 donation to Thomas. Sapp, who has supported Skala in the past, said he appreciates the candidate’s balanced approach to city issues.

Sapp said Skala is extremely knowledgeable about city government because of his work on the City Council and with the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“Even though he lost a few years back, he stayed active in city government, and I just think he has an amazing dedication to the community," Sapp said.

David Leuthold, who donated $150 to each campaign, said both candidates are progressive, capable and intelligent. Leuthold has known Skala for about six years and Thomas for more than 10. He said they have good judgment and are willing to work hard on the council. Skala, he said, proved his work ethic during his time as a councilman.

In particular, Leuthold appreciates Thomas' efforts to increase accessibility for pedestrians to downtown as head of the PedNet Coalition.

“I was very fortunate that all my life I was able to walk to work, and I think it’s appropriate to try to make that available for all people,” Leuthold said.

In addition to the similarities in outside support, Thomas received a $100 donation from Skala's wife, Mahree Skala. Thomas and his wife, Ellen, gave $100 to Skala's campaign.

Skala said the candidates attended each other's kickoff events, as well.

"It’s safe to say that our views are more consistent with each other’s than they are with our opponents',' Skala said.

Thomas also received $750 in contributions from his father-in-law, former Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman.

Application Software Inc. President John Riddick has worked with Thomas on the board of PedNet and knew him through Hindman. He felt Thomas would be a better person for the position than Dudley.

"I really like the way he thinks," he said. "He'll be good for Columbia."

With nearly 200 donors, Thomas has pulled far ahead of Weitkemper.

"I'm going to have to do more with less," Weitkemper said. "That's what the city ought to be doing anyway."

A former city sewer superintendent who retired on the same day he announced he would run for the Fourth Ward council seat, Weitkemper reported raising a total of $3,885. Of that total, $1,700 came from four of his family members: his wife, son, brother and father.

Incumbent Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley's report had not been made available to the public. Dudley said his campaign was late getting his report to the commission because of the snowstorm Feb. 21. He filed it last Friday.

Missourian reporters Elizabeth Pearl, Madeline O'Leary, Tony Puricelli and Chris Jasper contributed to this report.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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Michael Williams March 1, 2013 | 10:19 a.m.

"Potterfield could not be reached for comment regarding his support for Kespohl."

Well, other than the required value of the contribution and his name, this might simply be a case of MYOB.

Would be for my vote, you have no right to know. I may indeed choose to say (as some did in this article), but is not saying a reportable issue? I view this posture as borderline "news-making".

Were all contributors to all candidates contacted? If not, what were the criteria(on) for doing so?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 1, 2013 | 10:36 a.m.

Speaking of finances and Mayor Bloomberg:

"Our debt is so big and so many people own it that it’s preposterous to think that they would stop selling us more. It’s the old story: If you owe the bank $50,000, you got a problem. If you owe the bank $50 million, they got a problem. And that’s a problem for the lenders. They can’t stop lending us more money.”

Yep, that about sums it up. Best explanation of that particular philosophy I've ever read.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders March 1, 2013 | 2:59 p.m.

Wow, is Scott Orr from another planet or something? Or is he being extremely disrespectful to all of Columbia's former mayors over the last 75 years?

I cannot remember the last time I've read such a laughable, yet serious comment.

Oh wait, I forgot, "great" leaders are the ones who go above and beyond the law in order to "do good." In that regard, well, perhaps he is the greatest after all. And I guess Mr. Orr would be in a position to judge him on that point.

The only other thing I can see that's great about him is his ability to stick his foot in his mouth and keep it there. Most would choke during the attempt, but not Mr. Mayor!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 1, 2013 | 3:52 p.m.

Richard, are we in danger of a local epidemic of foot-IN-mouth disease? I have the USDA on speed dial, and the national center for control of animal diseases is directly up the Interstate...

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 1, 2013 | 8:29 p.m.

"Wow, is Scott Orr from another planet or something?"

Well, last I heard, he was a Democrat?

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle March 1, 2013 | 8:46 p.m.

For the record, I do NOT support Ian Thomas.

I've ridden a bicycle for transportation all my life. I've spend decades riding every kind of cycling infrastructure, road, traffic situation, urban, suburban, open country, etc. I've displaced well over 150,000 car miles on a bike (and ridden a total of well over 250K). I am, perhaps, the single most experienced and accomplished non-motorized transportation user in Columbia.

When I moved to Columbia, and tried to become active in PedNet, Ian was never anything but a complete and total jerk to me. He dissed my experience, ignored my knowledge and suggestions. Any 4th ward resident who isn't prepared to simply "Yes Man" Thomas should be prepared for the same kind of treatment. I've read people call him a great "visionary" - but, does a visionary make a good local government representative? My experience says, "No."

Ian also headed up the pissing away of more than $3 Million of that federal NMT grant to Vangel associates for "PR." We all know how that turned out - one of the greatest debacles of ire and strife between cyclists and motorists I've ever seen. That $3+ Million was 15% of the entire grant amount. Extrapolate that kind of poor judgement and money wastage to the entire city's budget. Ouch.

I've always advocated education as a key to successful bike / car coexistence. But instead, Vangel got $3 Mil, and cycling classes are $50 a pop to each participant. We could have made cycling classes free to everyone that wanted them, for about decade, with that money. We could have also put out a lot of basic public service announcements with educational materials on how bikes and cars can best interact with one another on the roads.

Instead, I wound up with almost an entire city despising me, just because I ride a bicycle, largely because of Ian's direction of PedNet. Everyone should cringe at the idea of him accomplishing something similar for the 4th ward, or the entire city.

NO, am absolutely NOT impressed with this man's ability to represent me, as a non-motorized transportation user, via his position in PedNet. Everyone else should seriously doubt his ability to represent any 4th ward resident, via a position on the City Council.

I think we need Bill Weitkemper in there instead. Bill knows the inner workings of the city government. Bill is willing to stick his own neck out for the citizens of Columbia. Bill might not be quite the "visionary" that Ian is, but I'm certain he'll make a far better, far more attentive representative for the 4th ward, than Ian Thomas would ever be.

Bill works to lower your sewer bills.
Ian works to block off your streets.

Bill works to come up with practical, cost-effective solutions to real problems.
Ian works to find fake problems to fit his solutions.

That's the difference between these two men. 4th ward residents will be fools if they elect Ian to that City Council seat.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 1, 2013 | 9:16 p.m.

Derrick Fogle:

Good post, good points. I'd gathered as much about Thomas. Should we classify this as an aberation or just another of many government-funded disasters?

There's a song from the musical "Oklahoma" that advocates that farmers and ranchers should be friends; maybe we can change the lyrics to make it "cyclists" and "motorists."

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 1, 2013 | 10:02 p.m.

Ellis - "maybe we can change the lyrics to make it "cyclists" and "motorists." Put some better(ha), music to it and you may have something.

Derrick - You don't care, but I appreciate this post as your sincere concern for the welfare of our city and All it's people. Thanks!

(Report Comment)
Ida Fogle March 1, 2013 | 10:19 p.m.

I, too, believe Bill Weitkemper will be a responsive city council member. His willingness to risk his own career to shed light on an issue affecting us "little people" speaks well of his integrity and his concern for all citizens.

(Report Comment)

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