COLUMBIA — Citizens Involved and Invested in Columbia for the first time has endorsed candidates for the Columbia City Council.
CiViC announced in a news release that it has endorsed Sid Sullivan for mayor, Karl Skala for Third Ward councilman and Bill Weitkemper for the Fourth Ward seat.
Sullivan is running against incumbent Mayor Bob McDavid in the April 2 election, while Skala is running against incumbent Gary Kespohl in the Third Ward. Weitkemper is running against Ian Thomas and incumbent Daryl Dudley in the Fourth Ward.
CiViC formed last year to oppose a blight designation approved by the City Council that originally covered more than half the city. The designation was part of an effort to establish an enhanced enterprise zone. That effort dissolved late last year.
CiViC decided on the endorsements 10 days ago, spokesman Dan Cullimore said. But the official announcement came just after the Columbia Chamber of Commerce released its endorsements. The chamber endorsed McDavid, Kespohl and Dudley in their re-election bids.
CiViC has an active membership of 47. About three weeks ago, CiViC sent out a four-page questionnaire to all the candidates and used the responses to determine the endorsements, Cullimore said.
"Most of the questions were about development and infrastructure management relative to growth," Cullimore said. "There were also specific questions about incentives for certain kinds of development and what criteria should be used to judge incentive programs."
The candidates CiViC picked were chosen because their answers to the questionnaire displayed a "willingness to engage the public early in the process with regard to development and incentive programs," Cullimore said.
Throughout last year's enhanced enterprise zone debate, one main grievance amid the outcry was that the city did not alert the public, nor did it do enough to have a public conversation about the blight designation.
"The desire for CiViC all along has been to broadly engage the public prior to proposals being made and voted on," he added.
During the process of choosing which candidates to endorse, Cullimore said the CiViC members had "quite a lengthy discussion about the Fourth Ward."
"We would still be happy if Ian Thomas is elected, but we chose Bill because he has a good track record of holding the city to its responsibilities," Cullimore said. "He has demonstrated a willingness to speak truth to power regardless of the consequences."
Cullimore said CiViC was particularly impressed by Weitkemper's work as a whistle-blower on apartment complexes that have been undercharged for sewer use.
"That called into question the entire method of calculating sewer and storm water fees," Cullimore said. "He put himself out there on behalf of the public, and we found that impressive."
The candidates endorsed will receive a donation from CiViC, though the amount has not been disclosed.
CiViC is a political action committee registered with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.