GENE ROBERTSON: Columbia needs leaders to make smart decisions

Monday, April 1, 2013 | 5:34 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — When students, teachers, bus drivers and others affected by just one of the recent development and corporate welfare schemes in mid-Missouri wake up in the morning, they can thank the decision-makers of our community — greedy business people, the professionals who urge them to facilitate these schemes without researching and vetting the people, organizations or ideas involved.

Credit the chambers of commerce, the school boards and administrators as well as those at the university and the local media for not thinking through these harebrained schemes, which appear to consistently anoint us with their presence.

I can't wait to hear the offer being made by the generous Chinese to our astute city and university officials because of the mutual interest between China, the university and the city of Columbia. Why couldn’t the university and the city do more together earlier if they have this latent capacity to work together? Does it take China to make us aware of it?

This potential between the university and the city and other governmental bodies in mid-Missouri has existed since they began. As a Columbia resident and former professional, I want to see positive innovation and change occur. I want our decision-makers and professionals to seek a positive qualitative difference in the lives of all of our residents — not just a few. Progress requires hard work and professional competence. I know Columbia is capable, but I fear that too often we take the easy road offered by those who don’t have the interest of all Columbia residents at heart. These entrepreneurs promote and sell easy fixes, which rarely materialize.

Each time I look at the Columbia skyline, which was said to be so valuable to Columbia residents that public buildings such as Columbia Public Library might hesitate in their building visions because of height requirements, and I look at our parking edifice arising above our valued skyline like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, I am fearful of our judgment. I become equally fearful when I think of other debacles such as Mamtech, The Tiger Hotel and the great local job producer IBM. My fears are magnified when I hear the mayor's response to the IBM deal as “it's better than nothing.” I heartily disagree. Columbia, and its people, are better than that.

We have to make all who think we are easy marks for unscrupulous schemes know that.

William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU. Questions? Contact opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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