COLUMBIA — Voters across Columbia and Boone County are heading to the polls today to elect representatives to city and town councils and boards, to fill school board seats and to decide the fate of ballot issues.
In Columbia, three seats on the City Council are up for grabs. Incumbent Mayor Bob McDavid is seeking a second term but faces a challenge from candidate Sid Sullivan. Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl also is seeking re-election in a race that has him facing Karl Skala, who he replaced on the council in 2010, for the third time in a row.
In the Fourth Ward, incumbent Daryl Dudley is in a three-way contest with Ian Thomas and Bill Weitkemper.
Also on the ballot in Columbia is a charter amendment that would prohibit the city from using eminent domain for private redevelopment.
Across Boone County, voters will decide whether they want to pay a three-eighths-cent sales tax to pay for an overhaul of the 911 and emergency management operations.
There were no school board members up for election in Columbia, but other districts did hold elections for their school boards.
Turnout was light at polling places the Missourian visited this morning. Here's what some voters had to say about the election.
Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1600 W. Rollins Road
"I voted for Daryl Dudley. I think he's been doing a fine job and I'd like to see him continue."
— Dale Powers, 50, works in development for MU Health Care
"It's good to see that (downtown development is) being thoroughly vetted in the community, and I think that's important."
— Scott Lincoln, 61, works for Missouri Department of Mental Health
"I think Ian's very intelligent, and we could use some smart leaders."
— Kerri Yost, 41, college professor
"I like (Ian Thomas) because I think he'll bring a breath of fresh air."
— Avila Nilon, 55, Lincoln University professor
"Well, I think 911's important, and the mayor, of course."
— Dan Nelson, 67, retired
First Church of the Nazarene, 2601 Blue Ridge Road
"I wanted to make sure we had balance on the council. It's important for me to vote for a candidate that could bring those views to the table."
— Greg Clarkston, 48, government employee
"I feel Kespohl has done a good job and needs to continue doing a good job."
"I feel that 911 services are very important even though we do have, I think, higher sales tax in the area. I felt that was a worthwhile cause."
— Lynn Rodgers, 48, client representative
"I think (Karl Skala and Gary Kespohl) are both competent, certainly different styles. Voting for one versus the other adds some balance, I think, to the council overall."
"I understand the needs for the 911 center. However, I don't think sales taxes are the best thing to do. We're putting enough of a burden on lower-income folks. We need to look at different sources of funding."
— Miriam Hankins, MU research lab supervisor
"The Chamber of Commerce supports Kespohl, and he's typically a little bit better with spending our collective money. ... (For mayor) I went with Bob McDavid. He's done a nice job. I'll stick with him."
"We already have an excessive amount of sales taxes. I'd love to see the city re-appropriate the money it already has versus adding another tax that literally does not have a sunset, so we will have that tax forever."
— Jessica Schlosser, 30, local business owner
"I voted for Sid Sullivan. His views are in alignment with my views on the direction of the city, that we need to provide more services for the general community as a whole."
— Eric Monroe, 56, technical analyst
"I've learned a lot about our current 911 facility and its limitations, and we need a lot of help with that."
— Caroline Leemis, 25, interior designer
On the 911 tax: "They have a surplus in the taxes now, and they're trying to find ways to spend it elsewhere instead of on the things they haven't finished."
— Steve Wells, 48, works for a company that makes gas detection systems
Broadway Christian Church, 2601 W. Broadway
"Everyone should vote. It is an American privilege, and it is our duty to vote."
— Julie Nichols 50, instructional technology coordinator for Columbia Public Schools
"My duty to vote, plain and simple,"
— Kirk Mescher, 57, engineer
"I vote because it is the duty of every American. Even though it is not a partisan election, I do see it as partisan. We have the choice between two candidates for mayor: one who is very conservative and (one who is) very liberal. As someone who is liberal, I am against the conservative candidate. For the city council race, it is more about personality, and I am voting for Ian Thomas. The 911 tax I was not convinced about until my wife convinced me. The more we read about it, the more we realized that we needed them to be more clear on how they will accomplish what they say they will."
— Richard Meadows, 57, veterinarian
"As a former city councilman, and having worked with Mayor McDavid, I voted for him. I really like his approach to employees and citizens both. Especially on the pension plan, he showed some out-of-the-box thinking. He looks at the city as a business, and that is exactly how it should be looked at. I did vote for the 911 tax. I am still hesitant about it because they didn't sunset the tax. They also didn't provide a real plan or budget of how all this money is going to be spent. It is going to be close, but most folks recognize that there is a need for it."
— Jason Thornhill, 42, real estate agent and former Second Ward council member
"It is an obligation for all citizens to vote. I plan on voting for the 911 tax. I am hopeful that it will pass."
— Bonnie Schapiro, 61, American history instructor at Moberly Area Community College
"I vote nearly every election. It is just something I do. I plan on voting for McDavid because he did a good job in his first term. The reason I am voting for him is because there was a lack of controversy, which I appreciate. I plan on voting for Daryl Dudley because I actually see him in the community, and he is always willing to talk and listen with people. I am voting for the 911 tax. It definitely sounds like we need it. Even if people are calling it a Cadillac system, it is a system we need. I also believe that it will pass."
— Kelly Mescher, attorney
"I am interested in the Fourth Ward councilperson race. I am voting for Daryl Dudley because I like what he has done and what he stands for. For example, his stance on the Columbia Police Department and maintaining it is something I feel very strongly about. On the 911 tax, I am feeling pretty 50-50 about it. I am kind of up in the air about it right now. On the mayoral race, I voted for McDavid because I like the direction he has taken the city. I think he is right that we need to focus on infrastructure and continue to get access on the west side of the city to I-70. I am just really happy with where he is taking us and with the job he has done during his first term."
— Steven Mitrisin, 52, delivery driver
"I can't stand McDavid, so I am not going to be voting for him. What he has done to this city is just wrong. He is just useless as the mayor and not benefiting the city of Columbia. What he has done to our airport and what he wants to do is just plain ridiculous. I am voting for Daryl Dudley for City Council because he is well known, and I feel like Ian Thomas wouldn't do nearly the job Daryl would do."
— Diane Bongard, 54, executive assistant for a not-for-profit group
"I vote because it is my responsibility. To not vote would be just silly. I am going to be voting today for Mayor McDavid. I am more familiar with him and the job he has done as mayor. I am going to be voting for the 911 tax simply because we need it."
—Toni Hayes, 47, executive assistant with MU Athletics Department
"I am going to be voting for Ian Thomas."
— Robert Almony, 67, tax accountant
"I plan on voting for Ian Thomas simply because one candidate ran a negative campaign and the other candidate is too pro business. We need a person on City Council who is not sold out to the business community. I voted against the 911 tax."
— Mark Ehlert, 59, economics researcher at MU
"I am voting today because I am just trying to be a good citizen. I am voting for Mayor McDavid because he is big on economic growth, and he has been very careful as he has focused on growth during his first term. I am voting for (the) 911 tax because I definitely see the need for it. I feel like we need to be more responsive to the needs of the entire county's residents. We need to make sure everyone has hopefully better access throughout the county. "
— Doug Moesel, 53, faculty at MU Trulaske College of Business
"I always vote. I was conflicted surrounding the 911 tax. I think we need to upgrade our facility, but I think this was too big of a package for us to pass all at once."
— Sandra Stegall, 64, University Extension employee
It was a family affair for Erin and Michael Barbaro, 36, and their two small children, Ava and Anthony. The Barbaros stopped by Broadway Christian Church before dropping their children off at their preschool and heading to work.
"We decided to bring everyone because we wanted to show voting is important. I am supporting Ian Thomas because he has a better vision, is very thoughtful and knows the direction the city of Columbia needs to move. I also think our city leaders need to think ... before they make decisions, and that is why I am voting for Sid Sullivan."
— Michael Barbaro, 36, computer programmer
"I think the professed objectives of the proposed 911 tax are laudable. The tax revenue that is already in place should be reallocated to fit the needs of the 911 dispatch center. ... Sure, we need the services, but where does it stop with the government passing on the bill to the taxpayers?"
"I am voting for Daryl Dudley because I know him, as well as his wife, personally and have been acquainted with them for years. I just know him to be a phenomenal fella. ... I am voting for McDavid because he has done a decent job in his first term and deserves a second term."
— Christy Barton, 66, lawyer
Howard Johnson Inn, 3100 I-70 Drive S.E.
“My councilperson was the most important. I think (Kespohl) has a sound conservative sense.”
— Shirley Batson, 65, works for self-employed husband
“I just wanted the right people in the right position. I think McDavid and Kespohl are both doing a great job. I wanted 911 to pass. I don’t think the city has the right to take property that isn’t blighted.”
— Linda Buchheit, 55, ultrasonographer
"I’m going to go ahead and support (the 911 tax). I think if we want to be safe and to be able to keep our community covered, we need to support joint communications. I think we learned through 9/11 that we have to support the communication process.”
— Michael Bland, 43, works in information technology at MU
“My wife and I are voting junkies, I guess. You could say the personnel were the important issues: the mayor and the district people. Bob McDavid and Kespohl, I like the forward ideas they have for the city. I think Bob McDavid did a great job with the airport. I think it’s important, the airport. It’s critically important for the city. Yes for 911, and I think they should pass the amendment to prevent eminent domain.”
— Joe Goldfarb, 72, retired men’s swim coach and College of Education employee for MU
Columbia Public Library, 100 W. Broadway
"I think we need some new leadership. I think the current political leaders in this community have made some big mistakes the last few years. Take a look at the parking garage downtown."
— Jim Swearengen, 68, lawyer
"I think the 911 tax is a huge waste of our resources and our tax money. I think we can do better than the incumbents."
— Richard Maseles, 60, lawyer
"While I recognize the need for (911) funding, I recognized that this time around they were asking for too much."
— Terry Phillips, 55, certified public accountant
"There's a lot of things I'm not happy about. A good example is the 911 tax. It's terrible that we're financing our city with a sales tax. That's a regressive tax."
— George Smith, 72, MU professor
"It's something we need. It's a basic service the county needs. That's as basic as it gets."
— David Brown, 62, contractor
"I'm voting for the mayor, and I think what he's been doing for the airport is great. And I think Ian Thomas is another great candidate. I was discouraged to see some of the negative advertisements his opponent put out. They didn't seem accurate at all, and it was a real turnoff."
— Ted Curtis, 65, engineer
Paquin Tower, 1201 Paquin St.
"I voted for McDavid because he delivered my son Nicdanger almost 23 years ago, and he's been doing a great job, too."
On city Proposition 1: "If the government acquires property for economic development because it is blighted, where will the poor people go?"
— Miguel A. Rodriguez, 52, works as disabilities assistant
"The government has too much power. They think they can boss you around, but they should have a good reason to an owner for acquiring their property."
— Monty Nichols, 60, retired
"The option to transfer land to private entities is not appealing."
— Muhammad Hai, 36, MU student
"I was mostly interested in the mayoral race. I voted for Sid Sullivan because he's better for the city. He's more representative of the people rather just good for bringing businesses."
— David Mehr, 63, a physician and professor at MU School of Medicine
"Eminent domain should only be used when there's a compelling need such as constructing a hospital or roads. I'm not comfortable with the city using eminent domain to acquire private property with the aim of transferring it to other people."
— Tom O'Sullivan, 52, detective at the Boone County Sheriff's Department
"Neither (McDavid nor Sullivan) was outstanding to me. I mean, I agreed and disagreed with some of their individual positions, but they were just not distinguishable enough to choose."
On the 911-tax: "It's an overkill. I think building a citadel is excessive."
— Sean Riberry, 26, construction worker
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.