COLUMBIA — With two minutes to answer each question, two of the three First Ward City Council candidates addressed the questions and concerns of the Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday afternoon.
Ginny Chadwick and Bill Easley each responded to five concerns before answering questions from the audience, who were all members of the chamber.
Tyree Byndom, the third candidate, said he could not participate in the forum because it was considered campaigning, which is prohibited in the Baha'i faith. As a practitioner of the faith, Byndom said he could not try to "sway" voters.
Here's a breakdown of the candidate's responses:
The ward's biggest needs
Chadwick listed several issues: public safety, healthy lifestyles, improving public transportation and affordable housing.
Easley said jobs were the biggest need in the First Ward. He said that jobs haven't been talked about by the Columbia City Council since the blight issues that arose in 2012.
Transportation and infrastructure
Chadwick said she would like to see an alternative to what she said were the only two options: tax increment financing or no development at all.
"I'm learning as much as possible about TIF to understand it," she said.
After the forum, she said the CoMO Connect project was a step in the right direction for public transportation, but people in the community have told her they want even more improvement than what is in the plan.
Easley said that there are too many transportation services for students and not enough for other residents. While he is not opposed to providing services for students, he said they should not be given priority over other residents. Some buses are available back to back for students while other residents may have to wait 20 minutes, Easley said after the forum.
"It's bad. You can't get around," he said about the transportation system currently in place.
Chadwick said that statistics have shown that crime in Columbia is down. After the forum, she also said the Columbia Police Department is evolving. The department is working to regain the community's trust and thinks it needs to add more community officers to engage with residents in addition to the officers who were to be hired in the 2014 fiscal year, she said.
Easley said he would like to see police get out more using bicycles and motorcycles. Residents also need to work with the police more closely, he said.
Easley wants residents to be able to communicate with the department. When there's a shooting, no one wants to say anything, he said. People don't want to be a "snitch" but still need to "open their mouths," he said after the forum.
"The police have got to be your friend," Easley said. "Everybody's got to work together."
Economic development incentives
Chadwick said there is a balance between successful economic development and residents' goodwill toward city government. The public sees economic development incentives as "a handout to businesses," she said.
Easley suggested that landowners lower their rent charges to give businesses a break and help get people started.
"People are being greedy," he said about landowners.
Downtown student housing and tax increment financing
Chadwick said she was not ready to make a decision on tax increment financing but suggested there should be an alternate plan that both city government and residents could support.
Easley was concerned about where the developers would build in the First Ward and about the availability of transportation for the new developments. The city has already marked where it would build in the First Ward, according to previous Missourian reporting.
Jo Manhart, a member of the chamber's Governmental Affairs Committee, said both candidates seemed open to dialogue with future constituents about the problems with public safety. Although not a resident of the First Ward, she considers public safety a top issue to the city as whole.
"My hat is off to anyone that sticks their necks out," Manhart said.
The chamber had not chosen a candidate of the First Ward to endorse prior to the forum, Manhart said.
Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.