COLUMBIA — First Ward Columbia City Council candidates received air time on KFRU/1400 AM at the League of Women Voters' candidates forum.
Ginny Chadwick and Bill Easley addressed the issues and concerns of the league members and the public, with a one-minute time limit per question. Tyree Byndom was not present. John Clark, who is running as a write-in candidate for the First Ward, was present but was not permitted to answer questions because he is a write-in. He remained a member of the audience.
The First Ward forum was followed by a forum for Columbia School Board candidates.
The election is April 8.
The following are the paraphrased questions of the audience and the candidates' responses:
What do you think about the idea of redeveloping public housing?
Chadwick said she wasn't aware of any plans to redevelop public housing in Columbia. Maintaining low-income housing needs to be a priority, and Community Development Block Grants and other avenues should be considered, Chadwick said.
People don't need townhouses, they just need affordable housing, Easley said. He said that he had visited some of the houses and seen problems such as cracks in the cement but that some of them were nice. Easley said he did not know when the city planned to redevelop the housing.
What is a main issue you would like to see addressed in the First Ward schools?
Chadwick, who has two children who are or will be attending schools in the Columbia Public School District, said she was impressed with the district. With so many schools in the First Ward, she would want to support a partnership between the district and the city, she said. She did not suggest a specific issue she would like to address within the schools.
Easley would like to see a "walking school bus" system in which senior residents could keep an eye on children walking home from school to help maintain their safety.
"Seniors can be very useful," he said.
Easley said he would also like to see parents held more responsible for their children and make sure they are aware of what their children are doing.
How would you feel about a tax increment finance if it was only limited to funding infrastructure?
Chadwick said the city has to look at the project as a whole. It needs to be funded but in a manner that the city and residents can agree on, she said. The community didn't support TIF, and "we are disappointed" in the way the city was handling the infrastructure problems, she said.
Easley said that he was "not too sure" about the issue and that the city shouldn't brand TIF with an acronym because some people don't know what it represents. He said the city gave the Tiger Hotel a big break and they should be giving breaks to the small people, as well. Big businesses already have money, and he doesn't like greediness, he said.
What is your vision for the First Ward?
Chadwick listed the diversity of the ward and how many key elements of Columbia were within its borders, such as MU, lowest-income residents and downtown. She hoped to see the ward coming together, Chadwick said.
"It's the ward of the future," she said.
A decrease in crime, an improved job market and a better transportation system were important issues to Easley. He said he wanted more transportation, and not just for students. He said he wanted to help the city manage itself better.
The resident who asked the question, Alvin Cobbins, doesn't live in the First Ward, but his parents do.
After hearing the candidates' answers, he said, he wants to develop a relationship with the candidates to better understand their vision. He said he will campaign for a candidate and help that person get votes among his family and friends who live in the First Ward if the candidate's vision matches his.
He said he wanted better representation for the ward, which he doesn't see much of now, he said. He said he wants to see the public housing area redeveloped.
"I don't see the vision for the First Ward," Cobbins said. "It's time to step it up."
Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.