With civic affairs experience, Bill Easley makes bid for First Ward council seat

Friday, April 4, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:31 a.m. CDT, Friday, April 4, 2014
Bill Easley, a City Council candidate for the First Ward, wants to focus on community. He's specifically interested in housing and crime issues.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the third in a series of profiles on the candidates for First Ward City Council representative. Ginny Chadwick was featured Wednesday, Tyree Byndom was featured Thursday, and Bill Easley is featured Friday. The profiles are being published in the order their names appear on the ballot.

COLUMBIA — Bill Easley likes to sit outside his small home on Cook Street when the weather is nice and greet people who are out. He said he walks around his neighborhood to say hello.

"I always watch out for my neighbors," Easley said.

Some people call him nosy, he said, but "you don't have to be nosy to be concerned about your neighbors." He is concerned about the lack of civic involvement in the First Ward. He said he has told people this is where they live, and they need to know what's going on.

Easley used to be a part of the defunct Smithton Valley Neighborhood Association.

"Bill was a soldier, too," said Verna Laboy, a former member of the association. "I respect the fact that he won't give up."

Easley said he has been talking to people in his neighborhood to boost interest in getting the association back together but has not been successful.

Easley has also been an active member of Grass Roots Organizing and Missourians Against the Death Penalty.

"Bill is committed. He's quite a character and cares deeply about individuals," said Jeff Stack, a member of Missourians Against the Death Penalty.

Stack has known Easley for about 17 years and said Easley has a sense of wanting to serve and respect society.

"You don't want to be treated with disrespect," Easley said.

Easley was stationed in Germany in the Army during the Vietnam War. When he returned, he injured his leg after it was caught in a grain auger on a farm in Texas. The accident "messed my life up," he said. He wears a brace on his lower leg and misses wearing boots.

Easley is running against Tyree Byndom, co-owner of a local business; Ginny Chadwick, a graduate student at MU; and John Clark, a retired attorney. The election is Tuesday.

Easley said he would like to help the Columbia Police Department and residents get along better. One thing he thinks would help is getting police officers to have a better attitude. Officers should be more friendly and respectful when they speak with people and have a better tone in their voice, he said, suggesting they greet people with, "Hello, how are you?"

He also thinks people who witness or know something about a crime need to understand that they should help the police when crime occurs and that helping is not the same as being a snitch.

Easley would also like to work with schools; he suggested that there should be more school assemblies for students to learn how to be safe and recognize dangerous situations. He also wants parents to be held responsible for the actions of their children.

Police officers shouldn't be stationed at schools, Easley said. Instead of "wasting money" staying in the school, they could be patrolling. If something happened at the school, the officer could turn on his or her lights and head to the school, he said. Easley said the schools should use volunteers to help monitor students instead.

Easley's top priority for the First Ward is increasing the job market. He has often expressed disappointment that the city did not try to help the Hostess factory in Boonville when the company went bankrupt in 2013. Easley said he thinks the city should have tried to buy the factory. He said it could have moved the factory to Columbia.

Easley's next step to increasing the market is to research what kind of appliances are being produced overseas. He said the city should contact these companies and get them to open a factory in Columbia instead of outsourcing.

"You can't get nothing if you don't want to," he said.

Easley has expressed concern with employers who hire immigrant workers living in the U.S. without legal permission, as well. Employers should give jobs to American people, he said.

"We need jobs. We don't need 'illegal immigrants,'" he said.

Easley does not support re-developing low-income housing into townhouses, an issue which was brought up at League of Women Voters candidate forum. He said after the forum that there should be single homes, not a "damn mansion."

"Low-income don't need townhouses, they need affordable houses," he said.

Easley thinks landlords should lower their rent for low-income residents, both to fill vacant homes and give people a break.

Easley does not support CoMO Connect and would like better transportation than what has been laid out in the revamped transit plan. He said the plan puts too much emphasis on providing buses for university students and not for Columbia residents. He has suggested taking some of the student buses, which he said are inefficient because they sometimes transport only a handful of riders, and putting them on another route.

He spoke up against the CoMO Connect Plan at the council meeting Feb. 17 but was asked to sit down and called out of order by Mayor Bob McDavid after Easley said the City Council would not listen to residents.

"I think I can make a hell of a lot of difference," Easley said. "I can do way better than Fred Schmidt."

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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