Traffic, growth, council functions among issues cited by Fourth Ward candidates at forum

Sunday, March 11, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:43 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Fourth Ward candidates for Columbia City Council are taking different approaches in their campaign for the spot that will be filled in the April 3 election.

“I’m not a person who wants to come up here and tell you my theory of how Columbia should be run,” candidate Mike Holden told members of the Boone County Muleskinners during a municipal election forum on Friday. Instead, he named transportation safety as his “No. 1 top priority.”

His opponent, Jerry Wade, listed several concerns he holds for Columbia but mentioned that “weaving through everyone of those is how the City Council functions.”

Holden said widening Scott Boulevard would be his top priority if elected, citing growth on the outskirts of Columbia that has greatly increased the amount of traffic on the road. He said it’s dangerous to pedestrians.

“It is unsafe and needs to be fixed,” Holden said. “That’s what affects the Fourth Ward the most.”

Holden said residents of the area who want to ride their bikes on the MKT Trail must first make a short drive to the trail because the lack of sidewalks along Scott Boulevard makes it too dangerous to travel by bicycle.

“Safety in our community is my No. 1 top priority,” Holden said. “That’ll be my promise in my tenure.”

Wade agreed the improvement of Scott Boulevard is important but said plans for completing the last phases of the project are too far off.

“That’s a problem,” he said.

A list of 10-year priority street needs, provided by the city during its campaign for sales taxes on the November 2005 ballot, showed a three-phase plan for improving Scott Boulevard from Brookview Terrace to Route KK. As it stands, the city’s five-year capital improvements plan shows $5.8 million for improving the thoroughfare between Brookview Terrace and Rollins Road but a total of only $1.26 million to cover engineering costs for the second and third phases between Vawter School Road and Route KK.

Wade said his top priority as a council member would be to refine the role of the City Council and how it interacts with the community. He said that if the council fails to focus on legislation, give guidelines and provide leadership, “then I’m not sure what the City Council is for.”

The candidates’ perspectives differ on the issue of growth and development.

Wade said growth is a by-product of efforts to develop Columbia’s economy to compete with global communities of similar size.

“Growth is the outcome of our economic dynamic,” Wade said. “We must look at the reasons people want to come here. Development is a response to growth; development does not create growth.”

Holden disagreed.

“I feel that the city has a strong say over where growth happens,” he said, adding that the city has a responsibility to carefully plan growth and to engineer development in areas where infrastructure already exists.

The Muleskinners will hold a forum for Third Ward candidates Karl Skala and Gary Kespohl at noon Friday at the same location, Stamper Commons at Stephens College.

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