When John Clark moved to Columbia in 1968, he was one of its approximately 50,000 residents. The crowd has grown significantly, but Clark hasn’t gotten lost in it. He’s more recognizable now than ever.
Clark, 61, is a candidate in Columbia’s mayoral election. He talks a lot about how Columbia has grown and how he feels it will grow. His written platform, released Sunday, places expansion issues at the forefront of his campaign. Clark doesn’t seem totally satisfied with the way Columbia has developed since his arrival.
Because drastic population and geographic increases have occurred in Columbia over the past decades, Clark sees a need to accommodate growth in government by increasing the number of wards in the city.
The city has six wards, each represented by one City Council member. The addition of new wards has been discussed by the City Council, but no action has yet been taken.
A perceived lack of action by the council on policy issues is a matter Clark wants to pursue in his campaign.
“If I become mayor, I definitely want to ask the council to be more of a policy-making body rather than a sort of micromanaging body,” Clark said.
Another of the five issues central to Clark’s platform is changing government so it can serve a rapidly growing community. To avoid wasteful spending of dollars and resources as the city grows, Clark wants to establish an audit committee. Clark thinks that because the city lacks such a committee, Columbia is being run as more of a small town than a city.
Clark is also promoting the creation of a tax-base task force. The task force would re-evaluate the sources of the city’s funding and look to find successful alternatives to sales taxes and utility rates to fund capital projects. Clark believes that such a re-evaluation is long overdue.
“I suspect the particular reliance on sales and property taxes alone may not be a good idea going forward,” Clark said. “There are a lot of indicators that say this may be the case.”
When City Manager Ray Beck retires, Clark wants to ensure that the city hires a competent and experienced replacement. In his platform, Clark lays out three criteria for searching for a new manager. It is the nature of the search process that concerns Clark, as he feels potential candidates might be discouraged from applying.
“Some past searches have been undermined because the potential candidates felt it would be difficult to do their jobs professionally,” Clark said.
A final issue addressed by Clark in his platform is a desire to decrease any public impact of private development in the city. The planned development of a Wal-Mart Supercenter on the land at West Broadway and Fairview Road has recently raised the intensity of this issue.
Despite his concern for the way his small town of old has grown into what he calls in his platform “a rapidly growing city,” Clark isn’t quick to blame past leaders or their decisions.
“I am not aiming criticism at past action or lack thereof,” Clark’s platform says. “I do think we would have been better off if we had addressed some of these issues earlier, but I am only interested in the future.”