Columbia is an expanding city, and it showed Tuesday as the three mayoral candidates fielded questions about development and expansion at the League of Women Voters candidate forum.
With exactly a week until the April 6 election, nearly 100 people attended the event at the Columbia Public Library.
Incumbent Darwin Hindman and challengers John Clark and Arch Brooks responded to questions involving the City Council’s recent annexation of the Philips farm, southeast of Columbia, and the master plan for the Russell Property on the west end of Columbia.
Part of Clark’s campaign focuses on development issues, and he called for change in the way developers get land approved, which involves various steps of pre-approval and meetings, ensuring that the land and buildings will be up to code.
“This is a disservice to the staff,” Clark said. “This is a disservice to the council. I don’t know why in 15 years we haven’t found a way around it.”
Brooks, too, said he was not happy with the way the council acted on the Philips farm proposal.
Hindman defended his nine years of service, noting the Activity and Recreation Center, Katy Trail and other improvements.
“I believe the city is better since I took office,” he said.
He repeatedly mentioned his experience during the forum, which Brooks used against the nine-year incumbent, calling for a change.
“If you can’t get it done right in nine years, you won’t in the next three,” Brooks said during his opening statement.
Brooks, who had already participated in two candidate forums for school board earlier in the day, repeated his assertion of the two worlds that exist in Columbia, “the haves and the have-nots.”
He said the bus system needed improvement and called the citizens to “take back the city” from developers and lawyers.
There was visible support in the audience for both Hindman and Clark, with several audience members wearing either buttons for Clark or T-shirts for Hindman.
Dennis Murphy, an illustrator at MU, wore several Clark buttons on his coat to the event and said he thought Clark performed well at the event.
The majority of people in attendance, however, came undecided about which candidate to vote for.
Freelance writer Joan McElroy, 56, came undecided but left as a Clark supporter.
“I appreciated that (Clark) could articulate what flaws there were in the system,” she said. “I was disappointed that Mayor Hindman didn’t really answer the questions but sort of said that everything was great.”
The Rev. Fred Hicks, 42, came to the forum undecided and left with more questions than answers, he said.
“It’s not that they didn’t answer my questions, they just raised some more in my head,” he said. “I just really need to do some investigation into the candidates.”
The next two days hold the last two public forums for the candidates.
Today’s at 5:30 p.m., when Services for Independent Living, Alternative Community Training and Woodhaven will sponsor one at the Activity and Recreation Center, 1701 W. Ash St.
The Missourian and KBIA/91.3 FM will sponsor a forum as well at 7 p.m. Thursday at Fisher Auditorium in Gannett Hall at MU.