A notable absence was evident at Thursday’s mayoral forum, the last before Tuesday’s election. Mayoral hopefuls John G. Clark and Darwin Hindman discussed several issues, while Arch Brooks, the third candidate, did not attend.
Brooks could not be reached for comment on his absence.
About 100 people attended the forum, co-sponsored by the Missourian and KBIA Radio 91.3 FM, and held in Fisher Auditorium on the MU campus.
A question about the selection of a new city manager when current manager Ray Beck retires sparked lengthy responses from both candidates. Clark said he has a strong interest in leading the search for the new manager since he feels past searches for top city positions have been flawed.
“We’ve undermined searches in the past for city managers and specifically for police chiefs,” Clark said.
Clark said he is not campaigning for Beck to step down immediately, but noted later in the forum that he believes Beck’s training may not make him an ideal city manager.
Hindman spoke highly of Beck’s job performance, and said that he feels he is capable of leading a search for a new city manager when Beck retires.
Clark also said he believes that city employees shouldn’t overstay their welcome.
“The fact that we haven’t rolled over city managers every five to seven years is a sign that something isn’t working,” Clark said. He later extended his belief to include elected officials.
Hindman, who has served as mayor for nine years, disagreed, saying that extended periods in office improve job performance as officials can draw on experiences to find solutions to problems.
“He’s kind of talking about me when he talks about Mr. Beck,” said Hindman, who like Beck is more than 70 years old.
When asked if elected, whether he would limit his time of service, Clark said he would not serve more than six years as mayor. Hindman wouldn’t comment on how long he would serve in office given the chance.
“By somebody’s definition, I’m probably worn out,” Hindman said referring to Clark. “But I’m definitely not.”
Another question asked whether or not the candidates believe council members and the mayor should be paid for council duties, and if such payments would produce a more diverse council. Both candidates talked of giving council members a stipend, but neither was sure how much the stipend should be.
Clark ruled out paying council members a salary at this time, saying that a stipend would effectively remove any barriers potential council members would have to serve. He said a commission should decide the amount of the stipend.
Hindman did not rule out salaries, saying he favored at least a stipend, and said the amount of work put in by council members deserves fair compensation.
The issue of why crime is high among Columbia’s minority youths was another hot topic. Both candidates said solving the issue is complex.
Clark said a starting point would be to provide more alternatives for youths to keep them away from criminal activity, citing Teen Centers as an example. He added that the citywide data used to evaluate crime in Columbia leads to false evaluation of problems in the city, as some wards may have more problems than others.
Hindman said that, after talking to area youths, he has decided that Columbia needs to do more to let young people know they are appreciated. He listed numerous efforts by the city to alleviate the problem, including the Blind Boone Center and the Intersection. Hindman said he has been in conversation with local judges to create a solution to the problem.