Candidates for the Fifth Ward seat on Columbia’s City Council discussed issues including city growth, a proposed no-smoking ordinance and Missouri’s Sunshine Law at the Columbia Public Library on Saturday. An audience of about 15 residents attended the forum sponsored by the Trail Ridge-Greenbriar Neighborhood Association.
Laura Nauser, a real estate closing officer; Gayle Troutwine, an attorney; and Joseph Vradenburg, an epidemiologist; are running for election April 5 to fill outgoing city Fifth Ward Councilman John John’s seat.
The elected candidate would represent the residents of the southwest ward of the city for a three-year term.
Nauser and Vradenburg ranked city planning as the most important issue in Columbia, while Troutwine placed greater emphasis on public health and safety.
“I think planning would be the biggest issue with the growth Columbia is experiencing,” Vradenburg said. “The second would be urban renewal. I do think it is important that we keep Columbia a strong and vibrant place.”
Troutwine said she would support a proposed ordinance that would ban smoking in Columbia restaurants. Nauser and Vradenburg said they would oppose the ban.
The candidates addressed a proposed bill that would allow “vexatious” Sunshine Law requests to be denied. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, would discourage continuous requests for public records.
Vradenburg said he supports the bill, but Troutwine strongly disagreed.
“I would believe in upholding the Sunshine Law to the letter,” Troutwine said.
Nauser said she did not know enough about the bill to support or oppose it.
The three candidates said they support increased communication among city and county government officials. But none could comment on issues concerning overlapping city and county services.
Tracy Wilson-Kleekamp, a representative of the Trail Ridge-Greenbriar Neighborhood Association, said she was disappointed with the number of people who attended the candidates’ forum, adding that some residents are apathetic about issues on April’s ballot.
“People will only get out of their elected officials what they put into them,” she said. “If they don’t care enough to come out, then they shouldn’t complain if things go wrong with who is elected.”
John originally endorsed painting contractor Stephen Reichlin, who dropped out of the race in January, and then put his support behind Nauser. John could not be reached for comment on the three candidates on Saturday.