The Boone County Muleskinners held the fifth candidate forum Friday for those seeking the First Ward seat on the Columbia City Council. Candidates Mark Anderson, Pat Fowler and Greg Pierson gathered upstairs at the Grindstone Hy-Vee to take questions from the Democratic Party club.

Wiley Miller, first vice president of Muleskinners programming, moderated the forum. After a two-minute introduction from each candidate, he opened the forum up to questions from the audience. Questions covered a range of topics, including community policing, the Columbia Regional Airport and equal opportunity employment. Jobs and policing

Greg Pierson

Greg Pierson

One member of the audience cited the disparity in unemployment between white and black residents, asking what the candidates would do about that and about promoting community policing. The candidates said they have seen progress on employment rates, but there is more to be done.

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson

Fowler said she supports a guardian model of community policing rather than an aggressive model. Guardian policing focuses on providing social services and establishing partnerships rather than harshly policing areas that may have had issues with crime. “We have to remember that crime prevention is a community issue; it’s not something we can leave solely in the hands of the police,” she said. “We can’t expect them to carry that load by themselves.” Pierson said the best way to address both unemployment and community policing is to advocate for equitable development and to foster cooperation between city government, specifically between the Columbia Police Department and residents. Regarding employment, Anderson differed from the other candidates and said it should be addressed by the individual, but the city should do a better job of informing residents about programs that promote upward mobility. Still, Anderson said “no one is going to hold your hand” when it comes to finding and receiving the benefits of these programs. “Black people gotta take some interest in their own well-being,” Anderson said. He added that the city should examine the underlying issues that cause underemployment, unemployment and crime in Columbia, such as transportation and housing. Pierson and Anderson said engagement with the community and gathering diverse perspectives is key to reforming the idea of community policing, while Fowler said police who specialize in community policing need to feel that their work is appreciated by the department.

Taxes and subsidies

Another audience member asked about progress on improving Columbia’s sewer system and where the city should go from here. Anderson said the city’s infrastructure, including sewers in the First Ward, will require incremental changes. “It’s not gonna be fixed in 10 seconds,” he said. Fowler said she would consider the long-term effects when moving forward with sewer projects. While something may be the most cost-effective in the short-term, what might be best in the long-term? All three candidates said revenue from the Columbia airport, which is subsidized by the city, needs to trickle down to the average Columbian and the council needs to take a big-picture view of the airport to examine its impact on the entire city. Many of the points made and programs discussed by the candidates would require money from the city. The next question: How would each candidate maximize city revenue to afford these programs? Pierson said he wants to find a way to generate more sales taxes that don’t put a burden on the people who live in Columbia. He would like to see students get beyond campus and engage with the community to generate more commerce and tax revenue. Fowler said she hopes the city performance audit, for which the council is seeking a contract, will show where the city has oversaved. She supports a tax on online sales. The League of Women Voters of Columbia-Boone County will hold the next council candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. March 17 at the Columbia Public Library.

The Boone County Muleskinners held the fifth candidate forum for those seeking the First Ward seat on the Columbia City Council on Friday. Candidates Mark Anderson, Pat Fowler and Greg Pierson gathered upstairs at the Grindstone Hy-Vee to take questions from the Democratic Party club.

Wiley Miller, first vice president of Muleskinners programming, moderated the forum. After a two-minute introduction from each candidate, he opened the forum up to questions from the audience. Questions covered a range of topics, including community policing, the Columbia Regional Airport and equal opportunity employment.

Unemployment and community policing

Greg Pierson

Greg Pierson

One member of the audience cited the disparity in unemployment between white and black residents, asking what the candidates would do about that and about promoting community policing.

The candidates said they have seen progress on employment rates, but there is more to be done.

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson

Fowler said she supports a guardian model of community policing rather than an aggressive model. Guardian policing focuses on providing social services and establishing partnerships rather than harshly policing areas that may have had issues with crime.

“We have to remember that crime prevention is a community issue; it’s not something we can leave solely in the hands of the police,” Fowler said. “We can’t expect them to carry that load by themselves.”

Pierson said the best way to address both unemployment and community policing is to advocate for equitable development and to foster cooperation between city government, specifically between the Columbia Police Department and residents.

Regarding employment, Anderson differed from the other candidates and said it should be addressed by the individual, but the city should do a better job of informing residents about programs that promote upward mobility.

Still, Anderson said “no one is going to hold your hand” when it comes to finding and receiving the benefits of these programs.

“Black people gotta take some interest in their own well-being,” Anderson said. He added that the city should examine the underlying issues that cause underemployment, unemployment and crime in Columbia, such as transportation and housing.

Pierson and Anderson said engagement with the community and gathering diverse perspectives is key to reforming the idea of community policing, while Fowler said police who specialize in community policing need to feel that their work is appreciated by the department.

Taxes and subsidies

Another audience member asked about progress on improving Columbia’s sewer system and where the city should go from here. Anderson said the city’s infrastructure, including sewers in the First Ward, will require incremental changes.

“It’s not gonna be fixed in 10 seconds,” he said.

Fowler said she would consider the long-term effects when moving forward with sewer projects. While something may be the most cost-effective in the short-term, what might be best in the long-term?

All three candidates said that revenue from the Columbia airport, which is subsidized by the city, needs to trickle down to the average Columbian and that the City Council needs to take a big-picture view of the airport to examine its impact on the entire city.

Many of the points made and programs discussed by the candidates would require money from the city. The next question: How would each candidate maximize city revenue to afford these programs?

Pierson said he wants to find a way to generate more sales taxes that doesn’t put a burden on the people that live in Columbia. He would like to see students get beyond campus and engage with the community to generate more commerce and tax revenue.

Fowler said she hopes the city performance audit, for which the council is seeking a contract, will show where the city has oversaved. She supports a tax on online sales.

The League of Women Voters of Columbia-Boone County will hold the next council candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. March 17 at Columbia Public Library.

  • Advanced public life reporter, spring 2019 Studying print and digital Journalism and Political Science You can reach me at laurenkbishop@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 573-882-5700.

  • I've been a reporter and editor at Missouri community newspapers for 35 years and joined the Columbia Missourian in 2003. My emphasis at the Missourian is on local government and elections. You can reach me at swaffords@missouri.edu or at 573-884-5366.

Recommended for you