At a marathon meeting that stretched into the early hours of Tuesday morning, the City Council approved a resolution supporting the legalization of medical marijuana; said yes to a contract to increase the city's use of renewable energy; heard several scheduled public comments; and discussed a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Keene Street and Interstate 70 Southeast.
As the first person scheduled for public comment, Paul Love, a candidate for the Second Ward City Council seat, asked councilman Mike Trapp to immediately resign from the City Council due to what Love said was Trapp’s conflict of interest.
Trapp was hired by the Downtown Community Improvement District to do outreach among the homeless population.
Love said he believed Trapp’s vote to approve the TIF project for the second tower of David Parmley’s Broadway hotel constituted a conflict of interest because Parmley sits on the CID’s board of directors.
Many of the other public comments at Monday’s meeting focused on the issue of race in Columbia.
Suzanne Bagby of Race Matters, Friends criticized the speech City Manager Mike Matthes delivered at the Columbia Values Diversity Breakfast in January. Bagby requested the resignation of Matthes, after describing him as racist and calling him a white supremacist.
“As an uncomfortable black mother, uncomfortable is being a Columbia resident and once again being victimized and disrespected by you, Mr. Matthes, an awkward uncomfortable white man,” Bagby said, referencing words from Matthes’ speech.
Mary Ratliff spoke on behalf of Columbia’s NAACP chapter in support of Matthes’ remarks. She said the photos Matthes used in his speech were not offensive to her because she had seen them before as part of training she received about racial biases.
She called Matthes’ remarks “courageous” and also expressed her support for the resolution on community-oriented policing that the council was scheduled to consider later in the meeting.
“We applaud the city manager on his keen understanding of what it will take to make Columbia the model city all citizens can envision,” Ratliff said. “The only way that we can resolve racism is to talk about it in its totality.”
Columbia resident Sarah Senff spoke “strongly in favor” of the resolution for community-oriented policing and encouraged the council to increase accountability and transparency in Columbia’s police department.
“Police should be as accountable as any citizen for discrimination, excessive violence and other misconduct,” Senff said.
Keene Street roundabout
Following a unanimous vote, the City Council directed city staff to proceed with finalizing plans for the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Keene Street and Interstate 70 Southeast.
Traffic congestion was at the center of the conversation.
“This is not a safety issue. This is a traffic delay issue,” Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas said.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said during peak traffic hours it could take 15 minutes to get through the intersection.
Six crashes have occurred at the intersection since 2011, according to a staff memo to the council.
Keene Street is lined with a grocery store, medical offices and hotels. According to the staff memo, the project will include a safer crosswalk and additional bike lane markings.
No one from the public spoke at the hearing.
The total estimated cost for the project is $831,700. To secure half of the estimated $652,240 construction cost, the council passed a cost share agreement with the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.
The funding from the city comes from the Capital Improvement Program Sales Tax, and construction is planned to begin in 2021.
Medical marijuana resolution
The City Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution that supports state legalization of the use and cultivation of medical marijuana.
The resolution allows the city to bring the matter onto its lobbying agenda and encourages Columbians to sign Initiative Petition No. 2018-051, Trapp said during a news conference on Monday afternoon before the meeting. If this petition garners enough signatures, it would allow the state legislature to put medical marijuana legalization on the November ballot.
The initiative would allow doctors to issue prescriptions of medical marijuana. It would also add a 4 percent tax on the sale of medical marijuana. The revenue generated from this would be used to fund veterans' health care in Missouri.
During the news conference, Trapp said he endorses Petition No. 2018-051 because it aims to make constitutional changes to the state legislature, and is close to gathering enough signatures.
At Monday night's meeting, Trapp cited several studies that suggested the effect of medical marijuana in disease treatment.
Heather Harlan, a local resident who said she has worked in prevention and treatment for 20 years, spoke against the effort to push the resolution forward. She said what the studies show is only a correlation.
Harlan said she dealt with a teenager whose family spent tens of thousands of dollars on treatment over addiction to marijuana.
"What it would take to change my mind is (that) you show me how you will keep marijuana out of the hands of young people," Harlan said.
Peter Beiger, 75, however, strongly supported the legalization of medical marijuana, invoking freedom of choice. He said he was diagnosed with manic depression and was treated with cannabis sativa tincture.
"I'm a living testament," Beiger said.
Tiffany Zane, a local resident who said she was diagnosed with idiopathic intracranial hypertension, said the prescription medicine she uses to lower her intracranial pressure damages her liver and kidneys. She spoke in favor of the resolution because she sees the legalization of medical marijuana as another option.
Most council members said they supported the amended version of the resolution since it adopted broader language. They also decided to follow the Columbia Board of Health's suggestion to adopt the resolution.
To address Harlan's comment, Thomas added that he believes the city should also work to prevent young people from accessing marijuana.
A contract under which the city will buy $28.8 million worth of solar energy from Truman Solar, LLC over the next 30 years was approved by a 5-0 vote by the Council.
Fifth Ward Councilman Matt Pitzer abstained, and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Betsy Peters was absent.
An interconnection agreement that would connect the solar field to the Rebel Hill electric substation was also approved.
The contract authorizes Truman Solar to build a solar facility just south of Interstate 70 Drive Southeast and east of St. Charles Road. The solar field is scheduled to be operational by April 1, 2019.
The purchase will contribute 1.9 percent to the city's goal — approved by voters in 2004 — of having a quarter of its electricity come from renewable sources by 2023. Currently, 15.7 percent of the city's electricity comes from renewable sources.
Regarding the authorization of the purchase, Thomas said, "I'm really happy to see this going ahead and see our planning to meet our annual goals for renewable energy."
A request from Last Enterprises, LLC to rezone 7.66 acres at Vandiver Drive and Mexico Gravel Road was denied by the Council with a vote of 6-1.
The rezoning would have facilitated development at the southwest corner of the intersection into three light industrial lots. The request was recommended by the Planning and Zoning Commission in December.
"I'm worried about my property value going down if this is rezoned to industrial," Margie Leaton, a resident near the area, said.
Several other residents of the surrounding area expressed concerns about how the rezoning to an industrial district would increase traffic and lead to further industrial zoning in the area.
"I see absolutely no reason to rezone this for an industrial category when it could be accomplished with the existing zoning," Karl Skala said. He added that there would be additional costs to accomplish the proposed development under the current zoning.
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