Mayoral candidate Chris Kelly discusses what he wants

Mayoral candidate Chris Kelly discusses what he wants

Mayoral candidate Chris Kelly discusses city government issues on Friday at the Boone County Muleskinners’ regular meeting. Kelly is challenging incumbent Mayor Brian Treece in the April 2 election.

Mayoral candidate Chris Kelly discussed low morale in the Columbia Police Department, reducing the city's carbon footprint and tension between the city and the Boone County Fire Protection District while talking Friday with the Boone County Muleskinners. 

Kelly said that if he's elected mayor, he would address low morale in the Police Department. He said that department employees are underpaid and that there are too few officers.

"The mayor promised when he came into office to get more money to pay more police and to raise the salaries of the police," Kelly said. "That did not happen."

Regarding a new city manager, Kelly said one of the things that would inform his pick is finding someone who will hire a police chief who will address problems in the department. In a forum hosted by Race Matters, Friends, on Wednesday, Kelly described one of those problems as behavior that is "specifically inappropriate with regard to race."

Another problem that Kelly said must be confronted is tension among four governmental entities: the city, Boone County, the Boone County Fire Protection District and Columbia Public Schools. Specifically, he elaborated on unrest between the fire district and the city that stems from overlap in the territories they cover. There is no "agreement in place to say who's in charge where," he said.

"The City Council, Muleskinners, Pachyderms are wonderful places for democracy ... A fire is no place for democracy," Kelly said. "In a fire, you've got to have an established leadership tree. You've got to understand who's in charge."

Kelly said he also would be committed to reducing the city's carbon emissions.

Cutting electricity use in big neighborhoods is the "single most important way to do that," as well as cutting industrial and commercial use, Kelly said, because they are "massive" consumers. That reform, however, can't happen without buy-in across the community.

Kelly said such a move would require compromise between the two centers of power: the "university/liberal community" and the "business/chamber of commerce community." 

"We have these two big important competing forces, and when they work together, this community does very, very good things," Kelly said. "When they're at each others' throats, we're a mess."

In attempting to illustrate his talent for bringing people together, Kelly discussed the legislation he helped pass in the Missouri House of Representatives after the 1990 U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health. The bill established a clear road map for how one can ensure the ability of people they designate to make proxy health-care decisions for them.

Kelly said passing the bill required compromise among The Missouri Bar, the Missouri Catholic Conference and former Gov. John Ashcroft. 

"I'm not saying to you that you should vote for me for mayor because I passed that legislation," Kelly said. "I'm saying that you should vote for me for mayor because that and many, many other achievements like it make clear that I have the ability to get that done, that I can bring those sides together and accomplish the kind of compromise and the kind of agreement that we need to make progress as a community."

Muleskinners Co-president Al Plummer asked Kelly how he would respond to the city's growing population. Kelly said renovating houses in the First Ward, in the city's center, would expand housing options that could be attractive to young couples.

That won't control urban sprawl, though, Kelly said. He also suggested developers pay a reasonable cost for the infrastructure sprawl causes, an assertion that brought applause from the audience. 

"The sprawl causes direct impact on streets, on sewer lines, on electricity lines, these kinds of things," Kelly said. "It puts a long-term, kind of invisible burden on the power plant, on the sewer plant, on the water plant, on the ... electricity system."

Although the problems may not manifest for years, they are "real costs that are driven by the new development," Kelly said. 

Kelly said he likes an idea introduced by Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas, who was in attendance, that higher development fees, if implemented, be paid off gradually.

One woman asked Kelly to talk about the tweets he deleted from his Twitter account just before he began his campaign for mayor. Kelly reiterated that the tweets were taken out of context in a document Treece provided to the Missourian. That document alleged that Kelly is racist and sexist. Kelly defended some of the tweets by providing context that he said explained their intent.

Another audience member asked when the public will be able to hear Treece and Kelly debate each other. Kelly listed debate opportunities Treece has turned down.

"He's running away," Kelly said. 

The two candidates have debated each other twice this year, at events hosted by the Columbia Board of Realtors and the Boone County Central Democratic Committee.

Treece said Friday that he is slated to participate in two more forums this month. He said he is a full-time mayor with a full-time job, so he can't attend every event. 

Forty people attended the meeting at the Rock Bridge Hy-Vee.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

  • Public Life reporter. I am a junior studying investigative reporting. Reach me at, or at (281) 636-8834.

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