It’s that time of the year when we are asked to do our civic duty and vote. As David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth, said in 1969, “Think globally, act locally.”
You cannot get more local than our April 2 municipal elections.
This year we have a number of candidates to consider. However, the only races we need to talk about are those for mayor and the Columbia School Board. Karl Skala, in the Third Ward, and Ian Thomas, in the Fourth Ward, are running unopposed, so there is no need to evaluate their conduct while on council. Each will garner at least one vote, and, with no opponents, each will win by default.
I listened to the mayoral and school board candidates a few weeks ago during forums that were supposed to focus on the environment and climate change. The sponsors included Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, the Osage Group Sierra Club, Renew Missouri and Citizens’ Climate Lobby of Columbia.
Mark Haim, director of Peaceworks, was the moderator. He also seemed to act as the referee between two candidates who started to go at each other with verbal fisticuffs.
The questions were submitted to the candidates prior to the forum so they would be prepared to answer as the queries were put to them. Some of the questions were so complex that an impromptu response would have been nearly impossible.
The location in the Boone County Government Center was packed to standing room only. Most everyone was curious about what the six candidates (more on this in a moment) had to say about the environment.
I was not expecting such a lively conversation — the candidates had already acknowledged climate change as a real problem.
It did not take long before Chris Kelly was off the environmental topic, attacking Brian Treece on his representation as lobbyist of an organization that is under federal investigation. Treece fired back citing Kelly’s lobbying for Ameren after he left the state legislature.
Haim put his foot down quickly to prevent the negative campaigning from taking a turn for the worse. Even then, Kelly did not completely drop the line of attack, wanting to respond to Treece’s accusations against him.
Haim later wrote on his Facebook page that he would “stand against this sort of attack-dog politics” and demanded an apology from Kelly.
The forum was not the appropriate setting for this type of display. Kelly was out of line and showed his lack of propensity as a leader.
Though I have known Kelly longer and better than Treece, Kelly’s deviation from the topic of the forum was so severe and out of line that my support for him has waned.
I do not agree with the mayor on some of his fiscal or managerial policies. But the display of the two men during this interchange made me wonder who would be the better figurehead for the city.
In this case, Treece had the calm voice and proper demeanor during the forum and will receive my consideration.
School board candidates Della Streaty-Wilhoit and Blake Willoughby were also present at the forum; Jay Atkins did not attend because of a former commitment. Atkins did not send a surrogate, nor did he provide specific answers to the questions asked, but he did submit a general statement that Haim read.
Though he is on the ballot, Brian C. Jones has moved out of state for an employment opportunity and dropped out of the school board race.
Willoughby seemed to be the better prepared. His answers were direct and specific to the questions asked, focusing on what the school board could do about climate change.
Streaty-Wilhoit seemed to focus more on her own agenda and what families should do about climate change.
I got more information about Atkins during a second forum aired on Columbia Public Schools’ television channel. Like Willoughby, his answers were direct and to the point. I may not like every position he holds, but they were more to the point than Streaty-Wilhoit.
From what I saw and heard, I am leaning toward Willoughby and Atkins as my choices.