Among the numerous rhetorical catchphrases the President employs in his reelection campaign is that urban areas engulfed in acute problems today are troubled because they are “Democrat-run” cities.
Of course, this is intended as a negative insinuation: Voting for him would fix things.
More pragmatically, though, the perspective of a community, and the leadership of its primary institutions, makes a difference. Of particular interest are government institutions that make and enforce laws, operate service enterprises and establish tax and regulatory environments.
So it might be worthwhile to ask ourselves, is Columbia a Democrat-run city?
Well, Columbia’s City Council is thankfully nonpartisan; that is, those running for office do not declare themselves to be Democrats or Republicans. However, everybody knows what’s up.
Looking around the council, either being a part of the local Democratic Party, doing work for labor unions and/or having Democratic candidates’ signs in their front yard is not exactly a shocker. If one were to make an educated guess, there would presently be just one lone non-Democrat on our City Council.
Some years ago, it so happened that a trio of conservative, aka “pro-business” candidates — including Mayor Bob McDavid — were elected to the City Council. Not saying for good or bad here but only that this was clearly unusual.
Former councilperson Laura Nauser’s tenure is noteworthy in this regard, as well. Bottom line: Anyone who is, or might be mistaken to be, a Republican is almost always in a super minority in Columbia’s city hall — that’s a fact.
Just up the street, the Boone County Commission does have partisan members: Currently two of its three members are Democrats. As are 100% of the other county-level elected officials, from clerk to treasurer, and even the sheriff.
This has historically been reflective of the Columbia electorate, being a college town and all. While the local political establishment is overtly left-leaning, there’s a lot of overlap with official Democratic Party boosters. Again, just stating a matter of fact here.
So, yes, we are — at least unofficially — a Democrat-run city.
Party affiliation contaminates so much discussion, so perhaps it’s more constructive to consider issue-based perspectives and outcomes in the scope of our local government.
This also obviously has a liberal/progressive default, with tax and spend as the standard M.O., as are climate change declarations and supplementing police with social workers.
Columbia has long been said to be a “full-service city,” which should be translated as “socialized.”
Sure, our municipal government operates typical services such as police, fire, streets and parking meters, sewers and parks. But CoMo goes well beyond that, also running an electric utility, water works and jobs programs.
The recreation centers that the city — and MU — operate do in practice compete with private providers in the marketplace and could be a main reason for why we’ve never had a YMCA come to town.
The County Commission ran the socialized county fairgrounds for years and ran it into the ground — to most recently be resurrected by the city’s Parks empire.
The city continues to retain its ridiculous monopoly on trash collection services, causing recent collective mayhem.
Our city government is generally pessimistic about new business ventures and housing construction. In the continuum of, say, Houston, which is known for relatively few zoning limits, and Portland, Oregon, which is famous for them, Columbia certainly has the reputation of aiming toward the latter.
The examples are endless, but consider how longtime local employer MidwayUSA thought it had a sure deal to be incorporated into the city limits. But after some complicating circumstances arose, and at least a couple council members stated an ideological bent against growth, the company was shut out and is now relocating further away from town.
Thankfully those several hundred jobs didn’t jump to Dallas or Ashland, but the building project landed in the county.
City Council members tend to lament the lack of low-income housing, but they consistently outlaw new low-cost housing stock, then turn around and wrangle up subsidies to fix it.
In the COVID-19 era, Columbia is certainly not the most strict city, but the ethos obviously leans toward finding ways to limit in-person contacts outweighing the risk of stifling types of economic interactions.
Columbia, thankfully, does not have the acute problems many legacy urban municipalities have today. While we are not officially a Democrat-run city, we have been for a really long time, for good or for bad.