Today is Election Day in Columbia, and this municipal and county election has the potential to radically alter our city’s future in several ways. Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren predicts a pitiful voter turnout of 17 percent, but we urge you to exercise your liberty and vote, if you are registered.
In our last editorial, we supported Boone County Proposition 1, a sales tax increase to provide the county’s joint 911 service with much-needed funds. Today, we offer our position on Columbia Proposition 1 and our mayoral endorsement.
COLUMBIA PROPOSITION 1
Columbia Proposition 1 would amend the city charter to prevent the city from using eminent domain with the intent of “flipping” the seized property over to private owners. It’s redundant, since state law already limits cities’ eminent domain use to public purposes, but it seems to be a “political test” — a gauge of Columbians’ opinions toward eminent domain, Enhanced Enterprise Zones, and the designation of areas as “blighted” in their city.
Eminent domain has its place if used smartly. However, our city council has proven itself unworthy of such power. Last year’s EEZ fiasco, in which 60 percent of the city would have been labeled “blighted” under a city proposal to gain tax credits and abatement, demonstrated that city government does not deserve the power to condemn and take over private property at will.
Even if it wouldn’t change much in practical terms, voter approval of Proposition 1 would send a clear message to City Council: Revitalization and economic growth is possible without the use of EEZs and the declaration of blight. We support the proposition.
Since being elected in 2010, Columbia mayor Bob McDavid and his City Council have not been on students’ side. From the aforementioned EEZ debacle to the misuse of police asset-forfeiture funds to the continued approval of unnecessary and harmful “luxury” student housing developments to the failure of their FastCAT transit system and the continued dismal operations of Public Services Joint Communications, McDavid has prioritized developers and businessmen over students and residents. For this, we cannot endorse him for a second mayoral term. We find a suitable replacement in his opponent, Sid Sullivan, who also ran against McDavid in 2010.
A particularly apt case study for the relationship between McDavid’s City Hall and Columbia’s three higher-education student bodies is the disappointing and mishandled FastCAT system. City officials and student leaders even traveled to three Midwestern college towns to study their transit systems, but the result, the FastCAT line, only covers the periphery of campus, which is already walkable. The city had to have luxury apartment complexes to sponsor the line, and Brookside agreed to, but the line has not gained the ridership leaders hoped it would.
McDavid also proposed that every MU student pay an annual fee to subsidize the sinking Columbia Transit service, which provoked an uproar from students before the plan was scrapped. He has demonstrated that he does not understand what students want and need from a transit system. McDavid’s “market-based” FastCAT line does nothing to work toward alleviating MU students’ reliance on individually commuting to class, and it doesn’t provide carless on-campus residents with access to grocery or big-box stores.
In contrast, Sullivan opposes FastCAT and criticized McDavid for his poor implementation of the program. He supports a more efficient, realistic, “data-driven” transit system that serves local residents and students. The divide between the two candidates is clear here, as well as across the board.
We think Sullivan’s balanced, intelligent approach, due in large part to his background in urban planning and theory, is what Columbia — a town bursting at the seams and struggling with its population explosion — needs at this crucial point. He would not be bowled over by developers and businesses and would stress planning and preparation, in stark contrast to McDavid’s embrace of the free market and whoever wants to build, wherever they want to build it.
Sullivan understands that economic growth and revitalization doesn’t require eminent domain and EEZs, and we trust he would develop policy that doesn’t rely on jeopardizing Columbians’ homes. And, having witnessed the chaos of a city council and police department that refuse to follow rules or close the taxpayers’ coffers, Sullivan would push for a more transparent, accountable City Hall.
McDavid’s three years in office have continued to let the city slight its higher-education institutions in favor of business and excessive development. This must change. We think Sid Sullivan has the knowledge, the approach and the passion to set Columbia on a better path and increase the weight of MU, Columbia College and Stephens College in the community. Columbia is a college town, and we deserve a mayor who understands that and works for us. The Maneater unequivocally endorses Sid Sullivan for mayor.