Columbia native and MU senior Andrew Hutchinson is running for City Council to represent the First Ward, which includes campus, Greektown and much of downtown. The election will take place April 4.
His platform focuses on three key issues: infrastructure, affordable student housing and community policing.
Hutchinson cites growing up in the city his entire life and working in different parts of the community as his motivation to run for office. He ran for Missouri Students Association president during last spring’s special election, but ultimately lost to Sean Earl. Hutchinson is a McNair Scholar and the co-founder of One Mic, an open mic show that seeks to elevate underrepresented voices.
“I started working for the Columbia Housing Authority last year and worked there for about a year,” Hutchinson said. “While I worked for them, I started exploring parts of the city that I’ve never really been in contact with, making connections between nonprofit organizations and members of city government and low-income families. I saw the disconnect between all three of those as well as the university.”
Hutchinson immediately looked into who his First Ward councilman was — Clyde Ruffin, who is running for re-election. After Hutchinson concluded he was dissatisfied with what had been done under Ruffin’s watch, Hutchinson decided to run on his own campaign.
Of the main issues on Hutchinson’s platform, he said the subject of affordable housing is especially relevant to students.
“When it comes to students, the big issue we are focusing on is affordable housing,” Hutchinson said. “As the developments go up in the First Ward, we don’t really have a First Ward councilperson who is very studiously watching these developments and assuring that students are being taken care of.”
Hutchinson said issues of affordable housing are compounded by the possibility of tuition increasing.
“If tuition rates go up, and we continue to have this unsustainable development of $800 or $900 per person in a four-bedroom unit, college campuses are going to become significantly more geared toward high-income students, and we are going to continue to push out low-income students,” Hutchinson said. “So for affordable housing, we are trying to pursue more responsible development for low-income and working students.”
Aside from policy goals, Hutchinson is also focusing on increasing voter turnout throughout the First Ward, especially with students. The last official First Ward election in 2014 saw 777 votes cast, and 1,385 votes were cast in the last special election in 2015.
“Even though First Ward is the smallest ward, it is the most densely populated,” he said. “Yet somehow, it has the lowest voter turnout.”
Hutchinson plans to reach out to students by attending fraternity and sorority chapter meetings as well as meeting with other student organizations on campus.
Syed Ejaz, a fifth-year senior majoring in finance and political science at MU, has been a longtime friend of Hutchinson and acts as an adviser for Hutchinson’s campaign.
“I think the First Ward is the appropriate place for the student body to have a student representative on the City Council,” Ejaz said. “Students make somewhere between a fifth to a third of Columbia's population, but they have absolutely no representation on any level of government in the Columbia community, and I think that's unfair. A lot of student issues can be solved through the use of the city and the resources and the power it provides. I think it's absolutely necessary for students to have representation at that level.”
Students who are registered to vote in Boone County are eligible to vote in the upcoming election on April 4. The deadline to register to vote is March 8.
Edited by Emily Gallion | firstname.lastname@example.org