Crowded City Council race focuses on development, police

The election will be held in April.

The race for Columbia’s First Ward Council seat is crowded with contenders and big ideas. Eight candidates filed to run for the position made vacant when Ginny Chadwick resigned in January.

Candidates range from an MU student to a couple of pastors to businessmen. Candidates voiced concerns about development in downtown Columbia and understaffing at the police department.

“This town has been in denial for a long time about law enforcement and an understaffed police department,” candidate and owner of Eastside Tavern Sal Nuccio said, citing constant problems with vandalism and violence at his establishment.

Nuccio said the issues are caused by unsafe practices at other businesses.

“I think it’s become a runaway train and the campus and the city don’t want to acknowledge that we need more police,” he said. “They’re worried more about the image of the town than the safety of the students. If you’re trying to run a safe and fun bar in this town, you have no reason to fear the police.”

Since the failure of the Proposition One ballot measure in November, which would have funded 40 new jobs in the Columbia Police Department, the department has not hired any new officers.

MU senior Jake Loft was involved in the recall campaign against Ginny Chadwick and decided to run to fill her position.

“I have a message of liberty, accountability and transparency,” Loft said. “I want to preserve the rights of individuals in Columbia.”

Loft said his position as a newcomer to Columbia will make him able to challenge what he called a “paternalistic, progressive city government.” Loft said he will focus on improving city services like police, fire and sewer departments, and making sure tax dollars are spent efficiently.

“Priorities aren’t in line right now,” he said. “They’re spending so much money renovating Eighth Street, taking out sidewalks and patios, when that money should be spent on staffing the police department.”

Nuccio also expressed dissatisfaction with downtown development, linking student housing complexes with increased disturbances.

“They keep building all of these brat castles right downtown, dumping all of these students on top of each other, but then they don’t add more police officers downtown to deal with them,” Nuccio said.

Candidate Rev. Rob Stewart recalled growing up in the First Ward and “looking for trouble” downtown as a teenager. As an adult, he has worked with teens and taught General Educational Development classes and said he wants to give teens more options for responsible activities.

“I’d like to give young adults a youth center,” Stewart said. “I’d like to give them a place for them to do things at night and on the weekends so they don’t get into trouble.”

Stewart said he is also concerned about the relationship between the police force and the community, though he had no specific solution in mind.

“Much of my success is due to the First Ward,” he said. “I went to elementary, middle and high school there. I’m a proud alumni of MU. I just want to give back to the place that is responsible for so much of my success.”

The First Ward contains the largest concentration of college students, including MU, which is Columbia’s largest employer. In 2014, Chadwick won the First Ward seat with 525 of 777 cast votes. Elections will be held April 7.

Candidates Nate Brown, Dan Rader, Rev. Clyde Ruffin, Rob Rasmussen and John Clark were not available for comment.

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