Skala, Thomas unseat incumbents while McDavid keeps mayor
Challengers Karl Skala and Ian Thomas beat incumbents Gary Kespohl and Daryl Dudley, respectively.
Apr. 05, 2013
City Council will see a shift as two challengers ousted two incumbents, while Mayor Bob McDavid will retain his seat as mayor. Columbia Proposition 1 and Boone County Propostion 1 were both approved.
City Council challengers Karl Skala and Ian Thomas beat incumbents Gary Kespohl and Daryl Dudley, respectively.
In a one-on-one race, Skala captured 54.2 percent of the vote and Kespohl received 45.8 percent.
In a three-way race, Thomas received 47.6 percent of the vote, Dudley received 44.6 percent and Bill Weitkemper received 7.8 percent.
McDavid captured 60.9 percent, and challenger Sid Sullivan received 39.1 percent of the vote.
Boone County Proposition 1
Boone County Proposition 1, which established a permanent three-eights tax to fund 911 emergency management service improvements, won voter approval Tuesday. The tax will fund the construction of an $11.3 million facility, and $8.65 million will go to equipment and staffing additions for 911 and emergency management. Keep Columbia Free was one of the groups in opposition of the tax. The emergency management budget lacks adequate accountability, according to a blog post by KCF President Mark Flakne on the group's website. "We citizens are already paying enough to fund these emergency operations," Flakne said in the blog post. "But decades of financial mismanagement at the hands of elected officials and government bureaucrats have squandered these funds." With an 18.5 percent voter turnout, 10,934 Boone County residents voted in support of the tax and 8,309 voted against it.
Columbia Proposition 1
Columbia Proposition 1 also received voter approval Tuesday. The proposition will amend the city's charter to prohibit the city from using eminent domain to acquire property "with the intent that the property will ultimately be transferred to another person or entity for private purposes," according to the ordinance. Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe proposed the amendment last April and then the council voted to put it on the ballot at a November council meeting.
Fourth Ward: Ian Thomas
Thomas dodged his opponents for the Fourth Ward council seat with 47.6 percent of the vote. He said he decided to run after attending city council meetings for the past ten years.
"I was generally very impressed at the openness of local government and the access that citizens have to see high-level decision making in action," he said.
Thomas is in favor of improving transit in the city and believes in the “traffic demand management” approach — where consultants analyze trip data in congested zones, and a range of possible solutions with associated costs are considered – such as expanding transit, carpooling and bicycling options as well as incentives for staggering trips," according to Thomas' campaign website.
Improving transit would alleviate traffic congestion problems as well as wear and tear on the roads, Thomas said.
"l think that in Columbia we have emphasized private automobile transportation for many decades and that we can actually improve a lot of aspects of columbia by having a more diversified set of options," Thomas said. "Not a single a person, out of the hundreds that I've spoken to going door-to-door, has said that they think expanding the bus system in Columbia is a bad idea and a tremendous amount of people said it was a good idea."
As an opponent of Enhanced Enterprise Zones, Thomas prefers incentive programs to encourage businesses to expand their workforce and provide necessary skill training in conjunction with the Columbia Area Career Center and local community colleges, according to his website.
"We have a shortage of entry level jobs. there is a skill gap between a large number of individuals in the community needing work and the jobs that are available," Thomas said. "The number of manufacturing jobs has gone down dramatically … We need an economic development initiative to provide targeted vocational technical training for people who are looking for work, that don't have the skills needed for the jobs available."
Although he supports spending for terminal improvements, Thomas is hesitant to provide incentives for airlines because the air industry is experiencing uncertain times, Thomas said at the League of Women Voters of Columbia-Boone County forum at the Columbia Public Library on March 19.
If the city continues to invest in the airport, it should also invest more in public transit, his website states.
Originally from London, Thomas earned a master's degree in educational technology from MU and has lived in the Fourth Ward for 15 years.
Thomas helped found the PedNet Coalition, a non-profit group dedicated to promoting healthy, sustainable modes of transportation.
Third Ward: Karl Skala
The race between Skala and Kespohl was a familiar one.
The two first ran against each other in a City Council race in 2007, when Skala beat Kespohl and served as Third Ward Councilman until 2010. They faced each other again in the 2010 election, when Kespohl ousted Skala from his seat.
At the March 19 forum, Skala said he wants to improve representation for the Third Ward, which he said was lacking during Kespohl's term. Skala's experience will bring a "neighborhood perspective" to council, he said.
Public safety, jobs, taxpayer equity and planning for growth are the top priorities for Columbia, according to Skala's campaign website.
Skala believes in a neighborhood approach to combating crime and wants to emphasize proactive neighborhood policing. Some other options Skala proposed include youth intervention and mentoring, and neighborhood watch programs.
In regard to job growth, the city should prioritize vocational and technical training. Also the city should support homegrown businesses as well as attracting and retaining new employers by partnering with MU, Skala's website stated.
Skala has lived in Columbia since 1980 and earned a master's degree in psychology at MU and worked in research and teaching at MU.
Skala established the Hominy Branch Neighborhood Alliance and served on the city's Planning and Zoning and the Environment and Energy commissions.
Mayor: Bob McDavid
McDavid beat Sullivan for the second time. The two ran against each other in the 2010 municipal election.
McDavid said MU determines Columbia's economic and cultural vitality.
"Our success is tied to the University of Missouri's success," McDavid said. "We can't have success without them."
Reenergizing the economy with new jobs will be key for Columbia's success, McDavid said. The city lost a multitude of manufacturing jobs hurting non-college graduates residents.
"It is important, for me, to address those manufacturing jobs that non-college graduates can fill," McDavid said. "We have a very high percent of college graduates in our adult population, 52 percent have bachelor's degrees, but that means 48 percent don't. So, we need to do what we can and that's a big challenge nationally and it's a big challenge locally."
City Council can spark new job creation in a variety of ways including incentives, recruitment and airport expansion, McDavid said.
"So does that mean incentives, does that mean recruitment?" McDavid said. "Yeah, it means all of that. It means having an airport where the principals can fly in and out of. It means putting together a recruitment team from the city and the university … it means doing what we can to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit. Getting the best and brightest to come here, allowing them to flourish, and getting them to stay."
Although public transit has not been sustaining itself, McDavid views the system as a startup.
"It's a work in progress," he said. "It's going to take a long-term commitment to get that up, but the market is there if we support it."
The council has attempted to model the bus system on cities such as Ames, Iowa. However, Columbia has a strong commuter culture that works against public transit, McDavid said. If the city and MU can come together and actively promote bus ridership, the system has the potential to improve. Additionally, contracts with new housing developments could add riders.
"I understand that the University of Missouri considers itself a pedestrian campus," McDavid said. "But 28,000 of the students don't live on campus. So it's a pedestrian campus for 8,000 but it's most certainly a commuter campus for the other 28,000. So, I think it's largely up to the students to figure out what they want."
The MU alumnus has lived in Columbia for 46 years. He served on the Boone Hospital Center Board of Trustees for 12 years.