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WATERS' WHOPPERS: Top Ten lies about petition to halt downtown student apartment

The old Trib tricks, on full display
 
COLUMBIA, Mo 3/31/14 (Op Ed)
-- How many lies, mistruths, straw men, and blatant misrepresentations can one newspaper publisher deliver in a single editorial?  

I counted at least ten in Hank Waters' 4th or 5th editorial about citizen efforts to block roughly 1,000 more student apartments in the downtown area.   The old man's Fourth Street Property Management, LLC stands to make a bundle as student apartments consume more and more downtown Columbia land, and he's come out swinging against citizens who stand in the way. 

Waters' latest target:   a petition to overturn City Council approval for Opus Development's 6-story student apartment project.   Here are the top ten whoppers from yesterday's petition editorial.   

1)  "Too many people have gotten angry over the issue of downtown development." 

People are not angry over downtown development;  they're angry over one type of downtown development -- student apartments, a form of segregated rental housing -- and the dishonest, underhanded way Columbia city manager Mike Matthes is trying to ram them through to Council approval.  

 
2)  "Boisterous audience members at the council meeting caused such a ruckus the mayor called a five-minute cool-down recess."
 
Matthes actually caused the ruckus, by butting into public testimony and taking the floor to speak without being properly recognized under rules of order.  As Jeremy Root was stepping away from the podium and Pat Fowler was stepping to it, Matthes interjected a comment to Root, who answered only to have Mayor Bob McDavid call him out of order!

 
3)  "Local attorney Jeremy Root has begun a petition campaign to overturn approval of the request from the Opus Group to build on Locust Street."

Not true.  At least 20 people started the petition campaign.   Waters is practicing an old good ol' boy trick here:  single out, criticize, condescend, demonize.   It's much easier to attack one person than a group.  

 
4)  "The council vote was 4-3 amid way too much loud name-calling from the audience."

One 60-second burst of loud audience behavior occurred after Mayor McDavid called Root out of order.  


5)  "A third proposal was rejected because the developer announced an increase in electrical capacity beyond the city's capacity."

Flat-out wrong.   The third proposal -- roughly 700 units from American Campus Communities -- was not rejected, but tabled until a Council meeting in the second week of May.   Here:  read about it in the Columbia Daily Tribune


6)  "Root's attempt to undo approval for the Opus project is inappropriate because the council was routinely approving a project in compliance with city law, just as it did for Collegiate Partners."
 
It's not "Root's attempt"  (see 3 above).   More importantly, Council approval for the Opus project was anything but "routine" and nothing like the process Collegiate Housing Partners (CHP) followed.   That's one reason the public did not protest CHP, as it sailed through to approval via unanimous Council vote (Opus was split 4-3). 


7)  "The only reason projects are in limbo is lack of utility capacity. If developers make what is considered an enabling contribution to that problem, where is the ground for approving some and not others?"

The three developers made under $1 million toward building nearly $20 million worth of infrastructure.  If Mr. Waters considers that an "enabling contribution," I have a tower in Paris I'd like to sell him. 


8)  "Protesters seemed to favor whimsical reasons for granting building permits. They oppose approval of the Opus project because not enough prior discussion was held."

If anything, the "protesters" oppose whimsical reasons for granting building permits.  One of their chief concerns is a C-2 zoning code everyone in leadership admits is a disaster.    They're also concerned City Hall has followed NONE of the plans it engaged the public to develop, including the Downtown Charrette and Columbia Imagined Visioning.   

It's City Hall -- and the development community -- who favor whimsical reasons for granting building permits.


9)  "What they really want is to stymie further downtown apartment development."

That argument is a classic straw man.   The protesters oppose hundreds more STUDENT apartments built over crumbling infrastructure the city manager many times said could not be replaced or expanded without a TIF district.  

The TIF district failed, but the student apartments are steaming ahead.  What gives? 


10)   "Root's petition...should be rejected.  The provision in the city charter allowing overturning council action by referendum should apply to basic lawmaking, not decisions legally implementing existing law."

For the third time, it's not "Root's petition."   And ALL Council actions -- not just student apartment approvals -- are built on existing laws.   The referendum process exists to give citizens a voice, something Mr. Waters seems to oppose when his own interests are at stake. 
 
 
-- Mike Martin


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