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THE REPEAL IDEAL: Real leadership pushes back on student apartment hustle

The People have spoken

COLUMBIA, Mo 4/9/14 (Op Ed) -- Ginny Chadwick is the new First Ward Councilwoman; some incumbents won re-election to the School Board; and voters just raised property taxes.  

But that's not the real news from yesterday, which starts this way:  "Thank you, Columbia.   We submitted 3,633 signatures." 

Signatures to repeal Columbia City Council Bill 6214, approving a 6-story student apartment, smack in the middle of downtown, inviting hundreds if not thousands more units.    

Signatures gathered on over 400 notarized sheets by dozens of committed citizens.  

Signatures that exceeded the minimum threshold (3,209) necessary to force a Council re-vote or November ballot vote by over 400. 

And though City Hall has thirty days to verify them (barring, we hope, any monkey business), signatures that represent a CoMo community leadership effort that may be one of the greatest in the last three decades.  

Especially with its speed and organization,
Repeal 6214 ranks at the top of similar efforts I've seen in 17 years living here.   And with my penchant for poring over Trib and Missourian newspaper archives, I can't recall reading about anything like it, either. 

Repeal 6214
, after all, pulled off no mean feat.   I've seen signatures I never thought would sit one atop another, their signers literally on the same page, probably for the first time. 

I've seen progressive and conservative, liberal and Libertarian, Republican and Democrat, for-profit and non-profit, East Campus and West Broadway, old, young, black, white, Town, Gown and virtually every other hue in that enduring
rainbow we call Our Town.  They identified with a shared vision in the most personal and legally-binding way possible:  by signing their names. 

But isn't that the definition of leadership:  The ability to bring together diverse people with different opinions in service to a common ideal?    If Columbia is a hot mess, it's because we lack -- or have lacked -- that kind of leadership.  This effort, and how well it was planned and executed, is an excellent example of what has been missing. 

As for that common ideal -- the Repeal Ideal -- ask one of the effort's leaders, Jeremy Root, about it.  

"We in Columbia have a lot to be proud of," he told the Columbia City Council at 4:51:52 in this video of their March 17 meeting.   "Developers want to invest in our community because of what we've built and because of what we have. 

"We're much better served as a community if we're deliberate about our processes;  if we're patient about how things develop;  and if we allow things to develop with a purpose, so that they're consistent with our plans. 

"They'll be consistent with the developers' plans.  They won't come here if they don't think they can make money. That's what's driving them -- and there's no shame in that.   I don't mean to censure them -- they deserve their profits. 

"But we need to be able to preserve what we have as a community -- and what we have is a vibrant downtown. Look at the projects we've discussed here tonight.  One creates an entire block in the heart of our downtown that's essentially, for pedestrians and others, a dead zone.  No commercial buildings there; nothing to draw people there. It'll just be another block to hasten by on your way toward some other destination.  That's an important and weighty thing to consider.

"I want to live in a community where Tyree Byndom [who testified earlier] can walk over from Douglass Park, and walk down 9th Street, and feel comfortable doing that.   If we're at a point where he's lost that, even a little bit, we're at a point where we might lose a lot more.  

"And so I urge you to take regular speed, follow the normal course, and be proud of what we have."
 

-- Mike Martin  


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