- Written by Mike Martin
"Thank you for being passionate!"
COLUMBIA, Mo 4/14/15 (Beat Byte) -- "Stay passionate!" Barbara Hoppe told a near standing room only crowd shortly before her final Council meeting April 6.
After nine years as Columbia's Sixth Ward City Councilwoman, Hoppe leaves behind an important legacy, including landmark civil liberties legislation that received national attention.
Handily winning three elections against well-funded opponents and deciding not to run for a fourth term, Mrs. Hoppe also departs one of the most popular Council members ever.
"She's in Darwin Hindman territory," one observer told this writer. Columbia's long-serving Mayor, Hindman had an uncanny knack for bridging political and social divides.
Hoppe attributed her success to pragmatism, vision, and support.
"I believe strongly we must pay attention and take care of the basics, the nuts and bolts of city government," Hoppe told well-wishers. "But we must also pay attention to the many other important aspects and issues that make our city not just an average city, not just an okay city, but an exceptional city."
Praising the community for its "passionate engagement" and her husband, Columbia College art professor Mike Sleadd, for his love and support, Hoppe also gave the nod to dissident voices of the sort Trib publisher Hank Waters bashed before the April elections.
"Council members need to be critical and challenge things that don't fit well with our community," she said.
Rising to meet many challenges, Hoppe achieved many things, and herein the Heart Beat and Columbia's new Green Chamber of Commerce present:
Barbara Hoppe's Top Ten Accomplishments as a public servant and CoMo citizen
10. Tireless advocate for better planning. Visioning. The Downtown Charrette. The East Area Plan. The Bonne Femme Watershed study; comprehensive zoning modernization. Councilwoman Hoppe's name is at the top of nearly every list of Columbia's planning leaders and the projects they've inspired.
9. Leading advocate for stormwater rules to protect streams from development. In the works for 5 years before Council members passed them in 2007, new stormwater rules protected streams and natural waters from runoff and contaminants created by new development.
8. City Hall's sustainability leader. From pushing LEED accreditation for the new City Hall to leading the creation of a new "sustainability director" (Barbara Buffaloe), Councilwoman Hoppe lays easy claim to the title "city government's top sustainability champion."
7. Saved the Niedermeyer. Faced with a proposal from out-of-state developers to build a 15-story student apartment where the historic Niedermeyer building stands, Mrs. Hoppe struck a blow for historic preservation when she introduced a "demolition moratorium". Though it ultimately failed to get enough Council votes, Hoppe's proposal caused such a public stir, new owners struck a deal to save the apartment building.
6. Championed lower speed limits for residential and other neighborhoods. Hoppe has been the City Council's primary advocate for lowering speed limits, a challenge she met where others had failed.
"It was a very difficult, nearly impossible, long and arduous process for a Councilperson and" city "staff to get reductions in speed limit or any kind of change," she told the Columbia Daily Tribune in 2009.
5. No Smoking Ordinance. One of the City Council's -- and Columbia community's -- major proponents of the 2006 city-wide ban on smoking in most public places. Mrs. Hoppe cast the deciding vote in favor of the ordinance.
4. Standing up for the little guy and gal. The sub-list of Councilwoman Hoppe's accomplishments in this area is long, and includes fighting for previously agreed-upon CAT TV funding; voting against unpopular, livability-altering developments like the Landmark Acute Care hospital and CrossCreek; and shepherding an ordinance to temporarily abate rent at the Regency Mobile Home park, mostly low-income housing closed to make way for Aspen Heights student apartments.
Though many of these efforts failed, they created significant public interest in problems and policies that without Hoppe's advocacy, would have doubtless gone unnoticed.
3. The Moratorium as Bully-Pulpit. Whether she was fighting to halt demolishing the Niedermeyer or restrict large and loud lighted signs, Mrs. Hoppe created a whole new kind of bully pulpit using moratoriums.
Justifiably in many cases, civil liberties advocates pushed back. But the halt or ban wasn't always the final product. It was public awareness.
2. Stephens Lake Park. "I was just a passionate citizen in 1999, when developers were going to develop Stephens Lake Park. It was so NOT an appropriate place for development," Hoppe told the audience at her Council send-off. "I could envision -- and I think the community could envision -- how important it was to have a central park. So I dedicated a year and half of my life to creating that park, with a full-time job, and my understanding and supportive husband Mike Sleadd."
And now, Barbara Hoppe's Number One Achievement as a public servant: a landmark piece of legislation that received nationwide coverage on its passage -- by voters -- in 2013.
1. After voters approved a City Charter Amendment by a whopping 70%, a new section -- which could rightly be called Hoppe's Rule -- was added to Columbia's guiding constitution:
Section 167. - Use of eminent domain for economic development and blight
The city shall not exercise the power of eminent domain to acquire property for economic development, specific state, federal, or local economic development initiatives, or for programs related to economic development such as jobs programs, poverty alleviation, or area, community or neighborhood revitalization, with the intent that the property will ultimately be transferred to another person or entity to be used for private purposes.
The designation of property as "blighted" for purposes of qualifying for any state or federal economic development program shall not be used as a step toward the use of eminent domain.
"Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe, who had proposed the amendment, said it was important to protect people's right to own property," the Columbia Missourian reported. "There's a strong interest in protecting people's properties, businesses and homes," Hoppe said. "These rights are fundamental and cannot be taken away from anyone through flimsy means."
The importance of the Columbia Charter's eminent domain/blight amendment cannot be overstated.
It significantly rolled back one of government's greatest -- and most fear-inspiring -- powers, and in a city which had used this same power against its own people -- Urban Renewal in the black community -- a mere 60 years earlier. Mrs. Hoppe wrote herself into the history books when she proposed and championed the amendment.
Back at her going-away celebration, Hoppe called Columbia "a great community with great citizens who are passionate about their community, willing to invest their time and talent to make this a better city for everyone. That's really been the joy for me being on the Council."
"Thank you for being passionate!"
-- Mike Martin
Story sponsored by the US Green Chamber of Commerce, Columbia Chapter