COLUMBIA, Mo 10/15/14 (Op Ed) -- If you're a child of the seventies, you might remember Daisy Duke, Uncle Jesse, Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane -- and Boss Jefferson Davis "J.D." Hogg from the Dukes of Hazzard. Despite statutes and ordinances to the contrary, Boss Hogg ran the town while the Duke boys ran circles around him.
Turns out Columbia has not one, but ten Boss Hoggs, and they're a lot harder to run circles around. They operate through a system this publication has called the "shadow government," making those behind-the-scenes, backroom decisions that seem to come out of nowhere, usually with full Mayoral and city managerial support (think Blight and Opus for starters).
This shadow government is highly-evolved, a century in the making, passing power down through generations like a birthright or inheritance. It has a history of taking what it wants -- think Land Clearance and "Urban Renewal" in Columbia's black community -- and if you cross it, you're out.
You're off social lists; you're off official invites to participate in "citizen commissions"; you get the cold shoulder at establishment soirees. And you can lose business, as retired public works superintendent Bill Weitkemper discovered when potential business-owner donors were told not to support his City Council campaign.
The Town Bosses do their best work in the shadows, hiding behind attorneys and LLCs and such. But the need to hastily cobble together a big-bucks campaign committee to fight new development fees for them (while they, in turn, ALWAYS support higher taxes for us) has brought the Bosses into the light.
Herein, Columbia's Ten Town Bosses, in approximate order of importance, aka "Bossiness":
10. Al Price. Retired banking bigwig who once told Jack Rader's kids to get a job -- and get out of the way of a Boss-inspired scheme to take the Rader-owned Bengal's Restaurant for a new State Historical Society Museum -- using the Bosses favorite tool, eminent domain.
9. Jeff Smith. The King of Housing Tax Credits lives right here in Columbia, in an estate that would make a King blush. Rumor has it one chandelier alone cost $40,000.
8. Tom Atkins. Owner of the diversified Atkins Corporation and part of the St. Charles Road Development Gang, a group of crony capitalist scofflaws able to demand $50,000 an acre for land in the county boondocks when they sell to Columbia Public Schools and City Hall.
7. Bob Lemone, through his family trust. Builder/developer Bob Lemone died in 2008. But his Boss legacy lives on through a family trust that's also part of the St. Charles Road Development Gang. Said to have been so buddy-buddy with City Hall that he could make the impossible happen, with major benefits to himself, of course.
6. Henry J. "Hank" Waters. Proving time and again that his pen is mightier than our swords, the Columbia Daily Tribune publisher has used his pen to persuade City Hall to use its pen -- most notably to sign ordinances benefiting his sizable downtown land holdings. Garagezilla, Land Clearance in the black community, and the land grab scheme for the new State Historical Society Museum come to mind. Inherited his wealth and power.
4. Billy Sapp. President of Emery Sapp and Sons, a construction and development giant founded by father Emery and headquartered in Columbia. One of the forces behind the anti-development fee committee.
3. Robert "Bob" Pugh. Former Mayor, MBS Textbook CEO, and the leader of the St. Charles Road Development Gang, Mr. Pugh is reportedly the "brains" behind the city's Boss operations. "Most of those guys can't take a pi-- without talking to Bob first," an inside source, who has known Pugh since his Mayoral reign, told the Heart Beat. "He even tells Hank what to write."
1. Enos "Stanley" Kroenke. Boss of Bosses. Crony of Cronies. Supreme Boss Leader. The other half of the Wal-Mart heir duo who also married into inherited wealth, Kroenke has built a worldwide sports, land, and commercial development empire that makes up his roughly $5 billion personal net worth.
Who did not make our list:
Downtown renovation dynamo John Ott
Surly radio talk show host and former Tiger Hotel/radio station owner Al Germond
ReMax real estate owner Richard and developer brother Tom Mendenhall
Taco Bell/CrossRoads kingpin Dave Dunafon
Storage emperor and Parkade Mall investor Gordon Burnam
These men may have power, but they don't have Boss Hogg Power.
-- Mike Martin
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