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COUNCILWOMAN HOPPE'S DIVIDED LOYALTIES: Longtime supporters angry and confused

Hoppe approves $700,000 land purchase; seller Pugh attacks her a year later

COLUMBIA, 2/23/13 (Op Ed) -- Former Columbia Mayor Bob Pugh's page-long attack on 6th Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe in last Sunday's Columbia Daily Tribune is raising questions about his political wisdom -- and her divided loyalties.
 
Pugh hammered Hoppe for everything from her "vicious rhetoric" about February's 5th Ward Council election to her interference with developers and business.
 
But as I wrote last year, "Mrs. Hoppe has been as much a friend to business as any Council member I can remember.  Too much of a friend on some issues. She has voted to approve large developments, TIFs and other tax incentives, and a sizable array of business priorities," including a nearly $700,000 land purchase from a company Bob Pugh co-owns.

Longtime supporters now claim Mrs. Hoppe has become less of a friend to them.
 
Back in Dec. 2011, Mrs. Hoppe led the charge to approve a costly land purchase from Pugh's St. Charles Road Development Group, which he owns with developers Tom Atkins and Rob Wolverton.
 
At $681,280.00, the 30 acre tract -- purchased for a park adjacent to Battle High School -- was so expensive then-5th Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony objected. "She was concerned about the price and believed the city was paying a premium for the land," minutes from the meeting read.
 
"I'd be happy to sell my home for four to five times its assessed value," added Columbia resident Paul Love, who told Council members the city could get far more land for nearly $700,000 and "wondered why the City was paying so much when it was tight on money."

That night, Bob Pugh had no greater friend than Barb Hoppe. "Mrs. Hoppe commented that it made sense to put the park next to the schools where it would be well used," minutes from the meeting read. "It was a logistical decision that she believed was wise."
 
In 2012, Chamber of Commerce leaders engineered the third negative campaign against Hoppe in three terms, this time with 6th Ward candidate Bill Tillotson. Today, she is the devil incarnate says Pugh, CEO of MBS Books. She butts in where she doesn't belong; interferes with good business deals; and extorts money from developers (if you call approving all the Odle student apartments around downtown "extortion.")
 
Meanwhile, rather than say "no" to the Bob Pughs of the world, Mrs. Hoppe blasts Mark Jones and other fellow Democrats; citizen groups like Keep Columbia Free (KCF); fellow volunteers and longtime allies in city government (Historic Preservation Commissioners - HPC); and the Columbia Heart Beat -- which has written volumes in her favor -- for using the term "cat fight."
 
"Cat fight" is sexist, she emailed. Jones was "egotistical and delusional," fellow Democrats off their political rockers for supporting him, Mrs. Hoppe said in a now infamous Facebook exchange that drew three Tribune editorials and a Darkow cartoon.
 
KCF's statements about her record were "ridiculous and unfounded, uninformed or untruthful," she told that group. HPC members were "accusatory and adversarial, more confrontational than informational," she testified at a Council meeting. They were out of line, she added, because they had not consulted with Columbia public works director John Glascock about an alternative Providence Road Improvement Plan.
 
 
 
In another vote for the developer-industrial complex, Mrs. Hoppe agreed last February to blight nearly 60% of Columbia and much of Boone County.
 
When public opinion erupted, she said the issue "came up too quickly"; that Regional Economic Development (REDI) -- a city department -- failed to provide "accurate or full information"; that she and Councilwoman Anthony had to work "very hard to get additional answers."
 
But paid city staff -- Mike Brooks and his team at REDI -- who provided the bad information and embarrassed the City Council still have jobs. Mrs. Hoppe and other Council members never called for accountability from Brooks, despite the way he and his inaccurate information tore the community apart.
 
Likewise, no accountability for the Garagezilla blunder; the Tiger Hotel TIF; acres of unplanned student apartments; the subsidy for the inaccessible dinner train; the Bengals Grill eminent domain do-over; PIP Phase 1; and on and on.
 
Instead of saying NO to the people who want to destroy her while filling their pockets at taxpayer expense, the Councilwoman scolds her political allies. No wonder her supporters are befuddled, even angry. In emails, at parties, on social media, they're asking where Barbara Hoppe went, or if she was there in the first place.
 
-- Mike Martin for the Columbia Heart Beat
 
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