- Written by Heart Beat staff
Yet another battle for your wallet
COLUMBIA, Mo 03/05/15 (Beat Byte) -- Columbia residents should vote NO on two April ballot propositions that will raise utility bills for about the sixth year in a row, an accountability advocacy group claims.
"We need to restore public trust before we agree to increase citizens' utility rates," said Steve Spellman, a spokesperson for the group Boone County For Liberty (BCFL), whose members insist that "demanding accountability and rebuilding trust" need to be Job One at Columbia City Hall.
Under the administration of Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid, public trust in city policy has eroded to new lows.
"Columbia deserves a municipal government built on trust and accountability," BCFL spokesperson Sean Reberry said. "Sadly, our leaders have reneged on promise after promise, creating a crisis of credibility."
The upshot: "In 2014 alone, four different public cost increases failed to pass at the polls AND a member of the City Council resigned in the face of an embarrassing recall," Reberry added.
Events leading to First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick's resignation -- and the collapse of the Columbia Start Dinner Train -- are only the latest in a years-long series of trust-crushing measures, which started with Ward Gerrymandering.
McDavid and REDI -- a city department that doubles as business lobby -- then led the charge to blight over 60% of Columbia for a development tax incentive called EEZ. Blight/EEZ failed miserably.
To ram through the Opus student apartments downtown, Columbia city manager Mike Matthes violated city law calling two special City Council meetings by phone when he was supposed to have a Columbia police officer deliver subpoena-like notices to each Council person.
City leaders then ignored two petitions opposing Opus with thousands of verified signatures. Council members and city administrators greenlighted the project, then scolded the public for opposing it. A class action lawsuit followed, joining other lawsuits against the city from Ryan Ferguson and former Columbia 911 center leader Zim Schwartze.
Matthes and Mayor McDavid, meanwhile, spent most of a year lying about an "infrastructure crisis" to sell a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) incentive for developers. The Downtown Columbia Leadership Council asked Matthes to retract the lies and apologize, but he has never complied. The TIF failed to get enough support from Council members.
"To mislead the people into forking over even more money, City Hall screams poverty, claiming a single toilet or lightbulb will overwhelm downtown infrastructure, only to miraculously find the money," Spellman explained.
"On the April ballot, yet another battle for your wallet will be decided," he added. "Before any rate increase, we must DEMAND an independent, comprehensive audit of the City of Columbia's finances."