Plan to add members and at-large seats makes for most unusual joint venture

COLUMBIA, 11/10/11 (Op-Ed)
-- After a stunning 6-1 Columbia City Council defeat, two advocates of Ward reapportionment Trial D -- known as a gerrymandering plan -- are teaming up with a former politician and a political science professor to push for a larger Council, from seven seats to at least nine or even eleven, a few representing the entire city.

The team may have some of the strangest political bedfellows in recent Columbia history: frequent Council candidate and City Hall nemesis John Clark, J.D.; former Add Sheet owner and development lobbyist Larry Grossman; former City Councilman and progressives' bogeyman Larry Schuster; and David Webber, Ph.D. (above), the well-regarded Mizzou political science professor and father of Democratic Statehouse representative Stephen Webber.

On the sidelines, Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Hank Waters even signed on, bemoaning all the reapportionment "squabbling" and urging a new committee to study a larger Council chaired by Ward reapportionment honcho Bob Pugh.

The four horsemen of what many consider a Columbia political apocalypse -- city-wide Council seats that demand big bucks contributions -- met each other on a Columbia Visioning governance committee. An October 26 email exchange kicked off their unusual partnership.  

"John, David and Larry: I would like to get as many members of our visioning group together to go to the council and ask them to proceed with our recommendation to expand the city council," wrote Larry Grossman. "There was no question that we all agreed that our council needs expanding. I think a little push now will make this happen....I would envision showing support as a team." 

Webber responded the same day. "Larry: This is an excellent idea," he wrote. "I've intended to write the current council members to encourage them to consider enlarging the council but your idea is better....Let me know what I can do." 

"I would be most in favor of our visioning group getting together to discuss how to proceed before we go any further," John Clark emailed Webber and the two Larrys. "I would be happy to forward Larry's [Grossman] original message to us to the email list that I have kept current." 

"The timing is good," Larry Schuster responded, adding some strategic advice. "It would probably take a year for the Council to make a decision. The obvious committee to further study the matter would be the Governance Committee. I doubt the Council would tackle this without more solid direction from the community. I am willing to help out."

Clark -- an attorney impeached earlier this year as president of the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association -- then suggested an announcement with a partnership name that almost sounds like a new law firm.   

"Grossman, Schuster, Clark, and Webber have remembered that our Governance and Decision Making Topic Group unanimously endorsed increasing the size of the Council by encouraging the Council to appoint a committee to investigate increasing the number of wards," Clark emailed the team. "They feel that it may be a good time to raise this issue directly with the Council. Grossman has taken preliminary steps to arrange a pre-meeting with the Council to encourage them to take action...Clark will contact everyone shortly to arrange a meeting time...." 

Next Up:  "Hold your horses, bedfellows."

1 comment:

  1. This story was in today's Tribune, but not nearly as complete as reported here. Does the Trib like follow you all the time for their news???


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