Council members and REDI director commit to successful event followup
COLUMBIA, 3/12/12  (Beat Byte) --  At least two Columbia City Council members and REDI director Mike Brooks have agreed to participate in a followup to the standing room only citizen discussion that kicked off community-wide debate about Columbia's Blight Decree.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe say they will answer audience questions at the meeting, scheduled for this Wednesday, March 14, 7 pm at Parkade Center and organized by Citizens Involved and Invested in Columbia (CiViC).  First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt may also participate, but has not confirmed.   Attorney David Roland, an expert in Missouri blight and eminent domain law, is also expected to speak.
Other Council members say they have prior commitments so far into the future, attendance is simply out of the question. 
"We extended invitations to all Council members and Mayor Robert McDavid," said organizer Amir Ziv.   "We gave them different dates.  Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said he doesn't have time until April.   Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl says he is busy until Easter.  Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley never responded.  The Mayor will not commit to a town hall meeting at any time." 
After agreeing to meet with only five citizens who oppose the measure in his office at City Hall, Mayor McDavid reportedly left the room three times to take calls on his cell phone
Town Hall Meeting on the Blight Decree/EEZ
Wednesday, March 14, 7 PM
Acres of Free Parking!
On April 16 the City Council is expected to finalize or repeal the Blight Decree, which is necessary for a so-called Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ).  Organizers hope to question Council members about their support for the decree, and suggest alternative economic development concepts that include a wider cross section of the community. 
Ideas include mandatory public bidding on all contracts related to Enterprise Zone business relocation (no more Dave Griggs Flooring America sole source contracts); and an Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Affairs located in Garagezilla with REDI that would facilitate and direct small, minority, woman-owned, and Veteran-owned businesses to city, county, state, and Federal contract opportunities, and local EEZ/TIF participants.    
Other citizens believe either removing REDI's powerful, taxpayer-funded seat at the City Hall lobbying table -- or joining that lobbying table with equal funding and an equal presence -- is critical before economic prosperity from city-funded efforts can truly benefit the entire community.  
Editorial disclosure:  This writer's wife is an interim treasurer for CiViC.