City Council to introduce new Blight Board less than 48 hours after rescinding old Blight Board
COLUMBIA, 5/9/12 (Beat Byte) --
Just when you thought it was safe to walk downtown, stroll your neighborhood, and enjoy tweeting birds on a beautiful spring day in newly-unblighted Columbia
, Blight is Back!
And with it, all the heated rhetoric, fiery debate, and passionate conviction that it doesn't belong in Columbia. At a "special meeting" tonight at 6 pm
, Columbia City Council members will introduce ordinance B121-12
, re-establishing an Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ) board to preside over some portion or portions of Columbia state law mandates must be declared blighted
to qualify for the tax incentive program.
In time for summer
The new ordinance -- which will require public meetings -- re-establishes the aptly nicknamed "Blight Board" and promises to land the highly-charged "blight or no blight" debate back in front of the Council just as the public is leaving town for summer vacation. It will not be open for debate at tonight's meeting, only introduced for consideration in future weeks.
The move has surprised members of CiViC, a political action committee opposed to the EEZ/Blight Decree plan that sought promises of lengthy public notice and public participation. The ultra-fast turnaround strikes many CiViC members as a step in the exact opposite direction
, especially since city attorney Fred Boeckmann implied a later time
"Boeckmann said an ordinance establishing an EEZ advisory board will be brought to the council within the next two weeks
," he told the Columbia Daily Tribune
"And here it is. The new EEZ, with -- open community dialog??" asked CiViC member Dan Goldstein, Ph.D. "Hurry hurry, scurry scurry."
The new Blight Board Ordinance is not sufficiently different from the previous Resolution, and makes no provision for members other than the same core group of insiders who find public participation annoying.
That perspective -- keep the public out and demonize opponents -- has led to some hurtful words.
After twice comparing this writer to Adolf Hitler -- the German dictator who nearly brought the world to its knees -- in emails to 5th Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony and 6th Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe, First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt told REDI chairman Dave Griggs he would be calling about how to defend the original blight decree last February.
"I think I need some information (ammunition)," Schmidt emailed Griggs. "Mike Martin's the big problem; I know he hates eminent domain (which he's conflated into this issue) but he's gotten quite personal and specifically targeted areas of my strongest support base. At church, he just gives me this smug look."
What the Councilman is referencing is beyond me -- and beneath him. But it does illustrate the cozy and troubling relationship Council members enjoy with the REDI business lobby pushing hard for another blight decree.