Pandering to public works for a laundry list of gimmes?
COLUMBIA, 2/12/13 (Beat Byte) -- A request from Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid for more information about what he called "serious allegations" against senior public works staff turned into a Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) bashing session last week, as Council members with laundry lists of public works requests came forward to condemn the allegations and praise public works director John Glascock.

After asking for help with a First Ward stormwater improvement report about problems he said date back to "1970s, when Al Tacker ran for City Council" on a First Ward stormwater improvement platform, Councilman Fred Schmidt said he "didn't think our staff member Scott Bitterman deserved the treatment he got on Thursday night at the Historic Preservation Commission meeting."
A city public works traffic engineer, Bitterman heard allegations that his department deliberately withheld information from the public at the HPC meeting, a public hearing about the controversial Grasslands/Providence Road improvement project (PIP). "I think he was treated rather rudely and our city staff work very hard to serve us and I think they deserve to be treated with a little more respect," Mr. Schmidt concluded.

"Thank you for that comment," city manager Mike Matthes interjected. "That is hard to take as a staff member. When you've put in 5 years of public process and more hours than you care to count on trying to find a solution, and to be told after 5 years that you've been hiding the ball and not communicating. It's kind of hard not to get hostile in return, and I'm proud of staff for their comportment in that meeting."
Calling the HPC hearing "more adversarial and accusatory than informational," 6th Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said she was "disappointed" HPC Commissioners did not get feedback "from the professionals at public works" about alternative PIP plans commissioners presented at the meeting. She followed her comments requesting a "no parking" sign to reduce "very dangerous conditions" at Ash and College Streets, where she had to "go around a parked car"; and that city buses be used twice for Earth Day promotional events.
Glascock's department will handle both requests.
After Glascock had left Council chambers, 4th Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley -- who did not criticize the HPC -- asked that he return. "I have something I wanted to say to him," Dudley told the audience.
"I'm sure he was reading a very important book," Mrs. Hoppe laughed when Glascock returned and sat down.
After congratulating the public works director on 300 days of jobs safety, saying "it was very impressive, kudos, and everyone's very proud," Mr. Dudley rolled out his list of requests, but not until thanking Glascock "for the turn lane on Worley."

Now in his first re-election battle, Mr. Dudley said constituents have asked him for a crosswalk on the south leg of Fairview Road and "a lift for the handicapped" at the city rail station that serves the city-funded Dinner Train.
"If we could get that?" he asked Glascock.