KellyCity leaders who "lack integrity," militarized police threaten Columbia, Kelly says

COLUMBIA, Mo 3/2/19 (Beat Byte) -- Columbia Mayoral candidate Chris Kelly came out swinging at a Wednesday night Race Matters, Friends forum, but not at his opponent, incumbent Mayor Brian Treece

Instead, Kelly fired volley after volley at the City Council, Columbia police, and the voting public, for "ignoring the consequences of breaking a promise" to the Chamber of Commerce and business community. 

That promise: the Henderson Branch sewer extension to Larry Potterfield's Midway Arms, twice-defeated by the Council.  Kelly premised his Mayoral run on reversing the decision, which so incensed Potterfield -- a millionaire arms accessories manufacturer who lives in Midway -- that he threatened to move to Columbia and run for Mayor himself. 

Kelly claims voters promised Potterfield and other Midway businesses the sewer extension in a 2013 sewer bond vote.  Forgoing the sewer will prompt the Chamber of Commerce and "people with all the money" to work against public priorities, including sabotaging the "next parks sales tax," he insisted.

"You can forget the parks sales tax; you can forget any public safety tax," Kelly said.  "You have to understand that there are two large poles that hold up our community: the university and the business community.  You can't break promises to them." 

Kelly repeatedly promised to "restore integrity" to City Hall. His long record of public service, he claimed, made him the best man to "bring all the sides together" and shore up business and university confidence in voters and city government. 

Several audience members disputed Kelly's characterization, wondering how it was right "for the Chamber of Commerce to hold us hostage to their promises," one woman asked. 

"Because they have all the money," Kelly said. 

His partner on the campaign dais, Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas, also disputed the assertions.  "I don't think the problem with integrity is nearly as large as Chris paints it to be," Thomas said.  He would vote again to deny the Henderson Branch sewer extension, for the "extreme costs, around thirty thousand dollars per home" it would exact during "land annexations" from Columbia to Midway. 

A major focus of the forum, community policing found the candidates mostly in agreement, though Thomas refrained from criticizing individual police officers. "I really don't want to comment on such a specific question," he said.

Kelly, on the other hand, drilled down.  "I'm not mincing any words here," he said. "That department has a core of inappropriately-behaving indviduals. That core exists in the union [Columbia Police Officers Association], especially with regard to race." 

The two candidates also agreed that militarizing police forces, a trend that took off nationwide under the Bush and Obama Administrations, is a bad thing.  Kelly, however, added specifics. 

"You have to understand," Kelly said, leaning across the table. "Cops are mostly guys.  Guys like stuff.  We like the tanks, we like the guns, we like the tear gas."

The "cops are guys" problem extends into neighborhoods, he added. Police -- who "serve" a community -- should not act like soldiers, who "occupy" a community, Kelly explained.

"If you see yourself as an invading force, you begin to see the people you're serving as the enemy," he said.