The other Mike, Mike Trapp, loses me after coming out for blight and EEZ
COLUMBIA, 4/1/12  (Op-Ed) -- Politicians who equivocate don't advocate, my good friend Patricia Fowler astutely explains, and after years of equivocating Columbia City Council members, Michael Atkinson -- who owns the Candy Factory downtown -- is a decisive, fresh-faced breath of fresh air.
I want Council members who will advocate for their constituents, not twiddle their thumbs arguing all sides of an issue just to hear themselves think.   From what I've seen, 2nd Ward voters and Columbia residents will get a solid advocate if Mike Atkinson is elected. 

was in the Mike Trapp camp until I noticed he was equivocating -- i.e, hedging ambiguously -- on the whole Blight Decree thing, a disastrous solution to a non-problem that has raised so much opposition I can't see how any wise politician could support it.   When Trapp finally came out in favor of the Blight Decree and Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ) at the Keep Columbia Free forum last week -- the season's final candidate gathering -- I knew he had lost me.   
Atkinson, meanwhile, spoke against the idea with the best argument I've heard from a candidate or politician:  Enhanced Enterprise Zones were created for truly distressed areas.   While they have worked in large metros, they are not appropriate for a small, relatively prosperous city like Columbia, which has plenty of other gifts to offer potential employers.   Those sounds like the words of a smart business person. 

A small businessperson who co-owns The Candy Factory, Mr. Atkinson should know the most about business needs among his 2nd Ward rivals, neither of whom has any substantive business experience.   Atkinson urged City Hall to improve infrastructure and make it easier for new businesses to start and flourish, an idea that seems on no one's radar, probably because it won't generate enough money for the city's dominant development industry.  
Atkinson also said all the cameras hereabouts -- from red lights to downtown -- have eroded our civil liberties while nabbing only jaywalkers.   I agree.  I also noticed that at every forum I attended, Atkinson always stands when he speaks (while his opponents often remain seated) and looks the audience right in the eye when he has something to say.   No equivocation there. 
The EEZ will stand as one of Columbia's biggest developer giveaways ever, and to help prove that point, Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Hank Waters endorsed Michael Trapp, noting "he understands the irrelevancy of the EEZ 'blight' designation."   Mr. Waters and his family have benefited directly from past blight decrees, building the Trib's headquarters atop the old black business district that was blighted and lost to eminent domain abuse in the 1960s.  

If Mr. Trapp thought the blight decree "irrelevant," he simply hadn't done his homework, I thought.  A simple read of all the Missouri statutes that deal with blight should be enough, but a closer look at its downright evil use in Columbia's recent past should seal the deal. 
Then in yesterday's Missourian, I saw why Mr. Trapp thought that blight was no big deal:  REDI had been doing his homework for him.   Trapp referenced a report from local appraiser Allan Moore that REDI director Mike Brooks had been handing around and citing. 
Moore -- a REDI investor -- conducted a half-hearted survey of three out-of-area, un-named, non-experts who say blight is no big deal.  Columbia's appraisers have a history of colluding with City Hall and big business interests when blight decrees kick off eminent domain abuse, so Moore's credibility is suspect from the get go. 
I started this campaign season liking both Mikes -- Atkinson and Trapp -- and Bill Pauls, too.  Pauls has an appealing sense of humor and affable mannerisms that go over well at public events; Trapp is thoughtful, intelligent, and well-spoken.  But both Pauls and Trapp support blight. 

But I'm tired of candidates who speak with forked tongues, one prong leading in one direction to appease one constituency, the other prong leading in a different direction.  Say what you mean, mean what you say.   In the 2nd, I hope Atkinson leads the way.

Atkinson for City Council