A shallow bench, a shallow field

COLUMBIA, Mo 4/6/14 (Op Ed) --  What a strange and uninspiring campaign season 2014 has been. 

An uncontested race in Columbia's Fifth Ward.  School Board -- more like School Bored.   And -- sigh -- in my favorite part of the city, the oddball First Ward race.   If voters want change at City Hall, they must recruit and support a broader bench of candidates

I met Laura Nauser, the Fifth Ward Council member running unopposed, on the campaign trail nearly 10 years ago.  We were both inexperienced pups running for public office, me for School Board, she for Council.   At forum after forum, she was pointed, firm, no-nonsense, self-assured.  Everything, in fact, that I was not.  I meandered on the trail, she flew straight. 

When she's on her game, Councilwoman Nauser can take apart bullshit like few others.  Big developer trying to get crap project past the Council:  Doesn't stand a chance if she's paying attention.   Staff chauvinism, the Glascock shuffle, Doctor Hyde:  They dare not appear when Nauser is near.   

At least, B.G.   Before Greg, as in Greg Nauser, the Councilwoman's husband, who has this unfortunate land deal with City Hall NOW SHOWING at City Hall. 
Here it was in September.    And again this January.   Nauser Investments.   No, no -- no conflict of interest over here.  Pay no attention to that husband behind the curtain.  "I am completely on my game."

Dude:  Don't do business with the City when your wife is on the Council.  It puts her in a bad spot, no matter if she abstains on your business or not.  

Columbia Public Schools (CPS)?   About to run us into another quarter billion dollars of debt, with property tax increases to match.   Wanna know how the one percenters become the one percenters?   With friends like the School Board.  

Incumbent Helen Wade -- nice woman, presents well, says husband is "way cooler" than she is (how come he's not running?)   Doesn't ask many questions.  Goes along, gets along.   She's a lawyer, too (odd, that). 

Incumbent Jonathan Sessions -- he's grown up a lot.  He seems to have a deeper, more insightful grasp of the issues than before, and he's been a good guide for forum audiences to the latest overly-complex "national movement" to besiege education:  Common Core.  

Mr. Sessions loved Blight/EEZ but hates TIF (serious cognitive dissonance here).   And he will love on the crony capitalists when given a chance.   But he has changed, for the better. 

As for former School Board member Paul Cushing -- I can't get past his once hyper-critical alter-ego "Unixcorn" on the Columbia Daily Tribune's reader forums.  Cushing out-Henry'd Henry Lane, the famous CPS critic.

Then he ran for School Board and found Jesus. 
"I was wrong when I insisted on financial accountability," he says now, in so many words.  "Wrong when I criticized crony capitalsm on the Board; wrong when I badmouthed that new new math thingy CPS was enamored with until the public got fed up."    Love his voice, though.  Definite career in radio.

For School Board, I'm voting for Joe Toepke.   He dissents at the forums -- and actually asks questions! 

Now, about that First Ward race.  What can I say?  

Byndom, Tyree -- we hardly knew ye.  The one guy who could have best articulated a vision for the Ward -- and how to get 'er done -- sat out the campaign.  For religious reasons.  Okay.  I get it.  Totally.  But then -- why run in the first place? 

John Clark.  Write.In.Candidate who lost me years ago. 

If there is a story in the First Ward, it's the gentle, respectful, almost touching way front runner Ginny Chadwick has interacted -- at all four forums I've attended -- with the one opponent who always appears beside her, Bill Easley

Twice as old as Ms. Chadwick, Mr. Easley moves slowly.  It can be hard for him to speak, and hard for the audience to understand what he says.  Sometimes he seems on the verge of sleep. 

But when he answers a question, Mr. Easley stands, thanks the audience, speaks in his own measured fashion.  He is an old-fashioned gentlemen, and Ms. Chadwick has been an old fashioned lady beside him on the campaign trail.  They've run a classy campaign. 
How will Chadwick govern if elected?  Who knows?  She hasn't been challenged much, afforded luxuries few candidates ever receive, like the invisibility of her most viable challenger.   

So voters:  Want change at City Hall?   Want fewer student apartments, more of the Columbia you love?   Or do you want keep opening your wallets for "the smallish group" of crony capitalists who still run the town, a vestige of long ago that needs to go?  
If you answered like I hope you did, then start recruiting tomorrow's candidates today, along with the time and money to support them.    A shallow bench yields a shallow future.