Waters' call for "moderation" should have gone out 3,000 student apartments agoBy Ken Midkiff
COLUMBIA, 4/21/13 (Op Ed) -- In his Sunday, April 7 editorial for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Hank Waters III tried his best to find an upside to the Columbia City Council election of Ian Thomas and Karl Skala, and the defeat of incumbents Daryl Dudley and Gary Kespohl.
In "Scared to Death: Assault of Progs" Hank writes, "Those praying for a healthy degree of intelligent moderation need not slit our wrists quite yet."But "intelligent moderation" goes both ways.Dudley and Kespohl supported development no matter how egregious the damage to parking, stormwater run-off, traffic congestion, public safety, aesthetics, and historic preservation.They dramatically over-reached, with no moderation at all.In his editorial, Hank reveals his true Chamber of Commerce colors, asserting "conservatives" are more apt to support developers while "progressives" favor "imposing government restrictions".His first point is debatable and his second point is a distraction. There are plenty of existing regulations in City ordinances to prevent bad developments. No need for "progressives" to adopt new ones; properly enforced, the old ones are just fine.Take the Brookside (not a brook nearby) Apartments. Rather than enforcing current regulations on this project, the trio of Mayor Bob McDavid, Dudley, and Kespohl sold blanket YES votes for a developer commitment to student mass-transit funding known as FastCat.Then-councilperson Helen Anthony voted NO, decrying the radical idea that Council "votes are for sale."The same sell-out happened with the former Regency Mobile Home Court. Even though Columbia's Planning and Zoning Commission voted overwhelmingly to deny rezoning the site, Austin, TX-based student-apartment developer Aspen Heights threw money around and pro-development Council "conservatives" caved in like a cheap suitcase.Thanks to many similar deals, downtown and all-around-town are deluged with luxury student apartments (that parents and student loans will likely pay for).Maybe it is high time we hold accountable the developer-supported Chamber of Commerce, REDI, and the Central Missouri Development Council. Their inappropriate City Council lobbying leads to bad re-zonings, regulation waivers, variances from existing law, and proposals that make intelligent moderates cringe, like EEZ/Blight.It is true, as Hank writes, that progressive Council members Barb Hoppe and Mike Trapp voted for the EEZ/Blight resolution -- and were criticized heavily. But both have asserted REDI's intense, behind-the-scenes lobbying rammed the resolution right past many Council members, as a benign "job creation" program.Mayor McDavid, meanwhile, was effectively lobbying himself as a member of the REDI board of directors that proposed EEZ/Blight. And while Hank Waters was writing pro-EEZ editorials, his wife -- Vicki Russell, now chairperson of REDI -- was instrumental in the lobbying effort.Finally, while it is true Mayor McDavid "led the charge for repeal," as Hank also notes, McDavid did so only after a large number of citizens rose up and REDI backed off.By that time, he had little choice but to advocate a do-over.With this month's elections, Hank’s beloved Chamber of Commerce endorsed Dudley and Kespohl and they lost, victims of their own greedy philosophy. The only silver lining for the Chamber is that McDavid won.
But with considerably fewer votes this time than last our Mayor, one hopes, got the message.What's the message? No Hank, it is not the "end of the world" for your friends. It could, however, be the end of a radical era: an era of development at any cost.