On March 1st, Mike Martin’s online publication, The Columbia Heart Beat, published a story about a mysterious document dump from an anonymous tipster calling himself/herself “Barney Miller.” The email claimed that a City Council candidate was tied to anti-gay “pray away the gay” groups. The Columbia Heartbeat declined to name names, instead sending many Columbians digging for the truth. As it turns out, the man who spends his days (and nights) praying away the gay is none other than Pastor Clyde L. Ruffin, leader of Columbia’s Second Missionary Baptist Church and candidate for the vacant First Ward City Council seat.
Candidate/Pastor Clyde Ruffin
The Second Missionary Baptist Church website lists Ruffin’s wife and First Lady of the church, Sheila Ruffin, as “a certified coordinator for the national ministry, Desert Stream, which provides Christ-centered help for those struggling with sexual and relational problems. She was instrumental in bringing this ministry to the city of Columbia.”
For those of you pooh-poohing our choice to write about Mrs. Ruffin, please note that she is a public figure with a bio included on the website of the church her husband shepherds. That same website celebrates her leadership role within Desert Stream Ministries.
Screen-shot from the 2NDBC website — Sheila Ruffin
It remains to be seen how Ruffin’s affiliation with Desert Stream will affect his candidacy in the First Ward. It is rumored that there are several documents further cementing the Ruffins’ anti-gay sentiments and ties with Desert Stream in the packet sent to the Columbia Heart Beat. If a copy of the documents makes its way to Keep Columbia Free, it will be published.
“If you run for Mayor, don’t be surprised if you have me to contend with, right up there on the candidate dais with you.” — Mike Martin
In one of many heated exchanges with Councilman Karl Skala on the Keep Columbia Free Facebook group page, Columbia’s most read and most infamous independent journalist, Mike Martin, indicated that he is contemplating a possible run for Mayor.
Martin’s most recent Columbia Heart Beat installment in an ongoing expose of City financial malfeasance, which centers around piles of unrestricted funds that lie dormant or are used for frivolous projects while important central city infrastructure crumbles, drew a comment from the trollishly ubiquitous Skala when posted on the Keep Columbia Free page.
Martin accused the City Council of failing to read, study, and understand the City’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) and Skala took issue.
Eventually Martin wrote:
I’m not “presuming” anything, Councilman. I’m speaking from the failed experiences of what has amounted to your big talk on digging into issues of finance and accountability.
Where’s that staff report you were going to demand on how the City Charter regulates the Water and Light Surplus?
Or that information from Mike Matthes you were planning to get about why there’s no record — for years and years — of any money going from the Water and Light Surplus into the General Fund, as mandated?
You’ve done NOTHING in this regard. NOTHING. Meanwhile, you vote for every tax hike, fee hike, fine hike, and revenue hike you can, while touting your “progressive, I’m for the little guy” credentials.
Your big talk goes all the way back to 2008, when you promised to confront County Assessor Tom Schauwecker over his assessment practices. Nothing ever happened with that because Schauwecker told you and the Council to — let me put this delicately — nah, I’ll use the polite term — back off.
If you run for Mayor, don’t be surprised if you have me to contend with, right up there on the candidate dais with you. I will hold your feet to the fire on absolutely every vote you’ve rendered, every promise you’ve made, every fee, fine, rate, and tax hike you’ve voted for.
I may not win — but you will sweat. And you will account for your record, in a way you never have.
In the May issue of his publication Inside Columbia (page 138), magazine mogul and notorious neocon Fred Parry wrote,
“Skala deserves to be Mayor because he has paid his ‘civic rent’ by serving multiple terms on Columbia’s City Council, Planning and Zoning Commission and the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition, but more importantly, the citizens of Columbia deserve a mayor like Karl Skala.”
Of course, Parry’s comments are a bit tongue-in-cheek, but they may well prove to be prophetic. Skala likely has his eye on the political center stage, figuratively and literally. If Skala runs, let’s hope that Martin runs against him. That race would be nothing short of epic.
Come out and help send a strong message to the Council. The people of Columbia are united against corporate handouts in the form of EEZs and TIFs, blight, and eminent domain abuse. Help pull Columbia out of the plutocratic race to the bottom!
If you follow Columbia politics you’ll know that, at the behest of REDI, the Columbia City Council recently passed a resolution declaring 60% of Columbia as “blighted” according to state statute. Being passed by resolution instead of ordinance effectively removed all public input from the process. A large, loud opposition quickly arose in opposition to this nefarious blight decree, the criminal process by which it came to fruition, and the tax abatement scheme it precedes which smacks of crony-capitalism. There has been much written here on this Keep Columbia Freeblog and on Mike Martin’s Columbia Heartbeatblog.
While it is painfully difficult to discern whether the discussion is driven by simple, immoderate ignorance or planned, overt obfuscation on the part of REDI’s Mike Brooks, Mayor McDavid, City manager Mike Mathes, and City Attorney Fred Boeckmann, there seems to be a problem differentiating between the state statute governing the creation of an EEZ and the state statute defining the blight designation which is a legal prerequisite for forming an EEZ.
City staff, REDI, and members of the EEZ Board continually point out that the EEZ statute does not grant the city extra eminent domain powers and that the size of the original EEZ proposal has been winnowed down to a much smaller area. What they fail to realize is that the original map declaring 60% of Columbia blighted is still in place and is separate from the EEZ map. It is blight and not EEZ that opens the door for the abuse of eminent domain that hasplagued many Missouri cities in recent years. This is important because when theDEDorREDI says that the EEZ does not use eminent domain, they are telling the truth. Most voters then look the other way and go back to watching American Idol without exploring the secondary dangers posed by a blight designation.
It is also true that the city can use its eminent domain powers without having declared a property blighted. What City Manager Mike Mathes is referring to when he says that the city can use its eminent domain powers without a blight designation or EEZ is the legitimate use of eminent domain for needed public projects. In these cases, the city must show a legitimate need for the taking of private property. When blight is thrown in the mix, removal of blight becomes a blanket justification for taking property and handing it over to private developers to expand the tax base. That is what we call eminent domain abuse and it stems from blight. It has happened time and time again in MO over the last few decades and is happening today.
Attorney and eminent domain abuse expert Dave Roland, Director of The Freedom Center of Missouri, explains how Columbia’s EEZ blight designation can lead to eminent domain abuse in this video.
When you hear… “EEZ’s don’t require eminent domain” or “The City has the power to use eminent domain,” I believe you are hearing open obfuscation. It’s like we are not even having the same conversation yet the media keeps printing and airing these verbal head fakes.
These are important distinctions to understand and share.
This video from a recent City Council meeting demonstrates either the City’s deep misunderstanding of the subject or the City’s desire to openly misinform the public.
This video brings to light another terribly troubling aspect of our city government. Notice how a paid, un-elected, city bureaucrat, City Manager Mike Mathes, effectively squashes a motion made by Helen Anthony, an elected City Councilperson and representative of we the people, while the Mayor, the rest of the council, and City Attorney Fred Boeckmann (another paid, un-elected city bureaucrat on whom we rely for legal advice) set idly by.
Are we living under a Mathes Monarchy?
Why are these city staffers given veto power over our elected officials?
Why are bureaucrats, with lucrative salaries funded by our tax dollars, allowed a bully pulpit from which they circumnavigate the sacred democratic process that lies at the heart of our once free society?
When will the citizens of Columbia rise up and take back the reins of government from the corporatist rapscallions who grant themselves personal largess from public funds belonging to the hardworking taxpayers of Columbia?
The time is NOW!
Get involved with CiViC, Citizens InVolved and InVested in Columbia.
During the campaign to authorize the use of government surveillance cameras in Downtown Columbia, the voters were sold a bill of goods by Keep Columbia Safe and the camera proponents within the city bureaucracy. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, now that the cameras are in place, the final product looks quite different than what was proposed.
It is important to note that while the Prop 1 initiative and the ordinance it produced merely authorized the installation and use of cameras, it has been interpreted as a mandate for action. If we are to accept the ordinance as a command to action, it is important that the camera parameters that were spelled out during the campaign and in the ordinance be strictly adhered to.
During the campaign, the proposed camera system was repeatedly estimated at a cost around $50,000 for the first year. Based on that number, The District offered to fit half of the bill for the first year and so budgeted $25,000 of their special tax funds for the project. When it was all said and done and the council voted to install the cameras, the price tag was actually $75,000 per year, a 50% increase.
This may seem trivial when considering a tax funded, government program. After all, it’s rare for a government program to come in at or under budget, but this budget was important to the debate that formed voter opinion. When camera opponents argued that an additional officer would be a better use of public funds, camera proponents made the claim that the salary and training costs, estimated at $125,000, involved in hiring an officer were far more than the relatively inexpensive, estimated $50,000 price tag for the cameras. Had the proponents been honest with the cost and the gap between camera cost and officer cost been narrowed, many fiscally concerned voters may have voted against the cameras.
Lt. Kelly later claimed that he was quoted out of context, but I can’t imagine a context that would change the meaning of those words. In reaction to his foot-in-mouth moment, Lt. Kelly announced that his camouflaged cameras would be adorned with a CPD logo to make them “conspicuous.”
Again, during the campaign, camera proponents promised one thing but the city did another. The folks at Keep Columbia Safe repeatedly poopooed fears articulated by civil libertarians, myself included, that the cameras would be used for live, Orwellian surveillance. Proponents claimed that the police did not have the time or resources to play Big Brother and monitor law abiding citizens on the city streets. They claimed plainly that the cameras would only be used as recording devices and that those recordings would only be accessed in search of evidence if a crime was committed and voters made up their minds based on these claims. Only a few short months after installation, it came to light that the live feed from the cameras was being monitored by the CPD.
It all boils down to the fact that camera proponents lied to the voters. As Dan Viets so eloquently pointed out, “A campaign promise is sacred.”
As Mitch Richards pointed out in his address to the Columbia City Council, there is a stationary camera pointed Directly at The Blue Fugue, a bar that is a popular meeting place for liberty advocates. The Blue Fugue is among the safest establishments in town, and sees none of the violent crime that might merit government surveillance, especially when compared with other bars in the area.
So why point a camera directly at The Blue Fugue? I won’t venture a guess at the official explanation, but it is important to note that the CPD has a history of intimidating those who dare to criticize the department. For proof, one need look no further than the case of Greg Williams and Officer Robert Fox. Mr. Williams participated in a protest against the use of SWAT dynamic entries for the service of search warrants for non-violent crimes like Columbia’s infamous Kinloch Ct. SWAT raid. Officer Fox, and probably other officers, ran police background checks on the protesters. This came to light after Officer Fox released Mr. Williams’s juvenile record in the Tribune’s online comment section. Most of the stories regarding the indecent focused on the criminal release of sealed juvenile records in an attempt to discredit a protester who was merely exercising the most basic of American liberties. What the media accounts failed to recognize was that the CPD was running background checks on law-abiding citizens who dare to speak up and speak out when they see their public servant police force violating civil rights.
With this in mind, it is not much of a stretch to imagine how this camera system might be used to intimidate the public and ultimately violate the First Amendment. Let’s not forget that the American Revolution and our beloved Bill of Rights was fomented over a few pints of ale in a few New England pubs.
It has been nicknamed “Leviathan” by local activistEapen Thampy, called “overbuilt” byMayor Bob McDavid, labled an “unattractive nuisance” and “GarageZilla” by local political watchdog blogger Mike Martin, and deemed a career ending “mistake” for Public Works director John Glascock by attorney and neighborElton Fay, but newly elected First Ward City Councilman Fred Schmidt has recently professed his love for what may be the most execrated structure in Columbia, the Fifth and Walnut Parking Garage.
Recently, First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt has taken it upon himself to become a supporter of something that many Columbia residents love to hate — the parking garage at Fifth and Walnut streets.
Construction of the $15 million garage was delayed by weather, and residents have complained about its size, cost and luminescence. A woman fell to her death from the garage last month. The city has had trouble finding takers for the retail spaces built into the ground level of the garage.
So Schmidt has decided to come to its aid. In a recent radio interview, he said he liked the look of the thing and almost instantly, he said, the phone board lit up. One caller took time to bash Schmidt’s casual dress at council meetings. But Schmidt knows he’s taking an unpopular position.
“It’s an awkward teenager,” Schmidt said about the garage. “It’s too tall and upset about its looks.”
He added: “But I think people are going to like it someday.”
And what the Tribune reports as a $15 million price tag will actually cost the taxpayers of Columbia closer to $21 million when interest is figured into the equation.
How can Fred support an $21,000,000 parking structure that is currently sets nearly empty every day of the week when his own ward, especially the lowest income areas that, incidentally, have the lowest voter turnout, suffers from bedraggledbasic infrastructure like collapsing sewers and crumbling sidewalks? Adding insult to injury, these neighborhoods are nearly in the shadow of the deserted behemoth.
Fred, an active member of PedNet since 2004, seems to have forsaken even hisPedNetpals withhis support of the new giant garage at Fifth and Walnut and his desire to make sure the coming Short St. garage is built to maximum size. Ian Thomas, the Executive Director of the PedNet Coalition, has been very outspoken on behalf of PedNet regarding city parking garages and the studies used as justification for the expenditure of public money. There is awell thought out post on the PedNet site condemning the city for building the giant Fifth and Walnut garage in which PedNet notes that their own survey turned up over 500 empty spaces in the existing downtown city garages on business days.
One glaring conflict of interest can be found in the fact that the same company, Walker Parking Consultants(WPC), that conducted the study which concluded we need more parking garages in Downtown Columbia is the company who was given the contract to design the garages. If they don’t find the need for the garage, then they don’t get the the design money. See how that works?
But the WPC study in support of that garage presents an obvious conflict of interest, Thomas explained, because the firm that finds the problem also gets to design the solution. “How independent and objective was this parking study, when Walker Parking Consultants had the incentive of a large public contract if a high level of unmet parking demand were estimated?” Thomas wrote.
A WPC move to tie its own recommendations to H3 Studios’ 2010 Downtown Urban Design CharretteThomas also found “unjustified.” Charrette participants emphasized “livability and esthetics, and enhancement of bicycle, pedestrian, and transit options,” he noted, only to have WPC wrongly co-opt that discussion, “as if the Short Street Garage is a natural consequence of the Charrette,” Thomas wrote. “The H3 Charrette report never discusses automobile parking,” instead emphasizing alternatives such as public transportation.
Also from the Columbia Heart Beat:
“I believe there are some serious problemswith parking studies in general, and with these two parking studies in particular,” Thomas told Hoppe, referencing the WPC study and an earlier report from TransSystems Corporation. Ultimately, WPC’s newest data do not support the Short Street garage, he found. “Committing funding to more off-street supply is not going to solve the problems of a lack of on-street supply and associated traffic congestion.”