Tag Archives: Eapen Thampy

Keep Columbia Free Joins Coalition to Recall Chadwick — Richards Will Not Run

Ginny Chadwick

Ginny Chadwick

Two local groups, CoMo Council Watch and Keep Columbia Free, have joined forces with local cannabis law reformers to recall Councilperson Ginny Chadwick. More groups are likely to join the effort soon.

Columbia advocates for cannabis legalization, Aaron Malin, Eapen Thampy, and Duell Lauderdale, started the recall effort in response to Chadwick’s reversal of her public campaign promise to support Councilperson Barbara Hoppe’s proposed cannabis cultivation ordinance. Her vote was the last in a long string of outright betrayals since being sworn into office only six months ago. It was the straw, or perhaps the leaf, that broke the proverbial camel’s back.

Even Councilperson Barb Hoppe was confounded by Chadwick’s dishonesty.

“I think we felt misled… It’s hard to tell what she really thinks. She’ll say she’s for something and then vote against it.” — Councilperson Barb Hoppe on Chadwick’s cannabis vote

Aaron Malin

Aaron Malin

The recall announcement made by the pro-cannabis crowd was simply the first. A newly formed organization of First Ward voters calling themselves CoMo Council Watch had their own recall petition in the works which listed many of the same grievances, chief among them being Chadwick’s less-than-transparent slight of hand in her dealings with the Opus student housing project.

Barbara Hoppe

Barbara Hoppe

 

I was at the coalition meeting along with several of the Keep Columbia Free faithful. This writer has chronicled Councilwoman Chadwick’s flagrant misdeeds for several months and all in the room were in agreement that she had amassed a laundry list of recall-worthy actions. Besides her 180 on her cannabis reform campaign promise and her good ol’ boy relationship with Opus, Chadwick has also proposed an overtly racist plan to ban alcohol in Douglass Park and is now pushing to change the legal age for tobacco purchase to 21 and include e-cigs in Columbia’s smoking ban. And she doesn’t give a damn what anyone has to say about it, going so far as to scrub constituent comments from her official Facebook page, even blocking some users. 

Eapen Thampy

Eapen Thampy

The folks from the Bistate Regional Advocates for Vaping Education (BRAVE) have expressed great dismay over Chadwick targeting e-cigs and will hopefully officially endorse the recall effort soon.

There is little doubt that Chadwick has sided with the establishment “powers that be” in Columbia. Even the great establishment propagandist, Tribune Publisher Hank Waters, has jumped to her aid with his barrels of ink and an overtly erroneous editorial in which he attempts to pigeonhole the recall effort as a “small group of disappointed supporters of looser marijuana restrictions.” Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Even his own newspaper reported the facts. Apparently, Ol’ Hank doesn’t read his own publication.

The editorial prompted this apropos response from local liberty activist Spencer Pearson…

HA! This Op-Ed from Hank Waters about the ‪#‎RecallChadwick‬ movement is outrageously false. It must be nice to own a newspaper and tell voters in other wards what to do without any real knowledge of the movement you’re writing about.

The “small group” of people who are members of the Recall First Ward Councilperson Ginny Chadwick page already outnumber Chadwick’s public like page! And the grievances First Ward voters have go far beyond her broken campaign promise to support decriminalizing cannabis cultivation.

Waters concludes the piece with a Confucius quote: “The real fault is to have faults and not try to mend them.” When Chadwick publicly stated she didn’t have to make a case to a group of angry constituents, THAT was the deciding point of the recall. She has flat-out refused to address the people who elected her, as is her job. Perhaps Mr. Waters should show this Confucius quote to Ginny Chadwick instead of patronizing First Ward voters by telling so many of them their efforts are “without merit and should be ignored.” Or perhaps he is just projecting

But who will replace Chadwick?

mitch

Mitch Richards

There are a few names being tossed around, but those discussions have been kept secret so far. The First Ward wants to make sure that they don’t get fooled again, hoodwinked by more snake oil, ending up worse off than before. There is little doubt that the determined First Ward voters will produce a fully-vetted and qualified candidate. Enough is enough. After a decade of poor representation from the likes of Paul Sturtz, Fred Schmidt, and now Ginny Chadwick, the ward is ripe for real reform and meaningful action. But who will it be?

One name that has been mentioned is former First Ward candidate Mitch Richards who lost to Fred Schmidt in 2011. I asked Richards if he might run to replace Chadwick should the recall effort prove successful.

“Absolutely not! I have no intention to run for Council at this time nor in the near future.

That said, I do support the recall effort. Councilperson Chadwick has advocated an overtly paternalist set of policies since taking office. She arrogantly singled out Columbia’s African-American community as being unfit to consume alcohol in Douglass Park only to change course and try to ban alcohol everywhere in hopes of countering the justifiable cries of racial insensitivity the initial proposal faced. She wants to include e-cigs in Columbia’s smoking ban despite the fact that these devices provide a somewhat safer alternative than smoking for tobacco users and now she wants to tell young adults that while they can vote, pay taxes, and serve in war, they cannot be trusted to buy tobacco products. Her secretive work on the Opus project ran counter to the wishes of her constituency and now she’s made a 180 degree turn on the marijuana cultivation ordinance — an ordinance to which she pledged support during her campaign. Campaign promises should be sacred. The First Ward needs to send a strong message to current and future leadership that these types of fundamental betrayals will not be tolerated.”

These strong words from Richards echo the popular sentiment across the First Ward. There is little doubt that this recall effort will produce plenty of signatures in a very short time.

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The C.I.D. Tax Sham

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The sales tax increase for Columbia’s Downtown Community Improvement District (CID) that was approved by a “vote” last November has been problematic from the start. Proponents of the tax mounted an impressive public relations campaign, promising all sorts of wonderful improvements to come if only the Downtown voters would allow for a higher sales tax in “The District.” Chief among these pie-in-the-sky improvements (at least in the mind of the voter) was the proposed installation of “District-wide free WiFI” internet service.

Despite well-reasoned opposition mounted by Keep Columbia Free and our friends, we were outspent and the tax increase passed by a “wide margin.” Well, at least that’s what the winners said. Tweets and Facebook posts from CID leadership and friends touted a 63% to 37% victory for the tax plan. As I write, the CID website still has this statistic displayed.

 

What the 63% statistic fails to communicate is that only 40 people voted. The measure passed 25 to 15. It would have taken only 6 votes to swing the outcome the other direction. While these numbers might seem normal in a small rural community, in Columbia, a small city with a population well over 100,000, these numbers are laughable.

25 people voted to raise the taxes of every other citizen who spends money in our city center, the home of most of Columbia’s restaurants, nightclubs, and unique retail shops. 25 people made a very rational decision to save themselves a sizable chunk of money that would normally be paid to an internet provider each month and let the taxpayers of Columbia provide free WiFi in the CID. After all, the plan for free WiFi was marketed to these voters via direct mail and in the press. “Taxation without representations be damned! We want free WiFi!”

Well… not so fast…

Even though the CID tax increase brought in 33% more revenue than was expected, an extra $100,000, the CID is now waffling on its plan for free WiFi in the District.

 “There is still a concern among some members of the committee whether or not wireless is something that is needed,” CID Executive Director Carrie Gartner said.

 

Wow! It looks like another example of the classic political bait and switch — say anything to get the votes you need and then immediately renege.

To be clear, Keep Columbia Free thinks that taxpayer-funded “free” WiFi is a bad idea. It removes the competitive advantage for businesses that offer WiFi and, really, the government has no business providing WiFi in the first place. Not only is government WiFi a bad idea, the CID tax was a bad idea, lying to voters was a bad idea, and the CID itself is a bad idea.

 

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Beata of Blight

The recent push by the City, Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI), and Downtown Community Improvement District (CID) to label 60% of our fair city “blighted“in order to offer tax abatement to select businesses has more than a few Columbia citizens ready to fight. A new, loosely knit, coalition of local groups and individuals has emerged, calling itself Citizens Involved and Invested In Columbia (CIVIC). Keep Columbia Free is a proud to be part of this new coalition.

Columbians from all points of the political spectrum are represented among the ranks of CIVIC. From the far left to the far right, Libertarians, Democrats, Republicans, white people, black people, environmentalists, neighborhood leaders, community leaders, anarchists, tea partiers, landlords, developers, real estate agents, teachers, preachers, attorneys, and the list goes on, have taken issue with the EEZ plan. The broad base of CIVIC lends credence to its mission.

The EEZ, Enhanced Enterprise Zone, in a nutshell works like this. An EEZ board is appointed (not elected) by the City Council. Wide swaths of the city are then declared blighted under a loosely worded state statute. Once blighted, specific businesses are awarded property tax abatement and tax credits for expanding in the zone. The unelected EEZ board can override any regulation or zoning requirement that impedes commerce. It’s market-distorting, crony capitalism at its worst.

Among the concerns of CIVIC regarding EEZ and blight are the following:

  • Blight designations can harm property values.
  • Tax abatement schemes erode the tax base.
  • When one business is given a special tax break, other businesses and individuals must make up the difference.
  • Tax abatement schemes have been proven not to work and are only a means for a few connected businesspersons to pocket public funds.
  • Blight designations open the door for eminent domain abuse for private gain.
  • Columbia is not blighted. Portraying Columbia as such is fraud.

One of the more alarming aspects of the local situation is how effectively the well funded proponents of the plan have launched their propaganda juggernaut, spewing half-truths and outright lies.  Preying on the ignorance and short attention span of the general public is par for the course in today’s political climate. A shiny website and a pretty face are all you need to gain public support in this country.

Leading the charge for the EEZ  is ‘Beata of Blight’ Carrie Gartner, hired gun of the CID. Carrie, a noted central planning addict, has blogged extensively on the subject, spoken publicly, and has even recently turned her personal Facebook page into a clearinghouse for public EEZ discussions.

From her Facebook page:

I’ve turned over my personal facebook page to this issue to ensure that people know what’s going on. Photos of my family have gone by the wayside!

Wait a minute Carrie. Which people? You started this open and public discussion only after banning anyone who might offer resistance to your arguments and plans. That’s not ensuring “that people know what’s going on.” That’s ensuring that people hear only one subjective side of the issue.

The half-truths and outright lies Carrie presents on her Facebook page and on her personal “Central City” blog are somewhat overwhelming and ultimately frightening. Does she believe this stuff or is it all simply a nefarious means to an end?

For instance, she claims that 118 other communities in Missouri have EEZ‘s. Almost true, but not quite. There are 118 EEZ’s in Missouri, but some larger municipalities are home to several zones, making the total number of EEZ cities far less than 118. But who’s counting? It’s propaganda after all.

Most alarming is Ms. Gartner’s attempt to marginalize those among us, including myself, who fear the possibility of eminent domain abuse stemming from a blanket blight designation. The argument against such fear has changed several times during the discussion, but has never been truthful.

Carrie is not alone in her propaganda crusade on the subject. Even Mayor Bob McDavid laughed off my concern when I challenged his assertion that eminent domain had never been and would never be used to take private property for private gain in Columbia. He made the statement during an appearance on the Gary Nolan Show a few weeks ago. His quip must have seemed to Columbia’s Black community like a slap in the face from the gloved hand of a white slave master, as he conveniently forgot how in the 1950’s and 60’s, The Sharp End, a thriving black business community and several residential neighborhoods, was condemned an bulldozed to make way for public housing, our post office, and several private businesses including the Columbia Daily Tribune. Yes, Mr. Mayor, eminent domain has been abused for private gain in Columbia.

Nolan went on to ask the mayor if he would amend the EEZ ordinance to include verbiage stating that the blight designation would not be used for eminent domain. The Mayor snickered at the idea. If there is no plan to use the EEZ blight designation for eminent domain takings, why not amend the ordinance?

Many real estate speculators have surmised that 20 or 30 years down the road, the now predominantly black neighborhoods adjacent to Downtown will become prime real estate. It has long been the case that the lion’s share of the funds allotted for 1st Ward infrastructure are absorbed by Downtown while the low-income 1st Ward neighborhoods are left with dilapidated sewers and crumbling sidewalks. Is this area being allowed to dip into true blight so to be ripe for the taking? That’s what happened to the Sharp End. Basic public infrastructure like sewers and paved streets were denied the area leaving it unsightly and unclean.

It happened before. Will it happen again? Former Councilwoman Almeta Crayton thinks so as evidenced by this statement  made to journalist and blogger Mike Martin.

That’s the whole point. Let the neighborhood blight out, then take it. They did it before, and they’ll do it again. –Almeta Crayton

Repeatedly, when EEZ proponents are challenged with the fact that blight designations open the Pandora’s Box of eminent domain abuse they respond that the EEZ plan will not be used to abuse eminent domain. It’s as if they didn’t hear the question. Of course the EEZ has little to do with eminent domain. It’s the overarching blight designation that leads to eminent domain abuse. Here is an example of the ol’ switcheroo from Carrie Gartner’s blog on the subject.

Does an EEZ lead to eminent domain?
No. An EEZ and eminent domain are not connected. In fact, the city can condemn property right now for public use. An EEZ will make that neither more nor less likely.

Also, Missouri passed a law a while back in response to Kelo v. City of New London that prohibits condemnation for solely economic development purposes (ie, the shopping mall in Kelo) and also requires a parcel by parcel designation of blight rather than an area designation of blight for any condemnation.

I agree with the first part, “an EEZ will make that neither more nor less likely.” But Carrie, it’s that derned blight designation that is required for the EEZ that will open the door for eminent domain.

Wait. What’s that you say in the second paragraph? Missouri passed a law to protect us from eminent domain abuse? Wow, I feel better. Wait. No I don’t. Let’s examine it a bit closer.

Missouri passed a law that says eminent domain condemnation cannot be used for “solely economic development purposes.” Guess what. Since Kelo, all eminent domain abuses, attempted or successful, have contained small public purpose alongside a large private purpose.

If your neighborhood is declared “blighted” by the appointed EEZ board and the city figures that a new shopping mall would bring in more revenue and create more jobs than you and your neighbor’s residential property, all they have to do is park a fire station on one corner of the block and they are within the law. Even without the fire station, the city can fall back on the notion that cleaning up “blight” is a “public purpose.”

According to Bruce Hillis of Missouri Citizens for Property Rights:

House Bill 1944 was a joke. The use of Eminent Domain is never “solely” for economic development – it always includes the “public purpose” of cleaning up blight.

This tactic used here by Ms. Gartner reminds me of  Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a classic tactic of the politically astute. Ms. Gartner and her cohorts have used it with great skill during their pro-blight campaign. The truth is right there in front of everyone, yet they confidently tell us it means something completely different.  (Thanks to Mike Hagan for turning me on to theories of NLP.)

Support for the the EEZ is also coming from local school board member and mate to Ms. Gartner, Jonathan Sessions. Jon posted a heartfelt endorsement of the EEZ plan on his blog. It all seems so strange. Two devout establishment Democrats, Gartner and Sessions, are now aligning themselves with the business community and embracing the trickle-down economics of crony capitalism. It’s statism run amok. 

National policy analyst Eapen Thampy penned a well written response the Jon’s piece. Read it here.

Perhaps we can guess at the motives of Jonathan Sessions. Sessions is on the School Board and REDI endorsed the school tax levy. Dave Griggs, Chair if REDI and flooring provider for IBM, also landed a lucrative flooring contract with the Columbia Public Schools. Is Sessions caught up in the good ol’ boy, backdoor back patting that has plagued this community for decades? Heck, REDI board member and local entrepreneur Brent Beshore  financed all of the marketing for the last J-Sesh election campaign. I was at the party when he made the pledge. Is anyone surprised that Sessions is in bed with REDI?

And how about old Hank Waters? He’s never been a stranger to eminent domain abuse, in fact, he supports it. He’s come out in favor of the EEZ. Why? Well, his wife, Vicky Russel, Publisher of the Columbia Daily Tribune is Vice Chair of REDI

It’s time that the public step up and speak out. We’ve all been kept in the dark on this issue and they’ve only turned the lights on at the last minute. Call your City Council Representative today! Come to the next City Council meeting. 

 

 

 

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STOP the CID Tax

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The following letter was composed by Eapen Thampy and Mitch Richards and is addressed to all citizens of Columbia who are eligible to vote regarding the proposed CID tax increase. If you are one of the few eligible CID voters, Keep Columbia Free urges you to vote NO on this proposed tax hike.  Please read the following letter and share it with everyone you know. Do your part to end the fleecing of our local consumers for the benefit of a few CID bureaucrats.   

Sincerely, 

Mark Flakne

 

Hi,

The Community Improvement District (CID) is proposing through a ballot initiative on November 8, 2011, that downtown residents approve an increased sales tax of up to ½% for sales happening in the downtown business district.  The justification is that these funds will be spent on “downtown beautification”, “technology and public information enhancements”, promotion of downtown events and assistance to entrepreneurs, “event recruitment and promotion” and “enhancements” to downtown shopping, dining, and entertainment.

 We urge you to vote against this tax. There are several reasons.

As a first principle, we think we should be trying to lower the taxes on people trying to spend money in Columbia, not raise them. A new tax will increase the cost to consumers of doing business downtown, and will drive marginal consumers to other places where the sales tax is lower.

Second, many of the proposed improvements being pushed by the CID are unnecessary. There is no unique reason why a government agency should be in charge of event promotion, building smartphone apps, or providing WiFi. There are a variety of Columbia’s citizens AND BUSINESSES who make it their livelihoods through providing these services, and we shouldn’t give a government agency tax dollars to compete in these markets. Moreover, it is inevitable that the decisions made by a public agency to micro-manage Columbia businesses will cause division and turmoil fostered by accusations of favoritism and collusion. We don’t need that in our community.

Third, the First Ward needs another police officer and perhaps another fire company. If we are going to raise taxes to provide public services, these are the vital services that are needed in our city, and we should reject spending money on other projects until our most vital needs are attended to.

Fourth, the CID has lost the trust of many voters and citizens. In joining with Keep Columbia Safe to push for the installation and public funding of surveillance cameras, the CID joined forces with people who used city dollars to push a partisan agenda. Moreover, whether or not you feel the cameras were necessary, campaign promises to not use these cameras for live surveillance were broken, and the cameras have been installed in places where they are not conspicuous and easily visible, as the ORDINANCE mandates. It would be difficult to place further trust in an entity which has engaged in said conduct. We should also consider the risk that future tax revenue will be used to pay for more surveillance cameras instead of making real investments in law enforcement or fire protection services.

For these reasons, we ask that you reject this proposed tax at the ballot.

Eapen Thampy

Mitch Richards, Keep Columbia Free

If you’d like to contact us on this or similar issues, emails directed to Eapen.Thampy@gmail.com will reach us. You may also call at 573-673-5351.

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