Tag Archives: Ian Thomas

What Was Schaefer Thinking?

jones schaefer

 

When I saw that Senator Kurt Schaefer and Representative Caleb Jones, both darlings of the Republican Party, had endorsed Mark Jones for Columbia City Council, I couldn’t believe it. After all, Jones is a longtime Democrat political operative and a union boss and lobbyist for the NEA teachers union. While there are some liberals with whom I share some ideology, Jones is not one of them.

Of course, I don’t agree with Kurt Schaefer or Caleb Jones all of the time either, but, for some reason, I still expect lawmakers to act on principle, at least some of the time. All this move did is cement the fact that all of the big-money, establishment politicians are playing for the same team regardless of whether they have a D or an R next to their name.

What sort of backroom deal was hatched to get a state senator to wade into the murky waters of local Columbia politics? What sort of strings has Jones pulled to help these two Republicans? Is it because Jones delivered the NEA for Kurt during the last election? Did Kurt sell Columbia down the river for Union support? I guess it says something that even with big name endorsements, big money from both sides of the imaginary aisle, and a flawless campaign, Mark Jones only garnered 16% of the votes cast.

So why are Columbia’s liberals whining that Jones was a spoiler?

With mailers like the one pictured above and the backing of much of Columbia’s powerful development lobby, Mark Jones undoubtedly pulled more votes from Nauser than from Burns. Heck, Burns even had the backing of the local leftist political cabal and money machine, Progressive Political Partners, the group headed by Jeff Chinn that helped make Chris Kelly seemingly unstoppable and won the last 5th Ward contest for Helen Anthony, and still couldn’t edge out Laura Nauser’s grassroots support.

There is no doubt that Jones really thought he was going to pull enough from both sides to win the race. He took the left for granted and went hard after Nauser’s base by riding the Schaefer endorsement like a stolen pony. People who met him at their doors often commented that they knew he was a Democrat but he talked like a Republican. A Tootie spoiler Jones was not.

Hoppy is hoppin’ mad.

But the local Columbia leftists won’t stop spitting sour grapes all over social media. Even liberal icon Barb Hoppe, who – by the way – voted to expand Downtown government surveilance and voted for the EEZ every time until REDI told her not to, got in on the action, chiming in on a post on her hubby Mike Sleadd’s Facebook wall amidst a throng of “Jones was a spoiler” rants.

Councilperson Hoppe writes:

“Sad day for Columbia. Tootie Burns would have won hands down in the 5th Ward election if Mark Jones hadn’t been a spoiler. The weight of future bad city council decisions will be on his egotistical and delusional shoulders- and those who encouraged him -shame on them.”

Here is the complete thread from Sleadd’s Facebook page.

sleadd hoppe b

 

All I can say is “WOW!”

The April elections for the mayor and two ward seats are just around the corner and it looks like they might be fun to watch. Can underdog, populist gentleman Sid Sullivan edge out the smug, favorite incumbent Bob McDavid? Will the pedal powered Brit Ian Thomas serve as the spoiler ruining things for watchdog Weitkemper and usher in a second term for Dudley and his pickup truck? Will the third epic battle between the long-winded internet troll Skala and his arch nemesis Kespohl leave anyone unscathed? Stay tuned!

–Mark Flakne

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Fred and the Giant Garage: A Love Story

It has been nicknamed “Leviathan” by local activist Eapen Thampy, called “overbuilt” by Mayor 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 neighbor Elton 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.

A recent story in the Columbia Tribune reports:

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 his PedNet pals 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 a well 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.

In a letter to the Columbia City Council regarding the pending Short Street parking garage, as reported by Mike Martin in his Columbia Heart Beat blog, Thomas made several well reasoned arguments against the city plan to build another parking garage on Short St.

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?

From The Columbia Heart Beat:

First hired in 2009 to design Columbia’s much-maligned eight story downtown garage on 5th and Walnut, WPC was tapped again for $503,000 to design a second garage on Short Street.
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 problems with 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.”

But wait… at a recent city council retreat, Fred Schmidt expressed concern that the plans for the new Short Street garage might not be big enough.

The Columbia Missourian reports:

First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt said he did not want the city to limit itself with a small amount of spaces in an already developed area.

“We want to think real hard before we cut down the size and scope of the project,” Schmidt said.

With his recent flip-flop on downtown surveillance cameras and now a split from his bicycle buddies on the issue of downtown parking, I’m curious to see what Fred will do next.

Here is the KOMU video about the empty garage.

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