Tag Archives: Mike Matthes

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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Homeowners Should Sue The City Of Columbia for Damages

The widely unpopular Opus student housing development in Downtown Columbia has ruffled myriad feathers for myriad reasons. The City bureaucracy headed by City Manager Mike Matthes and his assistant Tony St. Romaine first claimed that Downtown infrastructure could not handle one more toilet. They used this infrastructure emergency in an effort to justify a hurried TIF corporate welfare plan. Once the TIF plan was defeated, the City then flip-flopped and approved hundreds of new toilets in the form of both large student housing projects and upscale urban flats for the well-paid young professional. Despite the shenanigans on the part of city leaders and bureaucrats, experts agree that Downtown electric and sewer infrastructure is already maxed out.

Opponents of Downtown development are especially rankled at the notion of student housing. They claim that the University will fail to fill the beds in years to come and the buildings will become a ghetto, despite the fact that they are located within two blocks of the Mizzou campus and only six or seven blocks from the other two campuses. They argue that these developments fly in the face of local central planning schemes laid out in the past. They argue that citizens simply don’t want student housing in Downtown Columbia. They argue that the tall buildings will be unsightly. They argue that there was not enough public input during the approval process. They argue that downtown will be overrun with students and lose its wider appeal.

While any or all of their complaints may be true, there stands one other complaint against downtown development that seems to hold water — pun intended. The fact is our city’s sewer and stormwater infrastructure is already overburdened. It seems that real damages have resulted from the City’s failure to follow precedent and provide these basic services. At least this is the only argument that might pass muster for someone who believes in the sanctity of Natural Rights and the Common Law. Remember, liability for damage one does to an adjacent property is nothing new and was a feature of the Common Law in the United Kingdom and the early United States.

Several homeowners in the First Ward with homes in the Flat Branch Watershed have found themselves on the receiving end of some rather nasty consequences of overdevelopment. When it rains more than an inch, lawns and gardens are washed away by stormwater overflows that rush like rivers across private property. Many homeowners enjoy basements flooded by both stormwater and raw sewage. Homeowners have even reported cleaning toilet paper from their basement floors after a hard rain. Property values must suffer.

During heavy rainfall sewers also overflow manholes and wastewater escapes into the Flat Branch Watershed and eventually into the surrounding ecosystem, spreading poison far and wide. Water, we must remember, is a transient resource. When water is poisoned at point A, the poison eventually travels to point B. In almost every case, one simply cannot poison one’s own groundwater without poisoning one’s neighbor’s groundwater. When sewage overflows into the Flat Branch Watershed, everyone in the area is a victim.

It is time for First Ward homeowners whose private property has been harmed by the City’s mismanagement of funds and failure to provide adequate infrastructure to band together and file a lawsuit naming the City and its leaders as defendants liable for damages. Perhaps Josh Oxenhandler, a local attorney who has represented those opposed to student housing, would take the case for free or on a contingency. Considering the wider harm caused by sewage overflow into the local watershed, perhaps a wider cross section of local citizens might have standing as plaintiffs.

One thing is for sure, citizens pleading with the City to do something reasonable does not work. Petitioners standing in line to sign names on a sheet of paper is futile. The only remedy is a lawsuit.

When Opus threatened a lawsuit, the City snapped into compliance with the Opus agreement. Perhaps they were simply using the lawsuit as an excuse to do what they had planned all along. It will be interesting to see if the City responds in the same way to a multi-million dollar lawsuit filed by citizens.

 

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Mayor McDavid Throws a Tantrum

If you have followed the happenings at City Hall you are surely familiar with the student housing vs. downtown infrastructure fight that is taking place.

In a nutshell, some big, out-of-town developers sought approval to build some large apartment buildings geared toward students in Downtown Columbia. Initially our City Manager, Mike Matthes, declared that the existing sewer and electrical infrastructure was at maximum capacity and without the corporate welfare of TIF, development would stop. He told us there was no “Plan B.” The TIF plan was rejected and magically, only days later, Matthes announced “Plan B” and a couple of large developments were whisked quickly through the approval process with little chance for public input.

Enter Jeremy Root and the Repeal 6214 group who claimed that the City had failed to follow due process, rushing the projects to approval without the opportunity for the public input required by the City Charter and precedent. They also claimed that the private student housing developments will be poorly built and would soon turn into Section 8 slums. Root and company drew up a petition seeking to overturn the ordinance that approved the new buildings and quickly gathered more than enough legitimate signatures.

Fearing that their development would be stopped by the proponents of central planning, Opus, the group behind one of the large developments, began boisterous saber-rattling with threats of a multi-million dollar lawsuit aimed at the City. Coupled with the fact that Repeal 6214, the group charging that the City failed to follow the letter of the law during the approval process, themselves failed to include the full ordinance in their petition as required by the City Charter , we’ve got ourselves a real mess.

If we can accept the notion that it’s the City’s job to build basic infrastructure, which seems to be the model we are working with in Columbia, then the City should do just that. Leave the rest alone. If the idiots who run our city are put in charge of regulating the real estate market, nothing good can come of it. It’s the City’s fault that basements are flooding, not the developers. If the City bureaucrats and elected officials choose to do the bidding of developers — blame the City.

Mayor Bob McDavid

Mayor Bob McDavid

When it comes to childish comments, Mayor McDavid’s statement to the media regarding the Opus threat of litigation really takes the cake. In response to the threat, Mcdavid said:

“There is the cost of litigation, and it’s really, really going to irritate me if we’re hiring attorneys to manage the expense of this lawsuit instead of police officers and firefighters”

Really, Bob? You’re throwing a temper tantrum? You’re really threatening to cut public safety dollars if the city is sued by a developer? Your failed leadership is really to blame for this mess and now you’re trying to steer the ship of public opinion with this childish threat? Really?

How about we take money from your silly FastCat pet project? How about we stop funding the renovation of the Blind Boone home? How about we stop building giant parking garages that would be empty except that the City leases spots to its own departments? How about we not pay for the CID’s silly Gateway project? How about we not buy homeless shelters? How about we prioritize the way this City spends tax dollars by fully funding basic sewer and electric infrastructure and our police and fire departments before we fund anything else?

 

 

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Picking Winners and Losers: Karl Skala and Downtown Development

Buried deep in the Columbia City Council agenda for the upcoming April 21st meeting is an interesting item added to the agenda at the request of 3rd Ward Councilman Karl Skala.

B116-14 Authorizing a right of use permit with BMT of Columbia, LLC for installation, construction, improvement, operation, use, keeping, maintenance, repair and replacement of approximately 350 lineal feet of two-inch PVC sewer force main to extend in portions of an alley right-of-way located north of Broadway, between Tenth Street and Short Street; authorizing a right of use permit with BMT of Columbia, LLC for construction, improvement, operation and maintenance of private storm sewers in portions of the Tenth Street and East Broadway (1007 E. Broadway) rights-of-way. [Intro & 1st Read/Skala Memo]

At first glance, it looks like basic infrastructure — the type of drudgery that is usually ignored by most of the public, especially late in what is sure to be another marathon council meeting. But further investigation — ahem — reading the supporting documentation — ahem — reveals that Mr. Skala is proactively pushing for a new downtown, 5-story, mixed-use building that will house 36 beds and no additional parking. Residents will use the city-built and city-funded Short Street Garage.

skala1

Karl Skala

Wait, our City Manager Mike Matthes told us that without a TIF for infrastructure, Downtown development would stop.

Without a TIF, downtown development stops. “Plan B is no development downtown,” he [Matthes] said.

As we all know, this was untrue because only days after the TIF plan was rejected, the City approved two student housing projects totalling over 600 beds and tabled another 700-bed project. This, of course, prompted an initiative petition to repeal the ordinance from the folks at Repeal 6214, but that’s another story that most readers are familiar with already.

Mike Matthes

Mike Matthes

The interesting piece here is that Skala voted against each of these proposed downtown developments, despite the fact that both of them met current zoning ordinance requirements. Skala seems to have since changed course and is now spearheading support for a separate 5-story development proposal which is apparently more to his tastes.

Mr. Skala, a self-described statist, is obviously throwing a proverbial bone to a “local” developer, but why? He’ll probably claim that he is merely supporting the “type” of development that citizens want. He’ll likely claim that existing infrastructure, infrastructure that we’ve been told is hopelessly maxed out, can handle a new 5-story building.

The reality is that this bone is likely a meaty bone of political expedience. Skala is giving a nod to a local developer, attempting to allow BMT to cut in line ahead of 2000 legal beds that came down the pipe of public permission first. Perhaps this move will help fund Skala’s reelection campaign. At least it will allow him to claim to be pro-development when he is labeled as the opposite due to his voting against other projects.

Keep Columbia Free believes that, in a perfect world, the government would not tinker with the free market. Unfortunately, the world we live in is not perfect and the market is not a free one. What is clear is that in the world we’ve inherited locally the best thing for the council to do is simply level the playing field and let the chips fall where they may. If we need infrastructure, build it instead of spending our money on projects like parking garages, historic homes of unknown musicians, and useless “safety” cameras. It is unacceptable for a councilman to handpick which private developer will profit and which will not, regardless of how that choice might affect his reelection chances.

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Support for Chief Burton

 ANYONE CAN SIGN THE PETITION. YOU NEED NOT BE A COLUMBIA RESIDENT TO SIGN THE PETITION IN SUPPORT OF THE CHIEF.

Sign the petition in support of Chief Burton HERE

Anyone who follows the local Columbia media knows that Chief Burton has been under fire as of late. He has never been popular among the old guard, rank and file officers, but lately the local public sector police labor union, the Columbia Police Officers Association (CPOA), a national police labor union, the Fraternal Order of Police, and a group centered around a fired, former CPD Officer, Rob Sanders, and his former police dog Fano have all been on the attack.

 

Keep Columbia Free publicly endorses Chief Burton’s continued vigilance combating racial bias in his department and wholeheartedly agrees with his decision to fire Rob Sanders.

The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and unleashed a firestorm of police union ire was the firing of Rob Sanders. Sanders was fired for using excessive force against an inmate in a holding cell. Sanders shoved the captive man against a wall hard enough to fracture a vertebrae.

As is customary in such “dog and pony” CPD investigations, the Internal Affairs Department ruled in favor of Officer Sanders, even after he and his fellow officers were heard laughing about the incident. When Chief Burton reviewed the case, he overruled the findings of the Internal Affairs department, promptly and rightly firing Officer Sanders.

The city went on to deny Sanders the opportunity to purchase the police dog, Fano, further raising the ire of his supporters in the department.

Not surprisingly, due to its long history condoning excessive force and brutality at the hands of the Columbia Police, the CPOA has come to the aid of Sanders. The vicious attacks of the CPOA know no bounds.  CPOA Executive Director Ashley Cuttle even went so far as to make the claim to a Tribune reporter that Chief Burton has called officers and their families racists during meetings with The Bias Free Columbia Coalition. I was was in attendance at the meeting in question and sat less than 10 feet away from Chief Burton. The Chief said nothing of the sort. He simply and rightly said that nearly everyone carries some sort of racial bias and that his officers are human. Ashley Cuttle should be sued for using her status as CPOA Executive Director and union mouthpiece to float such glaring and damaging lies to the local media.

It is the CPOA that represents everything that is wrong in the Columbia Police Department. The CPOA is a rabid labor union that is more concerned with preserving officer pensions than protecting the civil rights of the very citizenry whom the officers purport to serve and protect. The CPOA cements the perverse solidarity that separates the the police from the community and turns otherwise good cops into accessories to the crimes of the few truly bad cops. Ratting on a bad CPOA member cop would carry a harsher punishment than ratting on a gang member in the streets. Chief Burton is now paying the price for daring to clean up a department that has struggled with integrity for many years.

And the attacks keep coming. Even the recently retired CPD Officer Jeff Westbrook penned an editorial in the Tribune denouncing Chief Burton. Westbrook was the detective who refused to allow detained criminal suspect Nicole Palmer to speak to her attorney despite several requests to do so. At 1:50 and 5:40 in the following video you can see Officer Jeff Westbrook in action, grinding our beloved Bill of Rights into the dirt with the heel of his jackboot, as he denies council to a prisoner. If this is the caliber of officer (or former officer) calling for Burton’s head, Burton must be doing something right.

 

 

Now these forces who are calling for the reinstatement of Rob Sanders have dredged up a 30+ year-old accusation of excessive force leveled against Chief Burton when he was a Dallas police officer. Thanks to the level-headed thinking of our freshman City Manager, Mike Matthes, this silly and ultimately dirty campaign will go nowhere.

Although we have not always agreed with Chief Burton, Keep Columbia Free publicly endorses Chief Burton’s continued vigilance combating racial bias in his department and wholeheartedly agree with his decision to fire Rob Sanders. Chief Burton is a welcome improvement when compared to the leadership the CPD has seen over the past 30 years. The so-called low morale in the department is merely a symptom of the decay left from the past years of poor management. It hurts to clean an infected wound. 

One thing has been made clear by these recent and ongoing events. Civilian oversight of our dysfunctional police department is more important than ever. Our Citizens Police Review Board needs to be given teeth and allowed to do more than merely make suggestions.  Please see a recent memorandum Keep Columbia Free submitted to the City Council and the CPRB. 

 

For another take on the subject, see  local policy analyst Eapen Thampy’s blog, Ducks and Economics.

 

Mark Flakne

 

 

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