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.
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:
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?