During the campaign that both authorized downtown “safety” cameras and elected the three Chamber of Commerce amigos, Kespohl, Dudley and McDavid, I will admit that Bob McDavid was not my pick for mayor. The main reason for my dislike of McDavid was the fact that he supported Karen Taylor’s campaign to place the so-called “safety” cameras downtown. While McDavid only said there was a “perceived” crime problem and never claimed that Columbia was as crime ridden as the other two amigos and Ms. Taylor would have had us believe (in spite of an overwhelming pile of evidence to the contrary), he never missed the opportunity to place himself next to Taylor and her Keep Columbia Safe group. His support of our local scapegrace of surveillance now appears to have been more of a shrewd political maneuver than a heartfelt belief that Big Brother style surveillance was needed in Downtown Columbia.
But lately, McDavid has come down on the side of common sense in regard to local issues. While it really doesn’t make up for the $50,000 spent on a year of cameras, his turn to common sense leadership is nonetheless refreshing.
His open criticism of the behemoth 5th and Walnut garage is one step in the right direction for McDavid. In a KOMU 8 story on the subject McDavid said.
I personally think the 5th and Walnut parking garage was overbuilt… I believe that the process was flawed. We committed $16 million to a garage that is going to lose money for some time.
Bob has even taken a sensible stance on the public art displayed on the garage and elsewhere around town. Columbia sets aside 1% from each new construction project to pay for art associated with the project. In each case, for some unknown reason, instead of relying on a local artist, Columbia has looked elsewhere for the talent to design these large projects and has ended up with some real eyesores. Chief among these eyesores, in my opinion, is the $200,000 “Keys to the City” sculpture which adorns the entrance to city hall and looks more like a cheap shop class project or giant version of a child’s night light than a $200,000 work of art.
Now the sophomoric $140,000 so-called “art” on the 5th and Walnut garage entitled “Sky Algorithm” has been installed incorrectly and is inaccessible to the disabled community. Mayor McDavid said he is “embarrassed” by the project. Surely these public art funds could be kept in the community by using a local artist. Here is what Bob had to say:
We make a mistake when we don’t use local artists… We will never see this artist again… For $140,000, I expect it to be accurate.
With the 5th and Walnut debacle in mind, McDavid had some rather sensible things to say about the upcoming Short Street garage project. In response to some locals who would like to see ground-floor retail space in the new garage in order to avoid dead space for pedestrians, McDavid said:
I believe the philosophy that government has no business running retail or commercial development… I understand that a lot of people would like to have commercial. I would also argue that empty commercial is dead space, too.
Hey, Bob, I agree!
And speaking of garages, when Daryl Dudley decided to one-up his first patriotic suggestion to require the council to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of every meeting by suggesting that an American flag on a 60-foot flagpole be installed atop the already embarrassing 5th and Walnut garage, McDavid said “no.” McDavid rightly stated:
I consider myself patriotic. I really don’t want to spend the money for this.
McDavid made what is, in my opinion, another correct vote when he voted against allowing Tom Rippeto, owner of Red and Moe Pizzaria, to sell beer on the street inside the boundaries of Summerfest which is funded privately by Blue Note owner Richard King. Requiring King to jump through all of the city hoops and red tape to bring national acts to Downtown Columbia and then allowing another business to piggyback on King’s significant investment without sharing the risk is certainly wrongheaded. Unfortunately the rest of the council did not agree with McDavid and the only other dissenting vote, Kespohl, so King moved his festival to a private venue.
Here is what McDavid had to say:
You’re letting someone put capital at risk, and then you’re letting someone with no risk come in and take his profit margin
Although I haven’t agreed with everything Bob McDavid has done as mayor, these things stand out as good work by a local elected official. Let’s hope for more of the same.