Tag Archives: surveillance camera

Why I’m Starting to Warm Up to Mayor McDavid

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.

Mark Flakne


Fred Explains His Camera Vote

Recently Fred Schmidt posted a blog in response to our criticism of his flip-flop vote in favor of funding police surveillance cameras in Downtown Columbia. In his “Inside the Council” blog, Fred attempts to justify his vote in favor of the cameras. Not only did Fred campaign in opposition to the cameras, his First Ward constituents voted against the cameras by an overwhelming margin. I’ll take issue with his reasoning here.

Fred states:

The Council’s vote on May 16 was not a vote to undo the city’s electoral decision on whether to have cameras downtown. That vote had been settled in the election. The majority of the First Ward didn’t agree with that outcome. I didn’t agree. But we can’t undo the election–at least without another election on the issue or court intervention.

This statement is wrong on many levels. First, the “electoral decision” made by voters in April of 2010 merely authorizes the use of so-called “safety cameras” in the downtown area. Although the vote was construed as a mandate by its proponents, it most certainly was not.

Proponents also campaigned on the camera price tag of $50k with half coming from the Downtown CID. The contract that Fred approved carries a price tag of $75k with $25k coming from the CID. With the camera project coming in $25k over budget, Fred could easily have justified a “no” vote in spite of the so-called “electoral decision.”

Fred goes on:

I voted in favor of the motion because a vote against funding would have simply been a protest vote.  It would not have changed the outcome.  I chose, under the circumstances, to exemplify my willingness to work “with” the Council, not “against” it. You can be assured, that I will not always agree with the majority on the Council–nor will I do so just to be agreeable–but in this instance nothing would have been gained by a meaningless protest vote.

What Fred is saying is that he will always try to vote with the majority of the council regardless of the wants and needs of the First Ward and regardless of his own conscience. One thing is for sure, the First Ward needs a strong voice willing to stand up to the rest of the council — a council that is weighted heavily with pro-establishment representatives. With his vote on this issue and subsequent explanation, Fred has demonstrated that he does not possess the will or strength of voice to stand up to the rest of the council.

Policy analyst Eapen Thampy commented on Fred’s determination that following the will of his constituents would have been a “meaningless protest vote” in his Ducks and Economics blog.

Thampy writes:

     To represent others in an elected, decision-making body is a difficult task. Nevertheless, Fred could have at least forced a council debate over spending priorities. The First Ward is short a fire company and lacks a competent police force, yet Fred could have represented his constituents by representing their views in open council and initiating a debate.

     Moreover, there is a matter of integrity. One should not run for elected office opposing something and flip flop on that issue at the first available opportunity. Can First Ward voters trust Fred from here on out? Will any of the promises Fred made during his campaign stick or will we find that political expediency and power politics are the most important determinants of Fred’s vote?

Thampy is correct. There is nothing meaningless about a protest vote.

Fred goes on:

The civil liberties issues are complex. As Dan Viets points out, the ACLU is clear that they support the rights of private property owners to have security cameras. This extends to cameras that point away from a business into the street. In a similar vein, if you are on the street and decide to shoot video of what’s happening there, you have that right as a private citizen to do so. There are security cameras everywhere, and society by and large accepts them. For some reason, Keep Columbia Safe and Keep Columbia Free have rallied around only this one set of cameras.

Fred fails to see the difference between cameras owned and operated by private citizens and private businesses and cameras monitored by the state. Keep Columbia Free believes that property owners and business owners have the right to surveille from their own property and at their own expense. They are also free to share their camera footage with the government if they choose.

I wonder if Dan Viets agrees with how Fred has co-opted his words to justify a pro-camera vote?

And what sort of justification is Fred pointing to when he states “society by and large accepts them [surveillance cameras].” Societal acceptance does not make something right. At one time the chattel enslavement of humans was accepted by society by and large. That did not make slavery morally acceptable.

Fred should also do a little homework on Keep Columbia Free. We openly oppose government surveillance technology in nearly every case. I’m not sure if Fred is demonstrating ignorance or merely lying when he says that Keep Columbia Free has “rallied around only this one set of cameras.”

While I had hoped Fred would prove me wrong and shake off his recent pro-establishment and authoritarian cloak, his public explanation has cemented my previous opinion. Will someone please remind Fred that he was elected by the First Ward to represent the First Ward? Pretty please!


Fred Schmidt Betrays First Ward

During Monday night’s Columbia City Council meeting, the council voted unanimously to provide funding for government surveillance cameras in Downtown Columbia. For most of us who have followed the camera debate, the “yes” votes from the establishment voting block comprised of McDavid, Dudley, Kespohl, and Thornhill, three of whom rode the crime/fear/camera stalking horse into office, came as no surprise. Even Anthony’s vote was predictable and Hoppe’s not too surprising.

It was Fred Schmidt who shocked the crowd with his vote in favor of the cameras as he fell lock-step in line with the empirically baseless, pro-camera, establishment zeitgeist that has affected many Columbians outside the First Ward. The First Ward, represented by Schmidt, voted overwhelmingly against the camera initiative in April of 2010. Fred even campaigned on his opposition to the downtown cameras during his run for the First Ward seat as evidenced by this excerpt from the Columbia Missourian.

All four First Ward candidates opposed the installation of downtown cameras — a result of Proposition 1, a ballot initiative that won approval in the April 2010 municipal election. A majority of First Ward voters rejected the proposition in that election.

“The voters spoke on this,” Schmidt said. “The city overwhelmingly voted for them. Ward one voted overwhelmingly against them.” He noted the cameras are a “perception of safety.”

And this excerpt from Fred’s own campaign website:

I do not support the city’s widespread use of surveillance cameras in downtown Columbia, especially when downtown is singled out as the location, in spite of crime being much more prevalent in other locations. I do support the use of surveillance cameras being installed by private businesses and the public installation of cameras in public facilities, such as parking garages or city buildings. This stance, I believe, is a more restrictive use of cameras but one that upholds current legislation as passed by voters.

This about face from Fred “Flip-Flop” Schmidt begs the question… “why?” Fred did raise quite a bit of money for a First Ward campaign, spending $12,403.12 on his candidacy. Even in local elections, money comes with strings attached. Is somebody pulling Fred’s strings?

It could also be that Fred simply told a lie. Perhaps Fred is planning a career in politics and is simply practicing his forked tongue technique for the day when he moves up to the big leagues. Lying seems to be a requirement for both Democrat and Republican politicians.

The saddest part of the situation is that just when the First Ward needs a strong voice on the council the most, their new representative, Fred Schmidt, shows his true colors as an authoritarian establishment shill.