COLUMBIA, 2/2/09 (Beat Byte)
-- Calling a private meeting about major changes
to the City of Columbia charter "something that goes on almost every
day around Columbia," prominent local attorney and KFRU/Columbia Business
Times Sunday Morning Roundtable co-host David Shorr demolished efforts by
meeting participants to tone down the Watergate-style rhetoric surrounding
their alleged intent: To consolidate power and replace or
discourage so-called "activist council members."
Earlier reported by the Columbia Heart Beat, former Columbia mayor Bob Pugh
hosted the Thursday, Jan. 22 meeting at the Country Club of Missouri.
Sources say that except for Tom Anderson and Rodney Smith, former Columbia
mayors, former city manager Ray Beck and Columbia Daily Tribune publisher
Hank Waters attended, as did current mayor Darwin Hindman and current city
manager Bill Watkins. Tribune columnist Bob Roper, widely rumored to
be considering a run for mayor in 2010, allegedly addressed the group about
council pay, mayoral veto power, and related issues described in a "letter of
invitation" that included the agenda.
Branding the meeting "Country Club-gate, Columbia-gate,
Chamber-gate, or what have you," Shorr told a radio audience
Sunday morning that, "pro-development vs. anti-development, pro-business
vs. anti-business, pro growth vs. anti-growth groups meet each time one group
decides they want to replace another group they don't like. They
talk about who they want or don't want in public office and what kind
of makeup they want on governing bodies. It's just like when the North
Central Columbia Neighborhood Association gets together. It's perfectly
acceptable and god bless 'em."
When co-host Al Germond mentioned a month-long Columbia Chamber of
Commerce government affairs committee move to oust 3rd ward councilman
Karl Skala -- allegedly referenced several times at the Pugh/Roper meeting as
"that guy in the fishing vest" who'd been "inappropriately
interfering" with the police chief hiring process -- Shorr said
it didn't surprise him.
The Country Club meeting "was no more than an extension of the
Chamber of Commerce," Shorr explained. "And as ex-officio Chamber members,
the mayor and city manager had every right to attend and participate. This
is much ado about nothing."
Former mayor Clyde Wilson first discussed the meeting publicly last
Tuesday with Columbia's Downtown Leadership Council. Wilson told
the Tribune that he "did hear mention of 'activist' council
members." He told the Missourian, "My impression was that Roper was
the presenter and that he seemed to indicate that what he wanted to have was a
less action-oriented City Council than the one we have now."
Roper, Hindman, and Watkins have denied the allegations. "The
term 'council activist' didn't come up, not once," Roper told the Heart
Beat. "That's absurd."
"The topic of activist council members was never discussed," Hindman
"I think it is absolutely inappropriate and unethical for a city manager to
be talking about involvement in any way, in terms of mayor or council election
or selection," Watkins told the Trib. "I do my best to try to stay out of those
Newspaper accounts about the meeting -- which was closed to the public
and reporters -- also conflict. According to the Missourian,
Hindman "emphasized that the group set no policy agendas."
But Pugh told the Tribune that attendees discussed several policy
agendas, including the need for mayoral veto power; a strong mayoral form of
government; salaries and compensation for city council members; and the need to
add more council seats.
Each policy would represent a major change to the city's
decades-old charter; collectively, the policies would represent the
greatest charter rewrite in Columbia history.
[Ed. Note: Shorr quotes, though not paraphrased, were transcribed
from the radio broadcast, not the studio, and have not been confirmed with
a follow up tape].
2) Sneaky Survey Troubles
COLUMBIA, 2/2/09 (Beat Byte)
-- When Bertrice Bartlett got a phone call recently from a survey
firm "hired by the Columbia City Council," the sixth ward resident was
happy to answer. "I thought it was going to be about improving the city,"
But when survey questions quickly pitted Smart Growth
against the Central Missouri Development Council, Bartlett said her attitude
changed. "It didn't sound like something the city council would have
ordered," she told the Heart Beat.
Several sixth ward residents have
allegedly logged phone calls from a firm calling itself "Midwestern Research,"
asking questions about resident attitudes toward business, development, jobs,
and parks. Bartlett's surveyor told her his name was "Jim Hickok," and
that he dialed her name randomly. He then asked the following
a) Do you view the following organizations positively or
Central Missouri Development Council
Greenbelt Land Trust
something," Bartlett said. "It's a group Barb's involved in. That
b) Should Columbia have expensive water runoff
programs, like pervious pavement, if they impair local businesses?
Do you want to see programs that impede development?
"When I told Mr.
Hickok that these questions didn't seem like something the city council would
ask, he insisted. 'Oh yes. We work for the Columbia City
Council. They hired us.'"
Sixth ward councilwoman Barb Hoppe,
facing Riback Supply manager Rod Robison in the April election, said she
received several calls from curious constituents about the survey. "I
checked with [city manager] Bill Watkins and he said the city hadn't
commissioned any survey like this," Hoppe told the Heart Beat. "He said he
didn't know anything about it."
Columbia Citizens listserv reader Carol
Greenspan reported a similar survey Sunday. "I had a weird experience
yesterday: In midafternoon the phone rang and a woman asked if I would be
willing to answer a survey," Greenspan said. "The first two
questions were about my opinions of the development council and the Sierra
Club. These were the only two groups so queried."
surveyor then asked Greenspan about other comparisons: Her opinion of Mayor
Darwin Hindman and Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe; whether she supported "that road
extension over the creek from the Lemone Industrial area, or
congestion"; and whether she supported more jobs, or more storm water
"I told the woman that the questions were quite
biased, and that the so-called random selection of names was targeting the
district of one city councilperson," Greenspan
The Heart Beat had no luck locating Jim Hickok or
a survey/research firm called "Midwestern Research."
3) LETTER: Asst. City Manager Blasts Beat Byte