St. Romaine’s response to Columbia Heartbeat blogger Mike Martin

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romain sent a letter (below)  to Columbia Heartbeat blogger Mike Martin regarding his posts Thursday, on “an alleged plan to replace, block, or otherwise undermine so-called City Council ‘activists.'”

His letter stated:

January 29, 2009

Dear Mike,

I was present at Tuesday’s Downtown Leadership Council (DLC) meeting and would like to briefly comment on your description of two stories presented in your “Beat Byte” dated today — City Council Scheme Shocks Leadership Group and “Controversial Discussion Missing From Official Tape“.

First of all, the issue of the tape missing the later portion of the DLC meeting was purely accidental. Our administrative assistant, Billye Clemons, who you name in the article, thought that the tape was a 120 minute tape, and did not realize that it needed to be turned over after the first sixty minutes. Therefore, the only recording available is the first hour of the meeting at which point it stopped recording. While there is no legal requirement to record this meeting, the benefit in doing so is to assist her in the composition of meeting minutes. I do regret that the tape recording is not complete, as I believe it would clearly show that there was no discussion by the DLC of a “scheme to remove activist  Council members” (your description). It simply never happened!

In discussing the progress of an interim report that the DLC was producing for Council, all members were asked to provide comments on various aspects of the report. Mr. Clyde Wilson, a former Mayor, was the last to provide comments which built on and provided additional historical context for remarks made earlier by former Council person Mr. Bob Hutton. The issue that Mr. Hutton raised had to do with expectations, specifically in regard to downtown design guidelines that are to be a key component of the DLC’s report. According to Mr. Wilson, he stated today that:

“… my reason for bringing it up at the DLC meeting was to point out that elected officials may not always be the body deciding whether or not a project goes forward. My example was the 1975 Land Clearance for Redevelopment plan for Flat Branch that was supported by city council, but failed because there was opposition among people who felt they should have been consulted. A second such project was the loop around downtown and Broadway being made a oneway street.”

What I am taking issue with in your article is your insinuation that removing “activist” City Council members was discussed by DLC members and that this proposed “scheme” supposedly “shocked” the entire membership. To some degree, I have no control over what member might say publicly. I also have no knowledge of what information Mr. Wilson or anyone else shared with you privately regarding the meeting to discuss Council pay, but to attempt to implicate the DLC into a public discussion of what I believe to be totally untrue is without any basis in fact.

Tony St. Romaine
City of Columbia
Assistant City Manager

Note: No grammatical or content changes have been made to this letter except for the addition of hyper links to add context to what St. Romaine referenced.

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