You submitted the questions. We got the answers.

The First and Fifth ward council candidates respond to questions posed by the public concerning public transportation, poverty and City Council stipends. Fellow Missourian reporter Katrina Ball and I will update this post with First Ward candidate Fred Schmidt’s responses as soon as they become available.
Do you want to ask the city council or school board candidates a question? Submit them here.

Q: “With gas prices expected to reach the $4/gallon level, I’d like to see more emphasis placed on bikeways, trails, and pedways. What will be your stance on future transportation issues?” – Submitted by Jason Entermyer.

Fifth Ward

Glen Ehrhardt: The bikeways, pedways and trails add to the livability of Columbia, but there needs to be a balance between them and other infrastructure costs that are used by everyone else in Columbia.  I think that when we are dealing with gas prices it’s important to focus on in fill development, such as the apartments on Walnut and College that will  increase number of residents in downtown Columbia.

It is important to plan infrastructure things in advance to minimize the time people spend stationary in traffic.

Helen Anthony: I believe in alternative transportation.  I would fight very hard to maintain the bikeways, trails and pedways properly. I would really like to focus on more bus service. Our bus service is inadequate. We could do a better job at adding more routes. I’d like to explore that avenue.

First Ward

Pam Forbes: I think we need more public transportation, and it needs to go to places where people work, not just people who work at IBM. They need to have buses that go to places where people work and give them access to getting jobs. And it will help the environment.

Darrell Foster: Well you know, there are a number of things that go into developing transportation strategy. I think the mayor has done a good job in terms of opening up transportation. At the same time, the growth of the city of Columbia was unexpected. So based on that, we have to look at everything, all the transportation, construction, we have to look at those. Transportation is an ingredient into improving the situation in Columbia. It will add jobs and opportunities. It has the ingredients to do that.

Mitch Richards: There’s plenty of people for whom biking and walking is the preferred transportation. I empathize with that. I’m a walker myself. So far the city has made some efforts with that, with bikeways and corrals downtown. I would be open to expanding some of those things, and it’s clearly something we can address. For me, we need to stay within the budget, so we need to come together to figure out what our priorities are.

Fred Schmidt: “People should have a choice in transportation, and as gas prices go up, many people will choose alternatives, and there are many inexpensive things the government can do to make those choices more viable. In these times, we should be looking for inexpensive things, and most things that bicyclists and pedestrians want don’t require a lot of money. We’re in tight budget times, but bike paths offer economic alternatives for those people able and wiling to do it. Everybody benefits from bike paths, even people who don’t use it, because it reduces strain on the road system, and that’s a very subtle argument that most people miss. It doesn’t matter who gets off the road.”

Q: “If we want to improve public safety and end crime in the community, addressing poverty and joblessness is far more effective than trying to increase police presence.  In fact, the evidence indicates that increasing or decreasing the quantity of police officers on the streets has little impact on crime rates and can be extremely costly (See Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and The Poor Get Prison).  What will you do to end poverty in Columbia?” – Submitted by David Overfelt.

Fifth Ward

Glen Ehrhardt: You need to focus on education, good schools, and jobs for adults teenagers to be employed at because if you aren’t working you aren’t getting a paycheck. As ac council person I would support economic growth to attract businesses. I think it would be important to focus on attracting new employers maintaining our current ones and increasing our workforce.
Helen Anthony:

I think we need to provide more affordable housing throughout the city. We should decentralize the poverty and move people out into the community – which means we need better transit.I support programs like Circles, run by Central Missouri Community Action. I really love the concept.  They provided mentors to low income families and acted as a guide for families – taking them out of the cycle of poverty by partnering them with people in the community. I’d like to see more of those kinds of programs.

First Ward

Pam Forbes: I want to get ready to bring good jobs to the people that are of lower income. I think it’s important that we bring jobs to Columbia, and they very well should be green jobs. I want to put a smelter downtown, we need jobs in this community, and all the empty housing is a direct indication of that. REDI is out there beating the bushes to get them here, but I really believe that we need to open a conversation with the community and encourage people and bring our an entrepreneurial spirit that will turn into an enterprise. Because if somebody could do that in the community they can make some bucks. Profits will stay local, and it would employ people that don’t have advanced degrees.  They could start will shuttle buses, and meet in parking lots and bring out jobs. I want to open up a conversation to encourage people to bring their ideas.

Darrell Foster: What we need to do is inclusion. African-American people are left out of the loophole in this city. I look at downtown, at the Chamber of Commerce, the business downtown are enablers to the polarization in this city. We need to be included in the decision–making, the business process, and focus on employment, education, and ballots. Inclusion of African-American males and females in the work force, in the decision making process, education, we need to be included in what’s taking place in Columbia. I think that black people, males and females, should get 350-400 of the 1800 jobs coming to Columbia (through IBM, Home Depot and MSA).

African-Americans make up 15-20 percent of the community, and we should get 15-20 percent of those jobs. Inclusion will bring about safety. We have a stale in what’s going on if we’re included, and then the safety will come along. Inclusion is one of the ingredients that will bring about safety.

Mitch Richards: I want to do everything we can to allow people to create jobs and engage in commerce. With the police, I would agree to some extent with the claim, I think if here in town, because we’re in such a difficult budgetary situation, which will be worse in the future, our priorities should be on violent and property crime, and de-emphasize nonviolent crime.

Ending poverty in this town, we have a lot of work to do. One big thing for me on a macro level, if we’re going to be using city resources to attract jobs like this IBM deal, we should be bringing the same resources to help people without fancy college educations.

Fred Schmidt: “It’s ambitious to say we’re going to end poverty, but we can certainly do things to alleviate it. One is through jobs and education, people need a way to support themselves, and that requires practical training for real jobs now. “

Q: What is your stance on the issue of city council stipends?

Fifth Ward

Glen Ehrhardt: I did not know about the stipends until after I chose to run.  So, it has zero bearing on my decision to run.  I think that there is a broad base of citizens that looked at this issue and presented it – and in the end I will abide but what the citizens say. I do believe that it does make sense for people to be reimbursed for certain things as a council person, so I will likely vote yes, but I have not fully decided yet.

Helen Anthony: I did not run for city council in order to get the stipend. I have been doing Planning and Zoning as a volunteer for three years and I intend on being a city council person as a volunteer.

That said – I think we should pass it.   The only reason is that the stipend provides the opportunity for people with childcare needs,  and people who could otherwise not afford it to run for city council, 20 hours a week is a lot of time.  I believe that city council would be better served by a more diverse group of people

First Ward

Pam Forbes: Because I haven’t served as yet, I don’t know if I can fully tell you, because I have no idea how much out-of-pocket its going to be. I think that the council people should have access to a stipend. Maybe a situation where you turn in a receipt, but you shouldn’t just get a check. They shouldn’t just write a check for it. In other words, I think you need to prove your expenditures.

Darrell Foster: I’m indifferent. I’m running the position to serve the citizens of the First Ward. It’s a non-paid position, I’m running to serve. If a stipend is something that comes about, we’ll have to look at it. When I win this election in April, I won’t be a part of that, unless I’m elected again. I’m running to serve the citizens of Columbia. I’m a member of the First Ward ambassadors, and we volunteer in our community all of the time.

Mitch Richards: My gut reaction, my initial reaction, I’m against them, I’m skeptical of them. If we want to spend money, we should be spending it on helping people or don’t spend it at all. My reaction to stipends is somewhat skeptical, but ultimately its something the people of Columbia will decide.

Fred Schmidt: “It won’t affect me because it doesn’t tae effect until 2014. I am, frankly, neutral on it. I can understand that argument of people who say that it would help. I can also understand the argument that it won’t make a lot of difference. I’m honestly not sure, I’m inclined to favor it because it might help people who otherwise couldn’t serve serve. Ultimately the people will decide, not me, because it’s going to be a ballot initiative.”


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