Daily Dish: Aug. 13, 2012

Here’s a rundown of stories about city and county government that made the news over the weekend.

Proposed historic district rules cause property rights worries

Jacob Barker of the Columbia Daily Tribune reports on the fledgling debate surrounding city-initiated historic property designations.

Stream team volunteers clean up trash in East Campus

Jennah Sontag of the Columbia Missourian details a city-sponsored effort to keep garbage out of streams.

Construction on new Greenbriar Trail to begin soon

KOMU-TV8 reports on the latest trail project in Columbia.

Missouri School of Journalism news outlets collaborate on new election-related website

Project Open Vault, a cooperative effort of KBIA 91.3, the Missourian, KOMU-TV8, Newsy.com and the Reynolds Journalism Institute will aggregate election news and track spending on televised political ads in central Missouri leading up to the November election.





Boone County Policy Makers Breakfast

Folgers got it all wrong. The best park of waking up isn’t coffee. It’s a Policy Makers Breakfast at the Boone County Commission Chambers.

Dan Atwill, Presiding Commissioner of Boone County, opened the meeting by explaining the purpose of this breakfast is to have a dialogue to work smoothly between the different officials in Boone County and Columbia.

The three commissioners of Boone County were in attendance. Including Skip Elkin, Boone County’s District II Commissioner, who is back from serving on active duty with the National Guard.  The breakfast club also included Columbia council members, the mayor, and school board members.

Most of the communication at the meeting involved the construction of infrastructure surrounding Battle High School. The property is in the county but the city is heavily involved. A current issue is the stoplight, now installed but not functioning, at St. Charles Rd. and Battle Ave. The stop light, which is in the county, falls under their control but the county does not have any equipment to maintain a traffic light. No decision was reached how maintenance for the light will be paid for.

Other infrastructure projects include the intersection of Highway Z and St. Charles Rd. where there are plans for the construction of a roundabout with the help of state funds. There was talk of an eventual bridge over I-70 at Olivette. A lot of this presents peculiar problems for Boone County, which never builds roads but just maintains them.

The search for property for a new elementary school in Southwest Columbia continues. Due to storm water regulations the parcel of land would need to be about 30 acres.

City Manager Mike Matthes spoke of how all the parking spaces are now leased in the 5th and Walnut parking garage. He mentioned that since there is a demand it’s possible to raise prices. He also made a comment about the Columbia Regional Airport and how they are very close to some very exciting announcements. The members at the meeting concluded it would be a good idea to come try to make these meetings a quarterly occurrence.

Mapping 2012 City Council campaign contributions

Google Fusion Tables City Council campaign contributions 2012 map (link will open new tab)

Final campaign finance reports for the April 3 City Council elections were due to the Missouri Ethics Commission on Thursday. According to those reports, unsuccessful Sixth Ward candidate Bill Tillotson both earned and spent the greatest amount during the campaign, with totals of $33,519.50 and $27,245.51, respectively. His opponent, Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe, raised $26,272.16, including more than $8,500 in the final two weeks of the campaign, after Tillotson released ads accusing Hoppe of abuse of power in her involvement in a dispute between the East Campus Neighborhood Association and Beta Theta Pi fraternity over the height of their new house under construction on College Avenue. Hoppe spent $25,316 on her campaign.

In the Second Ward, which comprises the northwest part of Columbia, election winner and sitting Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp reported the greatest amount of contributions and expenses. His totals were $7,260.37 raised and $6,760.37 spent. Opponent Mike Atkinson raised $5,615 and spent $5,593.57. Bill Pauls opted for an austere campaign, saying at several campaign events that he was the “$3,000 dollar man” and would not spend a penny over that amount. Pauls met his goal, raising $2,885.27 and spending $2,536.27.

The Google map below, created using Fusion Tables and contribution amounts collected from the Missouri Ethics Commission, lists individual contributors to all campaigns, their address, their contribution amount and listed occupation. The “Filter” button that appears at the top of the map will allow you to limit results by these qualifiers. For more detailed instructions on how to use the filter tool, or any other questions about navigating the map, consult Google’s own guide.

The following key explains which color represents which contribution amount:

Green: $0 to $49
Yellow: $51 to $99
Red: $100 to $149
Purple: $150 or more

Click the map marker for more detailed information about each contribution.

View the termination reports, including final campaign contribution and expense figures, in .pdf form below. For more information, visit the Missouri Ethics Commission website or contact Missourian Public Life reporter Kip Hill via email. And, as always, thanks for reading!

Google Fusion Tables City Council campaign contributions 2012 map (link will open new tab)

Michael Trapp final report (.pdf)
Bill Pauls final report (.pdf)
Mike Atkinson final report (.pdf)
Bill Tillotson final report (.pdf)
Barbara Hoppe final report (.pdf)

How did we do that? Gathering data for our coverage of tax-increment financing

“There is terror in numbers. […] Perhaps we suffer from a trauma induced by grade-school arithmetic.”
-Darrell Huff, How to Lie with Statistics

The Missourian has just published a report outlining tax-increment financing, its history in Missouri and plans to increase the practice in parts of the city, including the entire First Ward. This piece was painted, in part, by data obtained through an open records request to the Missouri Department of Economic Development for figures from annual reports filed by cities statewide between 2007 and 2011.

Cities are legally obligated to file these reports, and in 2009 the Missouri General Assembly attempted to beef up enforcement and transparency by instituting a five-year moratorium on creation of new districts for non-compliant cities.

The data cited in the story and provided below constitutes only those reports submitted to the state. We have converted the original Microsoft Access files provided from the department into Excel files, so that they can be opened by Mac and PC users alike. Click the link below to download the desired Excel file (.xls). Your download should open in a new window.

Download 2007 Local TIF Report (.xls)

Download 2008 Local TIF Report (.xls)

Download 2009 Local TIF Report (.xls)

Download 2010 Local TIF Report (.xls)

Download 2011 Local TIF Report (.xls)

If you do not have a copy of Microsoft Excel, the .xls files can alternatively be opened using the open-source (and free to download) program OpenOffice Calc.

To show you how we arrived at the numbers provided in the article, we have also created a Word file (.doc) of query statements used in the MySQL database manager software and the results those queries returned. That download is available below and should open in a new window as well.

SQL audit trail for TIF story (.doc)

If you have any questions about the process of investigating the data or difficulty downloading the files, contact Missourian Public Life reporter Kip Hill via email. As always, thanks for reading!

How did we do that? Video interviews for City Council election coverage

“The power of the periodical press is second only to that of the people.”

-Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

The Missourian just posted video interviews conducted with the five candidates for Columbia City Council on March 14. We’d like to take the time to explain to you how those interviews came about.

When meeting to discuss what questions we wanted to pose to the candidates in late February, Public Life editor Scott Swafford, reporter Jacob Kirn and I came up with a simple solution: ask the readers.

With input from our community outreach guru Joy Mayer, the Missourian posted an online survey powered by Google. The results of that poll can be viewed here. Any names that were submitted for follow-up interviews have been removed from the Google form document.

As you can see, the response to the online survey was low. Our analytics suggest 93 unique users visited the page, and we received 19 responses to the online questionnaire. We also received 20 responses from paper forms of the survey handed out at civic club meetings, including the Columbia Kiwanis and Rotary organizations.

Accordingly, in designing questions for the Missourian video interviews, we took the survey responses with a grain of salt.

We tried to capture the interests of those who took the time to fill out our online survey. But we also drew from themes that emerged in our coverage of forums throughout the community and in speaking with the individual candidates about the issues they prioritized after meeting with residents of their ward.

The result was a seven-question survey in which we limited responses to 30 seconds or a minute, depending on the complexity of the question. Those questions were:

1. What strategies do you believe are most promising for supporting existing businesses and for attracting new business, industry and jobs to town? (60 seconds)
2. What are your thoughts about the consultant’s report last week that found low morale and problematic leadership in the Columbia Police Department? (30 seconds)
3. What are your perceptions about crime in Columbia? (30 seconds)
4. Responsible budgeting has been a consistent theme in the City Council campaign. If you are elected, what would be your budget priorities, and what areas do you believe are expendable or need attention? (60 seconds)
5. What more can the city do to ensure responsible growth? (60 seconds)
6. How much of a priority should affordable housing be for the City Council over the next three years? (30 seconds)
7. If elected (or re-elected), what will be your first priority upon entering office? (30 seconds)

Candidates were interviewed on the same day and then offered the chance to follow up on their answers and elaborate for our issues coverage, which will be posted leading up to the election on April 3.

Missourian photo staff members Andrew Mitchell and Dakota Dillon shot and edited the videos, using expertise us print folks can only dream about.

The Missourian is in many ways a lab newsroom. We strive to engage the community and our readers and to be transparent in our methods of reporting. Knowing that, there are several things we learned from this exercise that will inform our coverage in the years to come. Do you have any ideas about how we could have attracted more responses to our online questionnaire? Did we do enough to make sure your voice was heard in our election coverage this year? Tell us in the comments below or send an email to news@columbiamissourian.com.

And, as always, thanks for reading!

Help us cover the 2012 City Council races!

Yesterday, the Missourian published a questionnaire online asking readers to tell us which issues they’d like to see us cover for the 2012 municipal election coming up April 3. The issues readers decide are most important to them will guide our campaign coverage moving forward. If you have a few moments and are interested in telling us what we should be focused on, click the link below and fill out the form.

WHAT DO YOU THINK: What issues are important to you in the April 3 City Council elections?

Tillotson appears on “Mid-Missouri Freedom Forum”

Sixth Ward candidate Bill Tillotson appeared on the “Mid-Missouri Freedom Forum” radio program Tuesday afternoon, continuing his criticism of opponent Barbara Hoppe and talking in specifics about his platform ahead of the municipal election April 3.

Tillotson accused Hoppe, an incumbent, of allowing her personal beliefs to impede her ability to serve on the City Council dispassionately.

“Her personal agenda is the agenda,” Tillotson said. “It’s always made her decisions for her and other people making those decisions.”

Tillotson went on to say he thought Hoppe’s questions on the council were prepared by others for her, and that those in the audience would text questions to the Sixth Ward councilwoman during meetings.

“When that happens, it’s personal agenda,” Tillotson said. He added that Hoppe had used time during the previous council meetings to campaign for re-election, rather than add to the substance of the discussion.

“If you’ve attended the last two City Council meetings, both have become political platforms for Barb,” Tillotson said. “She’s actually taken political platforms up on City Council, using taxpayer money, taxpayer’s time, citizen’s time to listen to her talk about me and talk about why I shouldn’t be voted for…” Tillotson said.

He said evidence of this is in the minutes of the meeting, available on the city’s website. Minutes for the meeting Feb. 20 will be posted after they are accepted by the council at the beginning of the meeting March 5.

Program host Steve Spellman asked Tillotson about other issues that have arisen in Columbia over the past several weeks, including the use of tax incentives (such as the proposed Enhanced Enterprise Zones) to bring in business.

Tillotson said the use of such incentives would be necessary for Columbia to compete with other industrial centers in Missouri, pointing out the city has lost 3,000 manufacturing jobs in the last six years. He cited Springfield as an example of where Enhanced Enterprise Zones have provided a benefit.

“Go to downtown Springfield five years ago, and it was just a wasteland,” Tillotson said. “They stepped in with their EEZ and their TIFs (tax increment financing) and everything and turned Springfield around.”

Tillotson was hesitant, however, to show full support for Tiger Town as a way to increase the visibility of downtown Columbia. He said the city should wait a year and see the tourism inflow brought by the SEC before committing to such a project.

“Are we really going to see the flux of people?” Tillotson asked rhetorically. He added, “A lot of these people just can’t travel that far. It’s hard to get to Columbia.”

He did, however, acknowledge community support for the planned Crosscreek development, and said greater communication between developers and residents would increase public support for projects involving economic growth.

Tillotson also said he saw downtown surveillance cameras as a useful tool for local police, despite the freedom forfeited by visitors. He admitted to being issued a ticket for running a red light and being caught on a stoplight camera.

“Do I like the fact that we have to have cameras in our world? No,” Tillotson said. He went on to say they were instrumental in certain situations for police officers to keep the peace.

Tillotson also said he supported the Citizens Police Review Board, because it increases government transparency.

“It’s like any board and any commission,” Tillotson said. “You’ve got to have people who do not have hidden agendas.”

The “Mid-Missouri Freedom Forum” airs Tuesdays from 5 to 6 p.m. on KOPN, 89.5 FM.