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.

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!

Second and Sixth Ward candidates discuss Columbia’s economy

Five candidates pursuing a seat on the Columbia City Council in the Second and Sixth wards met Thursday afternoon at the Chamber of Commerce to introduce themselves and assess the current economic climate of the city. Questions fired at the candidates focused specifically on the Columbia Regional Airport, public transit and other major issues ahead of the April 3 municipal election.

Mike Atkinson, co-owner of The Candy Factory and a member of the chamber; Bill Pauls, a self-described farm boy from Iowa who has lived in Columbia for a quarter century; and Michael Trapp, a substance abuse counselor with Phoenix Programs, are all in the hunt for Jason Thornhill’s Second Ward Council seat. An audience member at Thursday’s forum asked the candidates about plans to balance the budget.

Given the current budget issues, would you focus on raising revenue or redirecting funds that we have from other expenditures? 

Atkinson said he would not look to raise revenues.

“We don’t need to put any more stress on our economy,” he said. “I’m a big believer in the free market; we don’t need too much government interference.”

Pauls said he would take a more balanced approach.

“We need to address both sides of the issue, that’s our job,” he said.

Pauls said the city should consider adjustments to all sources of revenue as is needed.

Trapp said taxes shouldn’t be raised right now.

“We don’t want to tax out of the real economy and bring it into the government economy in down economic times,” he said.

The chamber posed to Sixth Ward candidates Barbara Hoppe, a tw0-term incumbent, and Bill Tillotson, an independent insurance agent, the question of what was the most important issue facing Columbia.

In your opinion, what is the greatest issue Columbia is facing, and what would your potential solution/solutions be?

Hoppe said that while the budget was under control and sales tax revenue was increasing, improvements at the airport were important to attract businesses to the community.

“I know specifically of some events and some employers that looked at Columbia — we were on the short list — and because of our airport, we fell off that list,” Hoppe said.

She said the demand for increased airport services underscored the importance of improving infrastructure as the city continues to grow. Tillotson echoed Hoppe, saying infrastructure was the key issue for Columbia voters. He cited the condition of roads, specifically, as a major concern.

“Obviously it’s important to the citizens of the city, and I think it’s important for visitors to our community as well,” Tillotson said.

A member of the audience questioned the candidates on the current state of public transit in the city.

In light of recent reductions in federal funds for public transit, can you comment on its future in Columbia?

Tillotson suggested looking at other countries as a model for assessing the transit systems and their environmental impact.

“If you pull up in a bus in Amsterdam, that bus is turned off as it sits at a bus stop or a red light,” Tillotson said. He suggested bringing a lot of different interests in the city together to improve routes and provide continued funding for the bus system.

Hoppe said that the transit issue was one that was particularly important in the Sixth Ward, where a lot of bus riders are students. She said that increased services during her tenure on the council averted potential traffic problems.

“If we had all those students driving, instead of on buses, no one would be going anywhere in the Sixth Ward,” Hoppe said. “It would be gridlock.”

For more on the candidate forum, read our coverage in The Missourian.

Daily Dish 05/09 : Parking garage safety meets codes

Parking garage safety meets codes – Columbia Daily Tribune

“The new 10-story parking garage at Fifth and Walnut streets, the scene of a late-afternoon suicide Friday, has safety features that meet building code requirements, a Columbia city spokeswoman said this morning.”

Columbia passeport clerk Wood retires after 27 years – Columbia Missourian

“Since 1984, Wood has been serving the Columbia community as a postal worker, primarily specializing in passport application services at the downtown post office.”

Upgraded bond rating will save money for city – Columbia Daily Tribune

“Securities rating agency Standard & Poor’s Rating Services gave Columbia’s Water and Light Department’s revenue bonds a slight bump in their risk rating, potentially saving the city utility money when it finances the purchase of the Columbia Energy Center.”

Columbia Imagined meeting tomorrow, public forum May 4

The Comprehensive Plan Task Force is meeting at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow at the City Hall Addition Conference Room 1A on 701 East Broadway.

The task force held its first public forum on April 19, to discuss Columbia Imagined, a six-phase planning process for the future growth and development of the city

If you missed the first public forum, a repeat is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 4, in rooms 1A and 1B of the new City Hall addition.

Watch out Columbia. It’s pothole season.

The Department of Public Works is working on repairing potholes as soon as possible, but they need to know where the worst potholes are at.  If you know of a particularly nasty one in your neighborhood or if you’re just tired of dodging that same pothole every morning on the way to work, report its location on the city’s website.

Daily Dish 3/1: Permits available for downtown garage

Plenty of permits remain as new parking garage opens — Columbia Missourian

“There’s plenty of room in the 10-story parking garage that opens Tuesday at Fifth and Walnut streets.  Of 522 permit spaces in the garage, 115 are sold, Columbia Public Works spokeswoman Jill Stedem said Monday.”

Incentives regarded as solution to sewage overflows — Columbia Missorian

“The city wants to reimburse property owners for removing illegal connections that send rain water into the sewer system and contribute to overflows from manhole covers.”

House OKs changes to minimum wage law — Columbia Tribune

“With a handful of Republican defections, the Missouri House gave first-round approval this morning to a top business priority — repealing the annual inflation adjustment in the state minimum wage.”

GOP pushes back at ‘Air Jay’ — Columbia Tribune

“The Republican assault on Gov. Jay Nixon’s travel habits continued unabated yesterday with detailed questioning in the General Assembly and the first attack ad of the 2012 campaign.”