Chadwick’s Douglass Park Prohibition

Yesterday I posted and then deleted a story regarding First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick’s proposed Douglass Park alcohol ban. It included 20-some photos of Councilwoman Chadwick consuming alcohol around town and across the country along with a couple of screen shots of posts from her page extolling the virtues of alcohol. The intent was to expose the hypocrisy of Columbia’s white councilwoman who often drinks quite publicly and who is working to ban public alcohol consumption in Columbia’s central city park, a park long frequented by Black citizens who live in the area. Sadly some readers missed the point.

After posting the article, it just felt wrong. It was too dirty. It was a low blow to pull several photos from the councilwoman’s Facebook page and post them for all to see, regardless of how disgusting her move to ban alcohol in Douglass might have been. There were many innocent bystanders in the photos. I thought better of it and pulled the post down.

Politics is a dirty business, to be sure, and dirty often wins, but I just don’t want to go to that place any more. Believe me, I’ve been there before. It ain’t pretty.

With that said, I’m still not above having a little fun to make a point, so I’ll include a quick meme…

293105_10150358406763033_406964_n copySo we’ve established that Councilwoman Chadwick has mastered the art of consuming alcohol in public. This is not meant to shame her for choosing to do with her body as she wishes — i.e. consume alcohol — lots of it — publicly. It is meant to shame her for the hypocrisy of drinking in public while working to limit the ability of others, namely the Black citizens who frequent Douglass Park, to do the same.

Councilman Fred Schmidt, Chadwick’s friend and predecessor once spoke of his desire to ban alcohol in Douglass Park, but quickly forgot the proposal after a significant public outcry led by Keep Columbia Free.

Since Chadwick has renewed the effort, many have pointed out the drunken public mayhem that ensues on any given Saturday during college football season. Drunken college kids and sloshed middle-aged tailgaters stumble through the streets between Downtown and Faurot Field, most of them white and most of them affluent. The post-game apocalypse leaves the ground covered with beer can fallout and barf. This, of course, is how we roll in the SEC. It’s a sacred tradition. Who cares if the University Hospital trauma center is overrun with alcohol poisoned young adults and other alcohol-fueled injuries? It’s SEC football, damnit.

Compare that to the usually mild-tempered bar-b-ques in Douglass Park and the park looks mild. Yes, the skin tones are usually a bit darker and the participants a bit less affluent, but what’s the difference? Why allow one but not the other? Could Chadwick’s proposal simply be more white, so-called liberal paternalism (or maternalism as the case may be) from our First Ward leadership? And at what cost?

Local First Ward homeowner Ellie Moore recently commented regarding some possible real but unintended consequences that might arise if Chadwick’s proposed ban were to be successful. Ms. Moore pointed out the likelihood that police might arrest or otherwise cite someone from the neighborhood for drinking in the park. Given what we know about the overtly racist application and prosecution of our nation’s Drug War, bad enough that it has been dubbed “the new Jim Crow,” there is a high likelihood that a black male might have a felony record. “This ordinance might leave a few more children fatherless,” she said. That is a real possibility. More needless laws, more needless prohibitions increase the likelihood of a run-in with police. As most black males in the First Ward and around the country will tell you, those run-ins usually don’t turn out well.

Please let Ms. Chadwick know that you do not like the idea of prohibiting alcohol in Douglass Park. Her email is Ward1@GoColumbiaMo.com. Her phone number is (573) 999-2641. If you feel like faxing, use (573) 442-8828. Sound off, folks!

 

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Homeowners Should Sue The City Of Columbia for Damages

The widely unpopular Opus student housing development in Downtown Columbia has ruffled myriad feathers for myriad reasons. The City bureaucracy headed by City Manager Mike Matthes and his assistant Tony St. Romaine first claimed that Downtown infrastructure could not handle one more toilet. They used this infrastructure emergency in an effort to justify a hurried TIF corporate welfare plan. Once the TIF plan was defeated, the City then flip-flopped and approved hundreds of new toilets in the form of both large student housing projects and upscale urban flats for the well-paid young professional. Despite the shenanigans on the part of city leaders and bureaucrats, experts agree that Downtown electric and sewer infrastructure is already maxed out.

Opponents of Downtown development are especially rankled at the notion of student housing. They claim that the University will fail to fill the beds in years to come and the buildings will become a ghetto, despite the fact that they are located within two blocks of the Mizzou campus and only six or seven blocks from the other two campuses. They argue that these developments fly in the face of local central planning schemes laid out in the past. They argue that citizens simply don’t want student housing in Downtown Columbia. They argue that the tall buildings will be unsightly. They argue that there was not enough public input during the approval process. They argue that downtown will be overrun with students and lose its wider appeal.

While any or all of their complaints may be true, there stands one other complaint against downtown development that seems to hold water — pun intended. The fact is our city’s sewer and stormwater infrastructure is already overburdened. It seems that real damages have resulted from the City’s failure to follow precedent and provide these basic services. At least this is the only argument that might pass muster for someone who believes in the sanctity of Natural Rights and the Common Law. Remember, liability for damage one does to an adjacent property is nothing new and was a feature of the Common Law in the United Kingdom and the early United States.

Several homeowners in the First Ward with homes in the Flat Branch Watershed have found themselves on the receiving end of some rather nasty consequences of overdevelopment. When it rains more than an inch, lawns and gardens are washed away by stormwater overflows that rush like rivers across private property. Many homeowners enjoy basements flooded by both stormwater and raw sewage. Homeowners have even reported cleaning toilet paper from their basement floors after a hard rain. Property values must suffer.

During heavy rainfall sewers also overflow manholes and wastewater escapes into the Flat Branch Watershed and eventually into the surrounding ecosystem, spreading poison far and wide. Water, we must remember, is a transient resource. When water is poisoned at point A, the poison eventually travels to point B. In almost every case, one simply cannot poison one’s own groundwater without poisoning one’s neighbor’s groundwater. When sewage overflows into the Flat Branch Watershed, everyone in the area is a victim.

It is time for First Ward homeowners whose private property has been harmed by the City’s mismanagement of funds and failure to provide adequate infrastructure to band together and file a lawsuit naming the City and its leaders as defendants liable for damages. Perhaps Josh Oxenhandler, a local attorney who has represented those opposed to student housing, would take the case for free or on a contingency. Considering the wider harm caused by sewage overflow into the local watershed, perhaps a wider cross section of local citizens might have standing as plaintiffs.

One thing is for sure, citizens pleading with the City to do something reasonable does not work. Petitioners standing in line to sign names on a sheet of paper is futile. The only remedy is a lawsuit.

When Opus threatened a lawsuit, the City snapped into compliance with the Opus agreement. Perhaps they were simply using the lawsuit as an excuse to do what they had planned all along. It will be interesting to see if the City responds in the same way to a multi-million dollar lawsuit filed by citizens.

 

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Ryan Ferguson Camp Sunshines CPS Documents

Keep Columbia Free recently received correspondence from Ryan Ferguson’s family which included a very thorough dossier regarding Ryan being banned from visiting Columbia’s Hickman High School campus. Ryan had been scheduled for an interview with journalism students in November of 2013, but the visit was nixed by the administration.

The packet we received included a timeline of events and supporting documentation that seemed to suggest that the official story parrotted by the CPS administration was less than truthful. At least that’s the compelling conclusion reached by the Ferguson camp.

Keep Columbia Free broke the story back in November and the news of the ban unleashed a firestorm of displeasure from supporters of freedom and liberty across the country.

Since receiving the packet, Keep Columbia Free has learned that Journalism teacher, Mrs. Pettlon-Acopolis, who by all accounts was doing a fantastic and passionate job, has been reassigned and is no longer teaching Journalism.

The entire dossier is included below. It can also be accessed by clicking HERE

Was Hickman HS correct in their decision to ban Ryan Ferguson?

Those derned automated responses at 3AM!

typos

 

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Mayor McDavid Throws a Tantrum

If you have followed the happenings at City Hall you are surely familiar with the student housing vs. downtown infrastructure fight that is taking place.

In a nutshell, some big, out-of-town developers sought approval to build some large apartment buildings geared toward students in Downtown Columbia. Initially our City Manager, Mike Matthes, declared that the existing sewer and electrical infrastructure was at maximum capacity and without the corporate welfare of TIF, development would stop. He told us there was no “Plan B.” The TIF plan was rejected and magically, only days later, Matthes announced “Plan B” and a couple of large developments were whisked quickly through the approval process with little chance for public input.

Enter Jeremy Root and the Repeal 6214 group who claimed that the City had failed to follow due process, rushing the projects to approval without the opportunity for the public input required by the City Charter and precedent. They also claimed that the private student housing developments will be poorly built and would soon turn into Section 8 slums. Root and company drew up a petition seeking to overturn the ordinance that approved the new buildings and quickly gathered more than enough legitimate signatures.

Fearing that their development would be stopped by the proponents of central planning, Opus, the group behind one of the large developments, began boisterous saber-rattling with threats of a multi-million dollar lawsuit aimed at the City. Coupled with the fact that Repeal 6214, the group charging that the City failed to follow the letter of the law during the approval process, themselves failed to include the full ordinance in their petition as required by the City Charter , we’ve got ourselves a real mess.

If we can accept the notion that it’s the City’s job to build basic infrastructure, which seems to be the model we are working with in Columbia, then the City should do just that. Leave the rest alone. If the idiots who run our city are put in charge of regulating the real estate market, nothing good can come of it. It’s the City’s fault that basements are flooding, not the developers. If the City bureaucrats and elected officials choose to do the bidding of developers — blame the City.

Mayor Bob McDavid

Mayor Bob McDavid

When it comes to childish comments, Mayor McDavid’s statement to the media regarding the Opus threat of litigation really takes the cake. In response to the threat, Mcdavid said:

“There is the cost of litigation, and it’s really, really going to irritate me if we’re hiring attorneys to manage the expense of this lawsuit instead of police officers and firefighters”

Really, Bob? You’re throwing a temper tantrum? You’re really threatening to cut public safety dollars if the city is sued by a developer? Your failed leadership is really to blame for this mess and now you’re trying to steer the ship of public opinion with this childish threat? Really?

How about we take money from your silly FastCat pet project? How about we stop funding the renovation of the Blind Boone home? How about we stop building giant parking garages that would be empty except that the City leases spots to its own departments? How about we not pay for the CID’s silly Gateway project? How about we not buy homeless shelters? How about we prioritize the way this City spends tax dollars by fully funding basic sewer and electric infrastructure and our police and fire departments before we fund anything else?

 

 

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Picking Winners and Losers: Karl Skala and Downtown Development

Buried deep in the Columbia City Council agenda for the upcoming April 21st meeting is an interesting item added to the agenda at the request of 3rd Ward Councilman Karl Skala.

B116-14 Authorizing a right of use permit with BMT of Columbia, LLC for installation, construction, improvement, operation, use, keeping, maintenance, repair and replacement of approximately 350 lineal feet of two-inch PVC sewer force main to extend in portions of an alley right-of-way located north of Broadway, between Tenth Street and Short Street; authorizing a right of use permit with BMT of Columbia, LLC for construction, improvement, operation and maintenance of private storm sewers in portions of the Tenth Street and East Broadway (1007 E. Broadway) rights-of-way. [Intro & 1st Read/Skala Memo]

At first glance, it looks like basic infrastructure — the type of drudgery that is usually ignored by most of the public, especially late in what is sure to be another marathon council meeting. But further investigation — ahem — reading the supporting documentation — ahem — reveals that Mr. Skala is proactively pushing for a new downtown, 5-story, mixed-use building that will house 36 beds and no additional parking. Residents will use the city-built and city-funded Short Street Garage.

skala1

Karl Skala

Wait, our City Manager Mike Matthes told us that without a TIF for infrastructure, Downtown development would stop.

Without a TIF, downtown development stops. “Plan B is no development downtown,” he [Matthes] said.

As we all know, this was untrue because only days after the TIF plan was rejected, the City approved two student housing projects totalling over 600 beds and tabled another 700-bed project. This, of course, prompted an initiative petition to repeal the ordinance from the folks at Repeal 6214, but that’s another story that most readers are familiar with already.

Mike Matthes

Mike Matthes

The interesting piece here is that Skala voted against each of these proposed downtown developments, despite the fact that both of them met current zoning ordinance requirements. Skala seems to have since changed course and is now spearheading support for a separate 5-story development proposal which is apparently more to his tastes.

Mr. Skala, a self-described statist, is obviously throwing a proverbial bone to a “local” developer, but why? He’ll probably claim that he is merely supporting the “type” of development that citizens want. He’ll likely claim that existing infrastructure, infrastructure that we’ve been told is hopelessly maxed out, can handle a new 5-story building.

The reality is that this bone is likely a meaty bone of political expedience. Skala is giving a nod to a local developer, attempting to allow BMT to cut in line ahead of 2000 legal beds that came down the pipe of public permission first. Perhaps this move will help fund Skala’s reelection campaign. At least it will allow him to claim to be pro-development when he is labeled as the opposite due to his voting against other projects.

Keep Columbia Free believes that, in a perfect world, the government would not tinker with the free market. Unfortunately, the world we live in is not perfect and the market is not a free one. What is clear is that in the world we’ve inherited locally the best thing for the council to do is simply level the playing field and let the chips fall where they may. If we need infrastructure, build it instead of spending our money on projects like parking garages, historic homes of unknown musicians, and useless “safety” cameras. It is unacceptable for a councilman to handpick which private developer will profit and which will not, regardless of how that choice might affect his reelection chances.

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Save Rock Quarry Rd.

Rock Quarry Rd. may be the last remaining scenic drive in Columbia. Most everyone in the area is familiar with the old road that winds through the grand wooded hills and valleys south of the University. What most do not know is that our local government is hatching a plan to change all of that — supposedly in the name of safety.

The flags are out and trees are marked for removal. Concerned citizens contacted Public Works to see what was afoot and were told by Director John Glasscock that the road is going to be widened. This comes after a 2011 report that stated no change to the road was warranted.

The accident rate on Rock Quarry — determined through a complex formula — is 37 percent higher than the state average; however, according to the report, redesigning the road for safety would not be considered prudent until the accident rate exceeds twice the state average.

Rock Quarry Rd. is narrow and curvy to be sure. Couple that with an uptick in traffic from ill-conceived, behemoth student housing projects at the road’s south end and the rate of traffic accidents starts to climb. Sure, there are better-lit, wider, and straighter thoroughfares to choose from, but for the late-night run from downtown for those headed south, the dark relatively un-policed road is inviting.

The Columbia Police Department has requested a new study for updated accident statistics, apparently concerned about driver safety. Linked here is story from 2011, when the discussion about Rock Quarry Rd. was taking root.

The report indicated the leading causes of accidents on the road were speeding, inattention and drunken driving, accounting for 55, 25 and 23 accidents, respectively.

But is the road really the problem? Are we tax payers really responsible for the poor driving skills and lack of good judgement on the part of drivers who venture down the old road during the wee hours? If the safety of ill-equipped and sometime impaired drivers is really our concern shouldn’t we bulldoze, flatten, and pave everything?

Roughly half of the accidents resulted from vehicles hitting fixed objects such as ditches or trees.

And do people really need to be walking and cycling on Rock Quarry Road? Who are these people?!?!

Commission members also expressed concern that the road lacks accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists.

This all seems like a silly waste of money that may drive down the property value for those who own homes along the quaint and scenic path. Implementation of this plan would be a waste of scarce resources at a time when the City is complaining about a lack of funds for updating long-ignored infrastructure in the central city.

Should we allow our government to butcher the last remaining scenic drive in our city simply because developers built student housing on a road that could not support the traffic?

I say we save everyone the headache, heartache, and money and simply post a large and well-lit sign at each end of the road bearing the message, “SCENIC ROADWAY: NARROW ROAD WITH DANGEROUS CURVES AHEAD. DRIVE WITH CAUTION.” Then we can sit back and let nature take its course.

Let us at least brainstorm for some less invasive means to make the road safer while preserving the scenic and real value of existing properties. The government answer is always to use a sledge hammer when a small finishing hammer will get the job done with more finesse and less mess.

Please contact your City Council representative and tell him/her to leave Rock Quarry Road alone.

 

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Banning Ryan Ferguson From Hickman: The Rest of the Story

After most media accounts failed to report the whole story surrounding Hickman Principal Dr. Tracey Conrad’s decree forbidding Ryan Ferguson to set foot on the school campus during the school day, it seems important to present the facts. Read the blog post that started it all HERE.

Ryan Ferguson

Ryan Ferguson

The district bosses are doing some serious backpedaling, mounting a public relations assault that attempts to present the entire incident as a big misunderstanding. Big boss Superintendent Belcher even went so far as to accuse Keep Columbia Free of posting “an erroneous report.”

 

Belcher said he was surprised and disappointed when a local blog posted an erroneous report saying Conrad banned Ferguson from the school. He said that led to many “negative, hateful emails to some of our staffers.”

Chris Belcher

Chris Belcher

Well, Superintendent Belcher, this community is not surprised, but certainly disappointed that you chose to use your public pulpit to accuse Keep Columbia Free of spreading false information. I guess it is easier to deny mistakes and berate the work of the citizen journalist instead of simply admitting that your staff made a glaring mistake.

The good news is that most people don’t buy the explanation that Mr. Ferguson “wasn’t really ‘banned,’ we just told him he couldn’t come.”

So, what does it mean to be banned? The Oxford Dictionary defines “ban” as:

Ban: Officially or legally prohibit: officially exclude (someone) from a place

For instance, The City of Columbia has banned smoking in all businesses during business hours. Smokers must go outside and smoke on the sidewalk. In the same way, Dr. Conrad has banned Ryan Ferguson from visiting Hickman during normal school hours. The interview with the school paper must be done outside the school boundaries, perhaps at the neighboring McDonald’s.

bannedphones

It is clear that Ryan Ferguson was “banned” from Hickman High School. The district is attempting to say he was only banned from the school during class hours. If this were the case, why did Dr. Conrad suggest the interview be conducted as McDonald’s? Even if Mr. Ferguson was only prohibited from visiting during school hours, he was BANNED during those hours. That is not an erroneous claim. If anyone is making erroneous claims, it is Chris Belcher and his administration.

Here is the timeline of Keep Columbia Free’s involvement:

Wednesday 11.20.2013, evening: A Keep Columbia Free volunteer was approached by a Hickman student who was upset at being told the interview with Ryan Ferguson had been cancelled by the school principal. The student said that Dr. Conrad had said that too many students believed he was guilty and his presence at Hickman would be a class disruption. The student said that when Ryan’s Mother, Leslie Ferguson, was told that Ryan was not welcome on the Hickman campus, she said that if her son could not come, she did not feel comfortable visiting the school.

Tracey Conrad

Tracey Conrad

Wednesday 11.20.2013, 9:30-9:45PM: A Keep Columbia Free volunteer sent emails to several Hickman teachers and Dr. Conrad requesting comment and verification of the student’s story.

Thursday 11.21.2013, 9:34AM: A reply from a Hickman teacher was received verifying the story told by the student. The teacher declined to make a comment about the story and referred KCF to Dr. Conrad for comment.

Thursday 11.21.2013, mid-afternoon: Keep Columbia Free decided to go ahead with the story after receiving no response from Dr. Conrad explaining her decision.

 

Thursday 11.21.2013: The story began to receive viral attention via social networking sites, garnering over 1200 “likes” in the first few hours, and fielding nearly 8000 page views by midnight. Keep Columbia Free alerted the local media about the growing story.

Friday 11.22.2013: The viral spread of the blog intensified with the post receiving nearly 19,000 visitors in a 24 hour period – over 26,000 hits since originally posted. The post received over 4000 “likes” and was shared via Facebook and Twitter several thousand times. Radley Balko of the Huffington Post tweeted the blog to his followers as did Ryan Ferguson’s attorney, Kathleen Zellner. All day, call and email floods targeting CPS were being spontaneously planned by Ferguson supporters across the country. Unfortunately, some of these calls and emails were reportedly hateful and borderline threatening. Keep Columbia Free does not condone hateful and/or threatening calls or emails to any person or group.

balko tweetzellner

Friday 11.22.2013, late-morning: After receiving a flood of calls and emails denouncing Dr. Conrad’s decision and receiving a protest letter from the student staff of the school newspaper, Superintendent Belcher, his staff, and School Board Member Helen Wade meet with the newspaper staff and reach a compromise stating that Ryan Ferguson can visit the school before and/or after regular school hours.

The Local Media:

What we at Keep Columbia Free found quite amazing was the markedly lackluster reporting done by the local main-stream media. After Keep Columbia Free uncovered, researched, blogged, and tipped off the local MSM to the story, the role that we citizen journalists played was summarily ignored. Traditional journalists should be able to work peacefully, hand in hand, with citizen journalists, not against them.

Click HERE for the KOMU story that indicates the outrage came from thin air.

The Missourian also ignored the role of the citizen journalist. Read their account HERE

The Tribune’s original story HERE makes no mention of the blog, but the followup story HERE contains at least a backhanded jab at the blog from Superintendent Belcher.

The Complaint:

There are a few unanswered questions surrounding the original complaint(s) that prompted Dr. Conrad to ban Ryan from the school. Some of the media accounts linked above indicate that Dr. Conrad fielded complaints personally. The rather lengthy Missourian article makes it clear that the complaints were fielded by John White, the district’s safety and security director.

Conrad said she learned of the interview Wednesday afternoon when John White, the district’s director of safety and security, told her about parents objecting to Ryan Ferguson’s presence on campus.

White told her that parents contacted him to say they wouldn’t send their children to school Thursday if Ryan Ferguson were there.

Conrad said she expressed her concerns to the journalism teacher at Hickman. Later Wednesday night, Conrad talked with a student in the journalism class on the phone and further explained her reasoning.

This passage indicates a few interesting things.

First, Dr. Conrad didn’t know about the interview as of Wednesday morning. This would indicate that the plan to interview Ryan was not common knowledge around the school. This means that there was little likelihood of some sort of major disruption.

Second, Dr. Conrad found out about the complaints fielded by White on Wednesday morning and called off the interview by early Wednesday evening. This brings into question the notion that Dr. Conrad was overrun with concerned parents and students – enough to reasonably indicate that there would be a disruption if Ryan visited the campus.

Third, the complaints were fielded by Security Chief John White. White is a former officer of the Columbia Police Department, an agency with a great deal of time and emotion invested in the prosecution of Ryan Ferguson. Is there any formal record of these complaints?

Another source inside the Columbia Public Schools administration contacted Keep Columbia Free with some information regarding the source of the complaints which prompted the ban. Apparently the family of slain Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt was the source of the original complaint. This begs the question - How did the Heitholt family find out about the interview before Dr. Conrad?

As more information comes in, we will share it here. Stay tuned.

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