The 1st Ward candidates in the City Council election on April 5 are as diverse as the area they hope to represent.
A toolmaker, an accountant, a translator and a community activist are running to replace Paul Sturtz in the 1st Ward, which covers the downtown business district, the MU campus, an arts district and a large area of low-income neighborhoods.
In the 5th Ward, two lawyers are competing for the seat vacated by Laura Nauser in a relatively homogenous and affluent area of southwest Columbia.
The issues discussed during the campaign were similar in the two wards, though the planned construction of a power line is perhaps the most divisive issue in the southwest region.
At a recent candidate forum hosted by the NAACP, questions centered on improving infrastructure, creating jobs, increasing diversity in government and how to ensure the 1st Ward is given the same quality of services as the rest of the city.
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 18 percent of the 84,531 people living in Columbia identified themselves as non-white. In the 1st Ward, 32 percent of respondents, or 4,593 people, said they were black, Native American, Asian, Hawaiian, bi/multi-racial or other.
In the 5th Ward, only 12 percent, or 1,716 people, identified as non-white. Although the 1st Ward comprises less than 17 percent of the total population of Columbia, it is home to almost 30 percent of respondents who defined themselves as being non-white.
To help voters decide who to choose at the polls next week, here is a breakdown of the Council candidates and some of their positions:
Helen Anthony | Planning Advocate
- Member of the Planning and Zoning Commission for three and a half years. Wants to make the current land-use policies and zoning regulations more user-friendly
- Although she would like new power lines to be buried, she isn’t sure that’s fiscally responsible.
- Says the city is perfectly positioned to become an “entrepreneurial hotbed”; supports efforts of REDI. During a Columbia Board of Realtors forum, she said the city should provide exactly the right amount of tax incentives to prospective businesses to ensure it doesn’t cost too much in the long run.
- According to her website, “while some see planning as a limit on growth, Helen sees it as an opportunity to build on the strengths of our community”; also says expanded infrastructure is necessary for future development.
- Worked as an attorney in Boston and was a member of a hospital board of trustees before moving to Columbia in 2003
- Top priorities: Planning for growth, economic progress and quality of life
- Raised $14,629 for her campaign as of Feb. 24
Glen Ehrhardt | Institutional Favorite
- Endorsed by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the Columbia Police Officers’ Association and the Columbia Professional Fire Fighters Political Action Committee
- Opposes power lines being put into neighborhoods where they aren’t already in place
- Says the Council must “work to build bridges to attract economic growth, instead of creating barriers” and continue working with REDI to attract development
- Is the former chair of the Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs Committee and a board member of the Boys and Girls Club and Chamber of Commerce
- Has lived in Columbia for more than 30 years; law firm partner in Rogers, Ehrhardt & Weber
- Top priorities: Economic growth and job creation, decreasing crime and maintaining vitality of neighborhoods and parks
- Raised $7,185 for his campaign as of Feb. 24
Fred Schmidt | The Numbers Guy
- Has money-management experience as a bond analyst on Wall Street, a statistician for the Federal Reserve and the owner of an accounting firm with numerous small-business clients
- Describes current zoning and permit regulations as difficult, adding that the “community loses by unnecessary delays and complexity”
- Says the city must match willing people with training and jobs to curb unemployment in 1st Ward
- Is treasurer for the Missouri Bicycle Federation and Fun City, a member of the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission and a graduate of Rock Bridge High School
- Was the assistant treasurer for Karl Skala’s unsuccessful reelection campaign for the 3rd Ward seat last April
- Top priorities: Fixing the city budgeting process, creating jobs, providing access to job training, improving public transit and increasing development
- Raised $8,547 for his campaign as of Feb. 24
Mitch Richards | Civil Liberties Champion
- Says the city needs to cut down on bureaucracy and “support local entrepreneurs by keeping government out of the way”
- Active member of Keep Columbia Free, which formed to fight against the proposition to install cameras downtown
- Opposed the Taser ban initiative and said it is a violation of the Second Amendment
- Endorsed by former 1st Ward Representative Almeta Crayton; local blog Columbiaheartbeat.com described him as a “young lion of liberty” for his support of privacy rights and government transparency and accountability.
- Has lived in Columbia for three and a half years; is self-employed as an English language coach and translator for French corporations
- Top priorities: Attracting jobs, dealing with city budget problems, decreasing crime
- Raised $690 for his campaign as of Feb. 24
Darrell Foster | Community Activist
- Says downtown businesses owners enable polarization in the city by not hiring minority employees
- Member of the 1st Ward Ambassadors
- Lived in Columbia for 18 years; works at Watlow Electric Manufacturing Company
- Was removed from the committee tasked with finding a new Columbia police chief in 2008 because of prior criminal convictions
- Top priorities: Increasing diversity in downtown businesses, which he says will improve safety by providing jobs for the unemployed in his ward, and improving infrastructure in the ward
- Had not raised enough money to have to disclose campaign contributions as of Feb. 24
Pamela Forbes | Voice of the Working Class
- Cites experiences as a single mom as way she will “bring the views of working class, lower and fixed-income families” to the Council
- Moved to Columbia in 1976; works as a toolmaker at Schneider Electric
- Member of the 1st Ward Community Development Commission
- Top priorities: Improving safety through at-risk youth mentorship, increasing access to opportunities for low-income residents and repairing infrastructure and housing in the 1st Ward
- Raised $995 for her campaign as of Feb. 24