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February 05, 2010  BY Larry Schuster
Larry Schuster is a former city councilman and political observer. larryschuster57@hotmail.com

Larry Schuster is a former city councilman and political observer. larryschuster57@hotmail.com

It’s been awhile since my last column was published. First, a couple of courtesies are in order before the meat of change is considered for consumption.

Thank you to the Columbia Business Times for the opportunity to sound off and openly rant in its publication.

A second thank you is in order to all those who encouraged me to run for mayor of the great city of Columbia. Many went further than simply suggesting I jump in the race. More than 60 individuals made it into my “little blue book” of people who either committed to financially support the campaign, work on the campaign or go door to door with me. I am honored, humbled and encouraged that the resonant message of a restrained government focused on the core purpose of its existence is alive and well.

With the sale of my business to Marathon Building Environments came an opportunity to greet the most significant and time-consuming change in my life since the birth of my favorite second son. As planning for the new department ensued, a business plan was developing, and time-management issues were addressed; it became painfully clear that now was not the time to run for mayor of a city that has blessed my family so immensely.

The transition to a sophisticated, well-organized and professional team at Marathon is all of the change this middle-aged guy can handle for the moment.

So change is indeed the word for 2010 as it was for 2008 when voters gave Democrats more power. After a year of growing anger among the electorate, the result of the Republican upset in the special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts in mid-January seems to indicate that the “change you can believe in” has morphed into “I cannot believe my eyes.” If my father were alive to provide color commentary on the matters of today, he would be direct and to the point: “Just some more damned politicians; what did you expect?”

So too is change the word for our local economy, which has for years been sheltered from many tumultuous economic cycles. We find ourselves with strained budgets throughout every sector of our economy — public as well as private. Spending patterns have been curtailed, debt loads reduced, and the frugal ways of our parents, and in particular that of our Depression-era grandparents, have been embraced.

Our activist City Council is about to face an angry electorate. Warning signs loomed well ahead of the freefall of late 2008 and early 2009. Average wages have been slipping, under-employed personnel rates are trending up, and economic development has been all but obstructed by a City Council hell bent on stinking up the city with chickens rather than taking the time to truly discover what makes a historically speculative city successful.

We would rather salve our consciences with “green” notions than develop a strong, highly trained and skilled workforce and woo the industry to employ that workforce. As a community, we have come to disdain honest, hard work. If it does not require a college degree, we snub it.

This is the same elitist attitude that has led Rep. Chris Kelly to often declare that Boone Countians should embrace every tax increase scheme proposed in Jefferson City. It might be true that with the flagship campus of the University of Missouri — with its world-class medical, veterinary, engineering and agriculture schools and one-of-a-kind nuclear research reactor — in our midst that more tax dollars pour into our community than we contribute. However, rather than attending to the needs of both our city and state, we plunder and threaten our future with such self-centered behavior.

So change is what we need.

We can no longer afford council members who talk and puff so much that meetings run into the wee hours of the morning simply because members cannot shut up. We need council members who embrace opportunities such as the construction of Landmark Hospital. We don’t need council members who feed us crap that Landmark was a great project simply proposed in the wrong location.

We don’t need council members who foolishly create protected classes out of bicyclists, then wonder if they cast the correct vote and offer precious little in regard to the seasoned, visionary leadership necessary to focus our energies on the priorities of life here in Columbia.

We don’t need council members who, under the guise of populism, seek to introduce the basic element of corruption: political appointments of department heads.

And finally, is not crime prevention and apprehension of those criminals one of the fundamental duties of government? If we devoted simply half of the effort and energy to economic development and crime prevention that has dominated our efforts in the bicycle-path industry, can you imagine the change?

Goodness, I am for change. Nary a single one of the activist bums should be allowed a seat on the City Council. So here’s to a spirited, white-hot winter campaign season! See you at the polls.