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From the Roundtable: Angry voters might decide hotly contested local races

From the Roundtable: Angry voters might decide hotly contested local races

Al Germond is the host of the "Sunday Morning Roundtable" every Sunday at 8:15 a.m. on KFRU. [email protected]
For the first time in many years, Columbia is about to embark on an exciting mayoralty election. Dr. Robert McDavid has moved to the starting gate to challenge front-runner Jerry Wade for this key position on election day, April 6.
With all due respect for their participation, the other candidates can be ignored by voters interested in Columbia’s future. Now we have two thoroughbreds whose residency dates back to the 1960s and who are both rather familiar with their adopted city.
Although this skirmish could be the most expensive municipal election to date, low-cost Internet tools such as Facebook and Twitter will give both candidates and their constituencies new opportunities for public debate and discussion.
Both candidates came here to study at the University of Missouri. Wade is from Havelock, Iowa, and is more familiar with municipal affairs with stints on the Planning and Zoning Commission and as councilman from the Fourth Ward. McDavid hails from De Soto, Mo., and is chairman of the Boone Hospital Center’s Board of Trustees. He is best known as the primary brinksman who several years ago led the trustees in a delicate but successful financial dispute with that institution’s lessee, BJC of St. Louis.
One key issue in this election is the developing power struggle between the Council and the city manager. The latest iteration was a proposal floated and then postponed to change the city charter so council members have more authority over the city manager in hiring and firing department heads.
Utterances from some members of the Council have alarmed some of us, though we relish the overall discussion. Of course, much will be determined by who ends up representing the Third and Fourth wards. Karl Skala is facing his old challenger for a return engagement on the northeastern ward while multiple candidates are seeking Councilman Wade’s old seat in southwest Columbia.
The proposal to install surveillance cameras downtown could be the tipping point that determines who will be the next mayor. Wade has opposed the cameras and is siding with a slim majority of his peers. (The Council rejected the idea, but because of a petition drive, it will be on the April ballot). In favoring downtown surveillance cameras, McDavid is backed by the parties who initiated the petition. Their concerns about crime and safety coincide somewhat with the more frequent appearances of miscreant mug shots in the afternoon daily newspaper.
The desire for change might be more dominant by April 6. Turnout will be enhanced by an unusually heavy list of ballot items including a huge school bond issue. Incumbencies could be challenged by the occasional voter who decides to show up that day piqued by any number of nagging gripes and concerns.
This will be the Constituency of the Angry, and those people will be drawn to vote because they dislike some person or some thing. It could be stoplight cameras, enhanced police activity including speed enforcement, something to do with bicycling or maybe how a particular candidate or issue happens to hit them that day. The next 10 weeks will be very interesting indeed.

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