Policy Platform (2019-2022)

Posted 28 October, 2018

I recently decided to run for re-election as the Fourth Ward representative on the Columbia City Council. This document lays out my policy platform.

My philosophy of public service is to listen to the concerns and suggestions of all constituents, integrate those ideas with my own experience and research in community building, and then develop policy positions and push for change that improves the quality of life for all Columbia residents.

Over the last three years, I have:

  • Helped establish the Columbia Community Land Trust, creating permanently affordable housing;
  • Advanced the creation of a city-wide community-oriented policing program, leading to less crime and better police relations in our strategic neighborhoods;
  • Spearheaded the adoption of Columbia's Vision Zero policy, setting a goal of zero traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030; and
  • Led a community conversation about poverty and racism.

As I look at the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for the City of Columbia, I plan to emphasize three main areas in my 2019 policy platform:

  1. Planning for Growth
  2. Equity in All Policies
  3. Constituent Engagement

Planning for Growth

Columbia is one of the most rapidly-growing cities in the U.S. Since 1980, we have almost doubled in size, and our annual population growth of 1.5 - 2.0% means we are adding about 2,000 new residents and between 500 and 1,000 new homes every year.

Such high-speed growth sustained over multiple decades has created problems in Columbia as annexation and new development (both sprawl and in-fill) have outstripped our ability to conduct proper community planning. As a result, we have inefficient land-use patterns, dangerously under-funded public infrastructure systems, and long-time residents who have not been given adequate opportunity to provide input on the process – or be heard.

The good news is that Columbia is the kind of community where people want to live, bringing economic investment and new, progressive ideas into the city. However, that desirable situation will not continue unless we address critical growth-related issues with some urgency.

Cost of Infrastructure

It costs about $35,000 to build the public infrastructure for each new home in Columbia. This is the amount the City and School District spend to expand the capacity of the sewer system, water and electric utility, fire protection, schools, roads, etc. to accommodate population growth.

Unfortunately, our current ordinances only recover between $5,000 and $10,000 per home in development impact fees. The remaining cost of infrastructure expansion is charged to existing residents through our taxes and utility rates - since we are building up to 1,000 new homes every year, that amounts to an annual subsidy of about $25 million. One of the main reasons the City is struggling financially is because that $25 million is not available to repair our existing infrastructure or pay adequate wages to staff such as electric line workers, police officers, and trash collectors.

In my time on the Council, I have led the charge to ensure new development pays its fair share of the cost of growth and we have some real traction right now. A recent constituent survey shows overwhelming support for this policy and my proposal that we conduct a “Growth Impact Study” and implement appropriate development fees and connection charges was included in the current City budget.

I believe these changes should be enacted incrementally, and in collaboration with developers.

Compact versus Sprawl Development

Even if we recover the cost of infrastructure expansion from new development, we have a separate problem that is related to the pattern of development in Columbia.

Annexation and low-density sprawl over recent decades have led to a low population density (fewer than 2,000 residents per square mile) and high per-capita infrastructure costs. It is very expensive to keep up with maintenance of hundreds of miles of roads and sewer pipes, our under-staffed Police Department has more than 65 square miles to patrol, and we need to keep building new fire stations in order to keep response times down.

Columbia residents have called for an emphasis on "smart growth" development, and yet these principles have not yet been enacted in the City Code. As the city continues to grow, it would be wise to guide those private investment dollars into more compact, mixed-use, and pedestrian-friendly designs. We must protect our existing established neighborhoods, while encouraging the creation of transit-oriented “urban villages,” with small-scale shops and services, at the nodes. Minimum parking requirements are not helpful – they should be reduced or eliminated where possible.

It will also be critical to plan for more efficient transportation options. Improving conditions for walking and bicycling, and expanding public transit services will stimulate local economic development, make transportation more affordable, improve public health and quality of life, and reduce our carbon footprint.

With the exception of transit, we have made progress in these areas in recent years. Looking ahead, I believe we need to do more to integrate these principles into our long-range planning process, while continuing to study and discuss the advantages of compact development.

New Comprehensive Plan

While the City's most recent Comprehensive Plan, Columbia Imagined, included goals related to the cost of infrastructure and in-fill development, many of the strategic implementation steps were missing.

However, we will have an opportunity to correct that when we start developing our next Comprehensive Plan within the next 1-2 years. As previously, the Community Development Department will facilitate a multi-year community engagement and planning process to create the "People's Vision of Columbia for 2040."

I will work hard to ensure everyone's voice is heard in this process and represented in the new plan.

Equity in All Policies

In 2016, I voted with a unanimous City Council to adopt a new Strategic Plan, focused on social equity.

Unlike “equality,” the concept of “equity” recognizes the differing needs of different people. Historical injustices and other factors have perpetuated severe disparities in economic opportunity, neighborhood safety, health status and student achievement. The goal of this initiative is to correct these disparities and make Columbia a place where “all families ... can thrive.”

Our initial efforts in three neighborhoods where residents face the greatest challenges have been successful. By adjusting the City's budget priorities, we have been able to engage residents, implement community-oriented policing, and fix infrastructure deficiencies. Crime is down and citizen satisfaction is up - these residents are better connected with the City, and better able to contribute to society and the local economy.

However, we have a long way to go, if we want to create real opportunity for everyone! Poverty and injustice are still deeply embedded in our community - in order to dismantle these disparities, we will need to center "equity" in all our policy and budgeting decisions. I have several specific strategies for moving forward.

Inclusionary Zoning

Columbia's affordable housing shortage is an enormous barrier to families getting out of poverty.

More than 12,000 rental households in Columbia (about 57% of all renters) and about 3,500 owner-occupied households (23%) are "cost-burdened" by 30% or more. Because at least 30% of their income goes to housing and utilities, these families and individuals are in a fragile economic situation and at high risk of becoming homeless. Because the housing market is unable to provide affordable housing on its own, government can and should help address this problem.

In 2016, we established the Columbia Community Land Trust (CCLT), which uses federal grants and other sources to purchase land, partners with non-profit housing developers (such as Jobpoint, Habitat for Humanity, and CMCA), and then sells the homes to qualified low-income purchasers while retaining ownership of the land. This approach creates permanently affordable homes, but the CCLT is very limited in the number of new units it can construct each year.

A more productive (and complementary) strategy for creating affordable housing would be to adopt an "Inclusionary Zoning Policy." Under this type of ordinance, a private developer who requests a building permit for a subdivision or apartment project involving multiple dwelling units is required to make a certain percentage of units (usually 10%) permanently affordable. An alternative version of the policy offers incentives (such as increased density allowance and reduced parking requirements) to developers if they build affordable units.

In communities that are growing rapidly (like Columbia), Inclusionary Zoning is a very effective tool for increasing the number of affordable homes and creating more integrated neighborhoods, which has been shown to reduce socio-economic inequities. I plan to prioritize efforts to adopt an Inclusionary Zoning policy in Columbia.

Community-Oriented Policing

The "Disproportion Index" for Columbia's African American drivers was 4.30 in 2017, according to the Attorney General's Vehicle Stops Report. That means that, if you are African American in Columbia, you are more than four times more likely to be stopped by a Columbia Police Department (CPD) officer than if you are White.

These disproportions may be due to a whole host of causes related to CPD's internal procedures, as well as racial profiling by individual officers. To help us understand and resolve this distressing issue, I called for the City Manager and Police Chief to conduct an analysis of the data, develop an explanation for the racial disproportions, and present their findings to the public and City Council.

On the whole, I was pleased with the presentations given by police officers during the August 23 Work Session. They demonstrated that they receive more reports of crime and calls for service in African American neighborhoods than the average for Columbia. As a result, patrol officers are more frequently dispatched to these areas, where they spend a disproportionate amount of time, and issue more tickets - mostly for minor offenses.

However, several important policy questions remain unanswered:

  • Does swarming these areas with police officers actually help prevent crime?
  • How many of the "investigate stops" and "pretext stops" conducted by officers generate leads that help solve crimes?
  • What impact does this strategy have on the vast majority of law-abiding residents of these neighborhoods who are stopped by police officers over and over again?
  • How effective is this strategy, when compared with an alternative approach in which officers build trust and positive relationships with neighborhood residents?
  • What does all this have to do with community-oriented policing?

Having spearheaded the creation and championed the adoption of Council Resolution R 23-18, "Declaring the City Council's support for community-oriented policing, ... and directing the City Manager to design a citywide community-oriented policing program for Columbia," I hoped these central questions would be addressed in the report written by Sgt. Robert Fox this summer, under the supervision of City Manager Mike Matthes.

However, I was disappointed in the report because it failed to engender a collaborative spirit between the police and community, and often presented an “us vs. them” mentality, which is the exact opposite of a community policing philosophy. I felt this response to the Council’s call for change missed the opportunity to chart a new vision for CPD that will better serve police officers and the public. We still have a lot of work to do.

Looking for some specific next steps to move this process forward, I was impressed by the Lincoln, Nebraska Police Department's 2017-21 Strategic Plan, which is included as Appendix C in the Community-Oriented Policing Report. This 20-page document, which was developed by a 43-member Strategic Planning Committee made up of sworn personnel, civilian staff, and community stakeholders, defines a common vision for the department, as well as attainable goals in four focus areas:

  • Community Policing
  • Staffing and Facilities
  • Technology
  • Training

In contrast, CPD's Strategic Plan (included as Appendix B) consists of brief vision, mission, and values statements that have not, to my knowledge, received any community feedback. Therefore, I believe we should assemble a diverse planning group consisting of police officers at all levels, residents from various different neighborhoods, and community stakeholders, and engage an experienced facilitator to help us develop a new CPD Strategic Plan that will define Columbia's community-oriented policing philosophy, training program, and internal policies and procedures.

Public Transportation Funding

Columbia's public transportation program was desperately under-funded before City Council against my recommendations imposed severe service cuts in the current budget.

Our operating budget (per capita) is between one-fifth and one-third of the amounts invested in transit in other college towns such as Lawrence, Champagne-Urbana, and Ames. As a result, our level of service (frequency, hours of service, coverage of routes, etc.) is so poor that the only people using the bus system are those with no other choice!

However, if we were to increase the public transit budget and put on additional routes so that most residents lived within a 5-minute walk of a bus stop, so that buses were coming every 15-20 minutes and operating 7 days a week including late evenings, then we would see a significant increase in ridership as taking the bus would become much more attractive for many people. Improving public transportation in Columbia would enable low-income families to access work, education, health care, and other services more easily and more affordably. Since the average cost of owning and operating a car in the US is $9,000 per year according to an analysis by AAA, it would also enable some families to save a lot of money by reducing the number of cars they own.

I do not believe we can realistically increase taxes for public transportation at this time. My preference is to re-allocate some of the sales tax revenues that go to the Columbia Regional Airport. While I supported this large public subsidy when the airport was struggling several years ago, things have changed dramatically:

  • Enplanements have increased ten-fold in the last ten years, and there are now 16 departures and arrivals every day;
  • In addition to $3 million in annual transportation sales tax revenues, the airport receives $700,000 from the lodging tax increase passed by voters in 2017;
  • It is also in line for federal grants totaling tens of millions of dollars within the next few years, for construction of a new terminal.

With the improved financial condition of the airport, and a dire situation for transit, I believe it is time to reconsider the allocation of transportation sales tax funds.

Full-Time Paid Council Members

In 2014, the City of Columbia introduced Council stipends. As a result, the Mayor receives $9,000 per year and the other Council members receive $6,000 each.

While the stipends provide some compensation for the many hours of work it takes to serve on the Council, they fall far short of providing a living wage. This means you effectively have to be independently wealthy or retired on a pension in order to take on this job, greatly limiting the type of people who are given the role of representing the whole of Columbia.

Therefore, in order to expand economic, cultural, and social diversity on the City Council, and thereby expand equity in all of our policies, I propose incorporating full-time, paid City Council positions into the City budget, starting in 2022 or 2023.

With the population of Columbia approaching 150,000, now is the time to make this decision.

Constituent Engagement

The proper role of City Council members is to serve the residents they represent.

Therefore, I have always taken constituent engagement very seriously and invested a lot of time and energy in effective communications. As I plan for another term on the City Council, I shall continue to listen carefully to constituents and facilitate an open and honest dialogue on all issues.

Web Site

I maintain a web site where residents can read about City issues, review my position on specific policy questions, sign up for my newsletter, and check the dates of upcoming Constituent Conversations.

Monthly Newsletter

Throughout my six years on the City Council, I have written a monthly electronic newsletter for constituents with an interest in local public policy.

I use this newsletter to discuss current policy issues, share my thinking on how the City of Columbia should address specific challenges, and ask constituents for feedback. Periodically, I design online surveys to collect more in-depth information and opinions from residents.

Everyone is welcome to sign up for the newsletter and there are now more than 2,700 residents on the list. About half of these recipients live in the Fourth Ward with the others living elsewhere in Columbia or Boone County.

Archived newsletters are available at my web site.

Constituent Conversations at Dunn Bros. Coffee

Two or three times every month, I host an event called Constituent Conversations at Dunn Bros. Coffee on Forum Boulevard.

The sessions are from 2:00 – 4:00 pm on Sunday afternoons and no appointment is needed - constituents are invited to drop in, enjoy a cup of coffee on me, and discuss City issues. I like to facilitate these discussions as one large conversation, involving everyone who’s in attendance, often as many as 10 or 20 folks. Each person has the opportunity to introduce a specific policy topic or question, I provide information and share my thoughts on the issue, and then we open it up for everyone else to weigh in.

Dates for upcoming Constituent Conversations are always available at my web site.

Constituent Questions and Requests

Every month, I receive between 30 and 50 specific questions and requests, ranging from “Can you fill this pot-hole on my street?” to “What are the laws regarding Air BnBs in neighborhoods?”

If I know the answer, I respond immediately. If not, or if it is a request for some action by City staff, I have a system for obtaining official responses from Department Directors. Although the turn-around time for some of these enquiries can be a few weeks, I make I sure get a reliable response to every one.

If elected for another term, I will continue to make all of these constituent engagement channels available and look for other ways to ensure everyone’s voice is heard.

Policy Priorities (2016-2019)

Summary of 2016-2019 policy priorities:

  1. Analyze the costs and benefits of growth by creating transparent tools that calculate available capacity and public investment in infrastructure
  2. Incrementally raise development fees for roads, electricity, water, and sewer to cover at least 50% of the cost of expanding infrastructure for growth
  3. Adopt a "smart growth" zoning code that is predictable and encourages dense, mixed-use, transit-oriented, and affordable development
  4. Create "Public Ombudsman" position to inform and empower neighborhood voices and fairly mediate development disputes
  5. Engage the community in a public safety planning process to set goals and develop a strategic plan for CPD, that are supported by voters
  6. Propose a property tax for law enforcement to fund the strategic plan, including community policing, consistent with public input
  7. Create an "Office of Equity" to implement the City's strategic plan for social equity through a focus on underserved neighborhood, community policing, diversity in hiring, etc.
  8. Host a social entrepreneurship recognition event and encourage REDI to emphasize support for social businesses
  9. Create a Community Land Trust to provide permanently affordable homes, as recommended at the Affordable Housing Symposium
  10. Offer incentives for affordable and mixed-income housing construction, such as expedited permitting and development fee discounts
  11. Expand City funding for public transit operations and engage Missouri Students Association and MU Administration to participate in the costs and benefits
  12. Adopt a Vision Zero Policy to protect pedestrians and bicyclists, and improve traffic safety for all modes of transportation
  13. Maintain ambitious renewable energy goals and achieve them by investing economic development resources in clean energy production
  14. Adopt a resolution supporting carbon pricing and lobby Missouri's congressional delegation on the importance of a progressive national energy policy

During the spring of 2016, based on hundreds of conversations with constituents, I developed fourteen policy priorities for the next three years. Please read the vision statement and list of current problems in each of seven key areas of City government that led to these proirities.

In order to evaluate/confirm public support for these proposals and identify which were the most popular, I conducted a Policy Priority Survey in June, 2016, and received responses from 104 constituents. Here are the results.

Infrastructure

Vision Statement: The financial burden of building and operating the City's public infrastructure systems will be equitably allocated such that the systems are maintained in good condition and expanded as required by growth.

Problems to be Solved:
  • City spends ~$15 million/year to expand infrastructure systems for growth
  • Development impact fees only cover about 20% of this cost and remainder is funded from general rates and taxes
  • There is inadequate funding for repairs and maintenance, so existing systems are in poor and deteriorating condition
  • Residents feel City staff approve developments when inadequate infrastructure capacity exists
Policy Priorities:
  1. Analyze the costs and benefits of growth by creating transparent tools that calculate available capacity and public investment in infrastructure
  2. Incrementally raise development fees for roads, electricity, water, and sewer to cover at least 50% of the cost of expanding infrastructure for growth

Growth and Development

Vision Statement: Columbia will grow in a manner consistent with community values, as defined in the Comprehensive Plan, and disputes over development proposals will be resolved through fair and transparent processes.

Problems to be Solved:
  • Columbia has an extremely low population density (2,000/sqmi)
  • Low-density sprawl leads to unsustainable public infrastructure costs and is unattractive to the millennial generation
  • Some developers have "ridden roughshod" over neighborhood objections, and have been rewarded by P&Z Commission and City Council votes
  • Residents are disempowered in the development approval process, and do not trust City Hall
Policy Priorities:
  1. Adopt a "smart growth" zoning code that is predictable and encourages dense, mixed-use, transit-oriented, and affordable development
  2. Create "Public Ombudsman" position to inform and empower neighborhood voices and fairly mediate development disputes

Public Safety

Vision Statement: Columbia Police Department (CPD) will have adequate budget and staffing level to implement a comprehensive community policing strategy and work in partnership with residents to prevent crime.

Problems to be Solved:
  • CPD is understaffed/overworked and officer morale is low
  • Residents want CPD to implement a community policing philosophy, but feel the City does not listen to them
  • Community policing requires higher levels of staffing and training, but yields multiple societal benefits including enhanced crime prevention
  • Voters have low confidence in leadership and rejected tax increase in 2014
Policy Priorities:
  1. Engage the community in a public safety planning process to set goals and develop a strategic plan for CPD, that are supported by voters
  2. Propose a property tax for law enforcement to fund the strategic plan, including community policing, consistent with public input

Social Equity

Vision Statement: All Columbia residents, including historically-marginalized groups, will have expanded access to good jobs, safe neighborhoods, and the opportunity to contribute to the success of the community.

Problems to be Solved:
  • Unemployment in Columbia is 4% for Whites but 15% for Blacks
  • More than 50% of Columbia schoolchildren qualify for free or reduced lunch
  • Inequitable federal, state, and local policies make it almost impossible for racial minorities and poor Whites to escape from poverty
  • Social entrepreneurs, working to correct these problems are not supported
Policy Priorities:
  1. Create an "Office of Equity" to implement the City's strategic plan for social equity through a focus on underserved neighborhoods, community policing, diversity in hiring, etc.
  2. Host a social entrepreneurship recognition event and encourage REDI to emphasize support for social businesses

Housing

Vision Statement: Low-income Columbia families will be able to afford to rent or own houses in safe neighborhoods without risking eviction, and children will have stable homes, so they can thrive in school.

Problems to be Solved:
  • Columbia has a severe shortage of affordable housing
  • More than 15,000 Columbia households (57% of renters and 23% of owner-occupiers) are "cost-burdened" - meaning more than 30% of their income is consumed by rent, mortgage, and utilities
  • Hundreds of Columbia school-children are homeless, resulting in lower educational achievement and decreased opportunity for future economic success
Policy Priorities:
  1. Create a Community Land Trust to provide permanently affordable homes, as recommended at the Affordable Housing Symposium
  2. Offer incentives for affordable and mixed-income housing construction, such as expedited permitting and development fee discounts

Transportation

Vision Statement: Levels of service (LOS) for walking, biking, and taking the bus in Columbia will be increased so that residents have a genuine choice between several viable modes of transportation for journeys within the city.

Problems to be Solved:
  • Fewer than 10% of trips in Columbia are taken by walking, biking or transit
  • COMO Connect's level of service (LOS) is so poor that no-one uses the bus unless they have absolutely no other options
  • Most University of Missouri (MU) students commute by car or use parking shuttle, unlike college towns with a student activity fee for transit
  • In a recent period of just 6 months, 4 pedestrians were killed and 6 others were seriously injured
  • Many low-wage workers in Columbia use taxicabs for commuting to and from work
Policy Priorities:
  1. Expand City funding for public transit operations and engage Missouri Students Association and MU Administration to participate in the costs and benefits
  2. Adopt a Vision Zero Policy to protect pedestrians and bicyclists, and improve traffic safety for all modes of transportation

Energy and Environment

Vision Statement: Columbia will be a national leader in reducing carbon emissions and transitioning to a clean energy economy - creating sustainable local jobs and improving the public health in the process.

Problems to be Solved:
  • Climate change, caused by the combustion of carbon fuels, represents a serious threat to human existence
  • Cities and towns like Columbia will be on the front lines in the fight to mitigate the catastrophic human impacts of climate change
  • Columbia Water and Light, and other public and private energy utilities are responding too slowly to scientific realities because of an outdated culture and the power of special interests
  • Proposed national economic policies that put a price on carbon emissions are very promising but need local support
Policy Priorities:
  1. Maintain ambitious renewable energy goals and achieve them by investing economic development resources in clean energy production
  2. Adopt a resolution supporting carbon pricing and lobby Missouri's congressional delegation on the importance of a progressive national energy policy
Ian leading a meeting
- Photo by Benita Brown

Campaign Platform (Spring, 2016)

I have identified public safety, infrastructure, local economy, and social equity as the most pressing policy issues facing the City of Columbia today. These priority areas also provide the framework of the 2016-2019 City of Columbia Strategic Plan, which is fitting, since I took a leadership role in developing that plan. In the following sections, I will describe my position on each issue - positions that I have developed based on my own instincts, research in best practices, constituent and community dialogue, and my first-term experience on City Council.

  • Public safety: Public safety is the primary role of local government. I support increased funding and increased staffing levels for our Police and Fire Departments to bring Columbia into line with similar cities. I also believe it is essential to move quickly towards a "community policing" model, like the one I observed in Gainesville, FL, during a recent Chamber of Commerce trip. This philosophy starts with pro-active outreach into the community to build trust between law-abiding residents and enforcement officers, and emphasizes alternatives to arrest and prison for minor offenses. In this model of law enforcement, significant effort is placed on crime deterrence in addition to crime response.
  • Infrastructure systems: Columbia's infrastructure systems are in poor condition. Much of our storm water, sanitary sewer, and transportation infrastructure is aged, poorly maintained and rapidly deteriorating. Constituents in the Fourth Ward and elsewhere endure flooding, sewer overflows, and crumbling roads in part because revenues from current rate-payers and taxpayers are often directed to building infrastructure for new development at the expense of fixing existing problems. I will campaign to ensure a more equitable balance between these competing needs. I will also work with the University of Missouri to improve our public transportation system, so that college students have a reliable alternative to private cars. Having fewer student drivers on our roads will allow us to use our limited transportation dollars more efficiently.
  • Local economy: The local economy determines our collective quality of life - everyone needs a reliable income and secure housing. Unfortunately, these basic essentials are not available for a significant proportion of Columbia residents. Unemployment among African Americans stands at 16% (versus 4% for Whites), about half of all Columbia schoolchildren are living in poverty as measured by eligibility for free or reduced lunches, and we have a desperate shortage of affordable housing. To improve economic opportunities for all, we need to provide suitable training, create more entry-level jobs, and invest in local entrepreneurial initiatives — especially those that keep our dollars in Columbia, such as those involving renewable energy and the local food system. This is a critical moment - while Columbia is growing rapidly, outwardly affluent, and with an engaged citizenry, many of our constituents are disengaged - for them, the day-to-day economic struggles consume their time and effort. As a Council, we must be responsible and responsive to all citizens.
  • Social equity: Social equity means we must create the conditions under which every Columbia resident has the opportunity to succeed. The issue surrounds the other three. In public safety, it's important for law enforcement officers to understand how the poverty trap leads to criminal activity, and to use evidence-based community policing strategies that prevent crime. Public funding for building and maintaining our infrastructure systems should be allocated more equitably, so that low-income neighborhoods are not neglected and low-income people receive the services they need. And, in the area of creating an equitable local economy, the City of Columbia must lead by example, by developing and implementing hiring policies that provide more opportunities for minority and low-income youth.

First-term accomplishments (2013-2016)

  • Responsive to Residents: Since joining the City Council in 2013, I have worked hard to respond effectively to every communication I receive from Fourth Ward residents and others. In addition to sending an initial acknowledgement to every enquiry within a few days, I have a system through which I forward more technical questions and requests I cannot answer (10-20 every month) to City staff. I then follow up with constituents, as indicated, depending on staff’s detailed responses and action on constituents' concerns.
  • Homelessness and Affordable Housing: There are about 100 chronically homeless people in Columbia, and one-third of households are "cost-burdenend," meaning rent or mortgage payments consume more than 30% of their income, putting them in an extremely insecure financial situation. With Columbia's annual growth rate of 2.5%, hundreds of new homes are being built every year - however, almost none of this additional housing stock is affordable for the 12,000 cost-burdened rental households or the 3,500 cost-burdened home owners. I have taken a leadership role in this area, by initiating a process that led to Columbia's first Affordable Housing Symposium, pushing for Council's discretionary funds to be used to support the Room at the Inn (RATI) emergency winter shelter, and also volunteering there along with members of my family.
  • Reducing Public Subsidies for New Development: In 2014, I conducted a research study and released a report showing that new development receives between $10 million and $15 million per year in public subsidies for water, sewer, electric, stormwater, and road infrastructure. These funds, collected from current ratepayers and taxpayers, are used to build capital projects that expand the capacity of our public infrastructure systems directly because of population growth. Since completing this study, I have led the effort to roll back these subsidies so that new development pays a fairer share of the costs, including successfully passing a policy that will increase sewer connection charges so that they will eventually cover 75% of the cost of new sewer capacity. I fought a losing battle last November over Proposition 2, however, which would have increased the roads development charge, which currently covers about 10% of the cost of road expansion, to approximately 20%. I am now working with City staff to develop an Electric Utility Line Extension Policy, which would function like an electric connection charge (which we currently do not have).
  • Adopting and Implementing Community Plans: I believe strongly that high-quality local government requires on an authentic process of community engagement, coupled with development, adoption, and measured progress of action-oriented plans, based on transparent interpretation of community input. I believe the three-year process that led to the City Council's 2013 adoption of our Comprehensive Plan, Columbia Imagined, was a model of good planning and I have been a champion of its nineteen policy recommendations (which include increasing affordable housing and requiring new development to pay a fair share of infrastructure costs). Other recommendations I have worked to implement include neighborhood planning, mixed-use and form-based zoning, growth management, open space preservation, expanded public transportation, and local economic development initiatives. I also led Council efforts to develop and adopt the City's 2016-2019 Strategic Plan, with its focus on "social equity" - in fact, this plan provides the framework for my current policy platform.
  • Leadership on Race and Equity: Over the last few years, I have become aware of the enormity of the economic disparities in Columbia, the hopelessness of those in poverty, and the fact that much of the inequity stems from unjust racist policies and structures, some of which persist today. Therefore, I was not especially surprised when MU students started protesting against racism on campus, but it did give me the impetus to start a discussion of the difficult issues of racial and economic equity, and ask how the City should respond. In my view, race and equity may be the most difficult policy issues of our time, but they cannot be ignored. Columbia's 2016-2019 Strategic Plan gives us a great foundation for this important work.

Philosophy of public service

  • Community: As an experienced community builder and facilitator, I believe strong neighborhood associations are critical to ensuring that citizens and their elected representatives have an open and effective communication channel. I support an expansion of community policing, including walking and bicycling beats, to maximize citizen-police interaction and prevent and address neighborhood crime. And traffic solutions must be acceptable to the neighborhoods they will impact.
  • Innovation: Through my work as a health and transportation advocate, I am familiar with dozens of progressive communities around the country that have developed innovative solutions to common community challenges. Form-based zoning, health impact assessments, transit-oriented development, and multi-jurisdictional planning are some of the strategies that have been successful in resolving conflict, promoting local economic development, and creating healthy and sustainable communities.
  • Balance: The key to successful government is to balance the concerns of constituents. As your City Councilperson, I will ensure that students' needs are balanced with those of community members; that developer priorities are balanced with neighborhood concerns; that economic development is balanced with health and sustainability. When an organization is in balance, it is best able to serve the needs of its members and respond effectively to external forces.