I Smell A Rat

I was at the City Council meeting where the members of the Council voted unanimously to declare 60% of the City “blighted”.  Mayor McDavid amended a non-existent section of the resolution  (R20-12) to allegedly ensure that the designation of “blighted” did not affect most of Columbia, but his amendment (“inadequacies”) left most of R20-12 intact – since one of the sections he amended did not exist - and therefore the City Council ended up approving a resolution which designated over one-half of the City as “blighted”.  This was done at the request of REDI (Regional Economic Development, Inc) to enable certain manufacturers who wish to locate or expand here a tax exemption.  According to REDI poobahs, the only way this can be accomplished is to have an area declared “blighted”.

 Opponents of R20-12 state that this is just the first step down a slippery slope and it will make it easier for the City to exercise Eminent Domain (taking of private property, at fair market value) for public purposes.  The US Supreme Court, in the Kelo decision, ruled a “public purpose” could be a taking for an entity that would generate more taxes – ie, tear down a house and allow a factory to move in. 

The Good Old Boys – Dave Griggs, Hank Water III and their ilk – quickly defended the move asserting that this meant nothing other than an attempt to get manufacturers to locate here or expand.  Nothing to do with Eminent Domain.  They assert that current zoning will be observed and that no factories (zoning of I for Industrial) will be constructed in residential areas. 

So, who to believe? 

Regardless of whether or not this scheme is successful in luring more factories, the way this was accomplished is problematic. 

There was no scheduled public hearing – only those who usually access the Council meeting agenda spoke.  All were opposed to passage of R20-12.  The only ones who spoke in favor was…wait for it …  executives of REDI.  After those opposed spoke, the Council proceeded to a vote and R20-12 passed.  City Council members who typically oppose such shenanigans were taken off guard and ended up voting for this POS.

 Once again, several members of the City Council deferred to REDI and voted for a speculative resolution that may or may not produce much of anything.  If something does come to fruition, once again open and green space will be placed at risk, discharges will further foul our streams, the air will be polluted, and land stewardship will be compromised. 

All of this to maybe get a few lousy bucks.

Posted 02/28/2012

Ken Midkiff has been an environmental columnist for the Columbia Daily Tribune since 1994, was the Director of the Missouri Chapter Sierra Club from 1994-1999, the Director of the national Sierra Club Clean Water Campaign from 1999-2003, and is currently the Conservation Chair of the Osage Group Sierra Club and Chair of the Missouri Clean Water Campaign.  He has served on many boards, commissions, advisory committees at the local, state, and national levels.  The author of two books, “The Meat You Eat”  (St. Martin’s Press, 2004) and “Not a Drop to Drink” (New World’s Library, 2007), Midkiff continues to write for the KC Star, the Joplin Globe, the Springfield News-Leader, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Ponderings is a new online column by Ken Midkiff written especially for the Osage Group. Watch this space for more installments.

To read the Ponderings archive, click here