WHEN RESULTS are tallied tonight from the elections for Columbia City Council, the seven-member body will have undergone a dramatic transformation in a two-year period.
Two of the three seats up for grabs today are guaranteed to be claimed by newcomers because at-large Councilman Daniel Rickenmann and District 3 Councilwoman Belinda Gergel are stepping down. That means that the council will have added five new members since 2010, when voters elected a new mayor and two new council members.
Not only is change inevitable in politics, but it is often good. But how good — or how bad — is based on how well voters choose. At this point in the life of the city, Columbia needs thoughtful, visionary, energetic leaders who can make balanced and responsible spending, policy and strategic decisions. Not only must City Council deal with the issues of the day, but it also must plan for the future.
Whomever is elected must be prepared to tackle issues such as providing funding for infrastructure at the proposed Bull Street development and determining the role tax increment financing districts should or should not play in improving various communities as well as devising a way to keep the public bus system operating, making imperative water and sewer upgrades, balancing the budget given finite resources and spiraling health-care and other benefit costs, improving city-county relations and empowering the mayor to run the city’s day-to-day operations.
Here is a brief recap of The State’s endorsements.• At-large council seat. Cameron Runyan, who lists public safety, funding the bus system and building a vision for Columbia among his priorities, understands city government and displays energy and passion as he speaks of needing to plan not just two or 20 years down the road but 100. He speaks in like manner about city-county cooperation, noting that the governments should consolidate every service possible.
• District 3. Jennifer Isgett wants to bolster public safety, manage the city’s finances responsibly, fund the public bus system and allow a strong mayor to handle day-to-day operations. She is unequivocal in her opposition to TIFs and is definitive in arguing that if a sales tax is to be on the November ballot, it should be only half a penny, and all the money should go to the buses.
• District. 2. Brian DeQuincey Newman, who faces light opposition, has served ably since winning a partial term in a 2010 special election; we see no reason voters shouldn’t return him to the council.
To read our full endorsements and commentary on the elections, go to thestate.com/endorsements.