“Big Brother is watching you now.”

Columbia held our annual municipal election on Tuesday, and the results have caused some controversy around here. On the ballot were two City Council seats, the mayor’s office, and a slate of local propositions, the most disturbing of which would allow the police department to install surveillance cameras in the downtown area in an effort to “deter crime.”

The Columbia Missourian made an extremely helpful graphic that breaks down the results precinct-by-precinct.

Proposition 1, the surveillance camera ordinance, was controversial for many reasons. Concerns were raised over civil liberties, sunshine requests, the actual effectiveness of the cameras in deterring or solving crimes, the crowd of people who were pushing for passage, and other matters (for background, I’ll again do some self-promotion and point you in the direction of letters-to-the-editor I wrote in the Missourian and The Maneater, MU’s student newspaper). As you can see from the Missourian’s results graphic, the proposition failed in the areas around downtown (for the most part, the precincts in the middle of the map that start with “1”), passed by slim margins in the areas immediately surrounding that, and racked up large margins in favor in the precincts at the edge of town.

There were similar trends seen in the mayoral and City Council elections. Columbia’s politics are largely dominated by the development vs. smart growth factions. The environmentalist (“hippies,” if you will) want to slow growth in the city and halt sprawl. The developers want to take advantage of Columbia’s unique economic climate to bring in more business and jobs. In this election, the candidates largely fell along these same lines, with the four credible mayoral candidates splitting between the pro-business (Bob McDavid and Paul Love) vs. the pro-smart growth (Sid Sullivan and Jerry Wade). The Council candidates also split this way. The map shows that Sid Sullivan and Jerry Wade won precincts in the city’s downtown core, and kept it closer in the precincts that surrounded them, but McDavid racked up large majorities  in the outer precincts that propelled him to an overall majority, something no one really expected in a six-way (well, four-way, since one candidate dropped out and another wasn’t really trying) race.

The Council seats also split around what the Missourian called the “donut-hole” of central Columbia.The divide between the central areas of the city and the outlying areas, which tend to be more conservative, more newly developed or more rural (depending on the area) and more quickly growing than the rest of the city, has shown to be very stark. Much moreso than in previous elections, where the results tended to be more mixed and less geographically defined. One resulting question from this election is whether this trend will continue and how it will effect city politics in the future.

This was also the first time the Chamber of Commerce had made endorsements in a city election, and the winners were the Chamber-endorsed candidates, who won the largely conservative fringe precincts and who raised the most money. The Missourian has some very interesting stories today about the impact of money on the election and whether it is because the city is getting bigger (the population surpassed 100,000 last summer). “Are these the kind of politics Columbia should come to expect?” seems to be the other predominant question in the wake of the election.

The near-term implication seems to be that for the first time in a long time, the Council will have a pro-development majority.  In addition, these signs have been plastered all over downtown in the wake of Prop. 1’s passage:

The signs from Downtown Columbia in the wake of Prop 1

This all proves that there’s really never a dull moment in Columbia.


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