Columbia City Council candidates sit down with residents

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COLUMBIA - Less than a week away from election day, and Columbia City Council candidates are still working to out hustle each other on the campaign front following two forums Wednesday.

Candidates from the first and fifth wards spoke before Columbia residents at the city's chamber of commerce and then later on at the Columbia Country Club.

The topics of conversation ranged from racial disparities in law enforcement to the use of red light cameras.

Candidates are competing for two, three-year terms and to represent from the following wards:

First Ward: Clyde Ruffin, Pat Kelley and Andrew Hutchinson.

Fifth Ward: Art Jago and Matt Pitzer (was not in attendance at the forums due to a family event.)

Following candidate introductions, the floor was opened up to audience for questions. One question that was of major concern for those in attendance was the stance the candidates took on community policing.

Here's what the candidates had to say.

"We need to get officers in the department who are able to devote that kind of energy and time to a community," Jago said.

"The whole purpose is to get deep into the community, to rebuild trust," Ruffin said.

"With a beat officer who is working to know a certain area, they are kind of being able to say more about what the community needs are," Kelley said. "I like that vision."

"The constant threat of police does not build better neighborhoods,"Hutchinson said.

Columbia resident Carolyn Mathews said these forums are vital right before elections.

"We like having this kind of free speech forum, encouraging the city council peoples to go more deeply into their beliefs and what they would do about it, rather than just, you know, sometimes what comes out in papers is pretty superficial," Mathews said. "Except when people go in-depth, and we appreciate that. But being in a discussion is another thing."

The election will take place next Tuesday on April 4.