Columbia voters to decide mayor, school board, other issues Tuesday

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COLUMBIA — A little more than three weeks after voting in the presidential primaries, Columbia voters will return to the polls Tuesday.

Most notably, voters will choose a new mayor. Incumbent Bob McDavid announced he would not seek a third term in September 2015.

Political advisor Brian Treece and attorney Skip Walther will face off for a three-year mayoral term.

Treece said he would have three main priorities as mayor:

  • Downtown Development
  • Public Safety
  • Jobs for underprivileged/underemployed workers

Treece is a self-described "fiscal conservative" who said he would be a drastically different mayor than Walther or outgoing Mayor Bob McDavid. He said he would work to change what he calls a "zoning loophole," that allows developers to build student housing projects without the city's approval.

If elected, Walther said he wants to focus on the following issues he thinks the city has not been able to focus enough on because of population growth:

  • Transportation 
  • Infrastructure 
  • Roads and sidewalks 
  • Outdated sewer systems

“My leadership style is to work with people cooperatively rather than antagonistically,” Walther said. “I’m not running for mayor because I have an agenda or intend to represent any special interest group or specific group of people."

Two city council seats will also be voted upon.

In the Third Ward, incumbent Karl Skala will go against challenger, pastor Tom Leuther.

Skala promises to deliver on issues facing public safety, economic development and infrastructure, especially in parts of the city he feels often get left out of discussions.

Leuther's platform is based on public safety funding, job creation and economic growth, especially downtown.

In the Fourth Ward, incumbent Ian Thomas is the only candidate actively campaigning. Challenger Daryl Dudley suspended his campaign on March 23 after he failed to correctly report large campaign contributions. Thomas previously unseated Dudley in 2013.

Voters will also decide a tax levy that would increase taxes by $0.65 per every $100. The ballot language says the money would go toward "general school operating purposes, including maintaining current programs, providing support for an increasing student enrollment and assisting in recruiting high-quality faculty."

If this proposition is approved, the district’s adjusted operating tax levy ceiling is estimated to be $5.1437 per $100.

Another education proposition, a bond sale, is also on the ballot. The Columbia Board of Education has already approved it. The bond is worth $30 million and would be used to build a new elementary school. 

The new school would address crowding in the district, especially at Cedar Ridge Elementary School. The new school will replace Cedar Ridge, which has more than 200 students and seven trailers.

The Columbia Board of Education has two vacancies and five candidates - Paul K. Rainsberger, James A. Whitt, Sarah Elizabeth Dubbert, Joseph Arthur Toepke, and Jan Mees. The top two vote getters will fill those seats. 

The polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Tuesday. To look up your polling place, click here.

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