REDI, Advocacy Group Split on EEZ Expectations

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COLUMBIA - Over the last several weeks, EEZ and blight have been major issues in Columbia. They came to a boiling point Monday when local political advocacy group Keep Columbia Free organized a protest of the Enhanced Enterprise Zones at Columbia's City Council Meeting.

The protest had more than 100 participants, including both Tea Party Members and Occupy Columbia Protestors. Keep Columbia Free's Mitch Richards was thrilled about the turnout Monday night and told KOMU again Friday that he was happy to bring all different groups of Columbia together against an issue.

In response to the large protest and arguments from Mitch Richards and David Stokes of the Show-Me Institute, KOMU talked to REDI about their reaction to the protest. REDI Board Chairman Dave Griggs says he believes that a lot of the protesters are misinformed on the EEZ issue.

He believes an EEZ can help bring more jobs to Columbia, pointing to Kansas City's Country Club Plaza and Power and Light District as an examples of successful EEZs.

REDI President J. Michael Brooks said an EEZ wouldn't clear out any land. He wrote in an e-mail, "This is not a redevelopment program, so we do not propose to do anything to the properties. We will work to encourage new investment by our existing industry and work to encourage the attraction of new industry/business, all of which is intended to create new jobs."

Brooks also said the 2011 City Survey continued to show citizen support for economic development and job creation with 77% of residents polled indicating that their support was Very High or High.

On the flip side, Richards and Keep Columbia Free believes that EEZs leads to eminent domain abuse, although Griggs says the two are completely unrelated.

Richards still believes that people don't want an EEZ.

"It has no grassroots support," said Richards.

Keep Columbia Free continues to crusade against EEZ because they believe it causes corruption and gives tax breaks to those who don't need them. REDI says jobs will be created, while Keep Columbia Free believes that an EEZ will result in a net loss of jobs.

Either way, the issue showed real controversy Monday night and both sides will continue to push their arguments forward.