First Ward council candidates discuss neighborhood issues
COLUMBIA – Several First Ward neighborhood associations hosted a town hall forum Saturday with city council candidates to discuss housing, infrastructure and structural inequality issues.
Members of the North Central Columbia, West Ash and Ridgeway Neighborhood Associations put on the forum to raise awareness of pressing issues in the First Ward. The city council candidates – Mark Anderson, Pat Fowler and Greg Pierson – signed a neighborhood pledge to recognize the issues.
“We ended up putting this document together which is just a distilled down list of the most important things to voters in the First Ward,” said Robert Hemmelgarn, the vice president of the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association.
The pledge outlined three key areas in the First Ward that neighbors say need work: housing, infrastructure and structural inequality. Issues like working to preserve affordable housing, addressing stormwater and sanitary sewer problems, and placing temporary moratorium on tax increment financing were detailed in the pledge. Hemmelgarn said the pledge is a result of conversations between neighborhood association members and the community.
“These are citywide issues and beyond, obviously, but we feel like we have a responsibility in the First Ward to make sure that we start locally and to make sure our candidates in this upcoming election are aware and engaged in the issues that matter most,” Hemmelgarn said.
The forum was also a chance for the public to learn about each candidate's specific views and solutions to widespread community issues. Candidates each had 60 seconds to respond to on-the-spot questions from community members.
“This is a community discussion and we want to make sure everybody is on the same page, and that the diverse perspectives of the First Ward are represented in the city council candidates’ campaigns,” Hemmelgarn said.
This was the second forum in this municipal election season before the election on April 7.