Chamber of Commerce hosts forum for mayoral and city council candidates

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COLUMBIA - Candidates for the third and fourth ward city council seats and for mayor attended a public forum hosted by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. 

Mayoral candidates Brian Treece and Skip Walther, Ward 3 candidates Karl Skala and Tom Leuther and Ward 4 candidate Ian Thomas were all in attendance.

The forum lasted one hour and was held less than a week before voting will take place on April 5. 

Chamber of Commerce President Matt McCormick said the chamber puts on this forum during all election years for its members.

“We do this for our chamber members to give them the opportunity to come out and meet the candidates, hear what their positions are on different topics, usually related to business topics, and just kinda help educate our membership,” McCormick said.

The chamber prepared three questions for the candidates. The questions touched on topics regarding public safety, adding a new terminal to the Columbia Regional Airport and form-based zoning, which focuses on what buildings look like more than what they're used for.

After the three questions were asked, the chamber opened up the forum to the audience for questions.

Former city councilman Larry Schuster, who is involved with the chamber’s Government Affairs Committee, said the questions were fair but not as tough as he would have liked.

“They’re broad-based, they try to be fair about those,” Schuster said. “I think we don’t expect enough out of the candidates, I think we need to probably up our game and ask them a lot tougher questions.”

The issue Schuster was most interested in hearing about was the budget.

“When you cut the fat, you have to really dig in there deep and eliminate positions and reprioritize. None of that’s happened,” Schuster said.

Some candidates mentioned the budget when answering what steps they would take to improve public safety.

Candidates also talked about how they would propose the city pay for the possible terminal at Columbia Regional Airport.

All candidates supported the idea of a new terminal, and three of the five supported a form-based zoning system.

Mayoral candidate Skip Walther said there is a better way to do things and Third ward candidate Tom Leuther said it should be implemented on a case by case basis.

The chamber holds a number of candidate forums throughout the year.

“We juggle a couple of these. We did the school board not too long ago,” McCormick said.

KOMU 8 News will be airing interviews with each of the candidates at the forum throughout the week as part of “Smart Decision 2016.” All of the interviews will also be available on our website.