Columbia City Candidates Talk Youth Violence

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COLUMBIA - One week from Tuesday Columbia voters will head to the ballot box to cast their votes for Columbia's next mayor and third and fourth ward city council members. Monday night the seven candidates vying for spots inside city hall talked about ways to curb youth violence at a forum held at St. Luke United Methodist Church.

The forum was sponsored by the Silence the Violence initiative. The Silence the Violence movement was started almost one year ago -- spurred on by the fatal shootings of two Columbia teenagers within weeks of each other. Silence the Violence organizer Lorenzo Lawson said it's important for the public to know how elected officials plan to deal with youth violence.

"These kids are feeling hopeless. They can't get jobs, they're being forced, dropped out of school," said Lawson. "There's no place for them to go and we keep hearing that over and over again."

The candidates at the forum included: incumbent Mayor Bob McDavid and challenger Sid Sullivan, incumbent Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl and challenger Karl Skala, and incumbent Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley and challengers Ian Thomas and Bill Weitkemper.

Candidates spent the majority of the 2-hour-long forum focusing on job creation and education. McDavid says education is the key to reducing the violence in Columbia's youth.

"It's so important to focus on education. It's so important to keep kids in school," said McDavid. "And have them understand that when they're out of high school they're not done with their training. They still have to learn a technical skill"

But the other Mayoral candidate says job creation should be the focus to reduce violence.

"Part of it is education," said Sullivan. "But as I travel in different circles in community colleges - like Moberly Area Community College. They are going through the training program and then asking, 'Where are the jobs?'"

Columbia residents can vote for Mayor and the city's Third and Fourth Ward during the city's municpal election on Tuesday, April 2.