Saturday, December 26, 2009

EARLY BIRD CANDIDATE SURVEY: Karl Skala for Columbia City Council

This time, 3rd Ward city council candidate Karl Skala answers questions from:

George Kennedy, professor of journalism and columnist, The Columbia Missourian
Tyree Byndom, Host, Kore Issues, KOPN radio
Mary Daly, Managing Editor, The MU Maneater
Jonathan Sessions, columnist/blogger, Columbia Business Times

Karl Skala's answers are below each question. 

George Kennedy asks:

1.  What does “smart growth” mean to you?

Smart growth is development that serves the economy, community, and the environment. It provides a framework for communities to make informed decisions about how and where they grow. Smart growth makes it possible for communities to grow in ways that support economic development and jobs; create strong neighborhoods with a range of housing, commercial, and transportation options; and achieve healthy communities that provide families with a clean and safe environment.

This definition was borrowed (but personalized) from the Smart Growth Network, an organizational resource used by the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition.  I believe that by following the principles embedded in this definition, we can have sustainable growth that protects Columbia’s exceptionally high quality of life.

2.  What should be the top 3 priorities for the next council?

1) Public Safety—safer neighborhoods,
2) Prosperity—good jobs, roads and improved city services, and
3) Thoughtful city planning—land use and growth management.

There is an important principle underlying all three priorities listed, i.e., the council ought to adopt the governance equivalent of the “Public Health Model of Preventive Care”, a concept often expressed as “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” 

For example, youth intervention and mentoring can have positive impacts on crime, as do neighborhood empowerment and cohesiveness.  Proactive rather than reactive neighborhood policing should be emphasized.

Prosperity is significantly affected by worker productivity and workplace pride.  We must provide our community with the vocational training and the technological tools necessary to provide ample opportunities for all of our citizens.  We must also modernize our city management and e-record keeping systems so that our city workers can apply their considerable talents to the tasks for which they were hired. Finally, a local food initiative designed to connect local farmers with restaurants and grocers would help keep food dollars local while enhancing food safety and security.

Proactive, rather than reactive, growth management planning is the epitome of  “Preventive Care” as it relates to regional planning.  The application of this concept also avoids unnecessary and expensive infrastructure duplication.

3.    Should council members be paid?

That is a decision that can only be made by the voters representing a majority of taxpayers willing to provide that remuneration.  Having said that, council members should not be paid beyond the level of a stipend designed to recover the costs of their service.  One fair solution would be a combination of a basic stipend coupled with an incentive program designed to encourage and reward civic participation for meeting attendance and professional development.
4.  What do you see as the proper relationship between the council and the manager?

Of course, this question reaches the important distinction between the council as a deliberative and policymaking body and the executive manager who must implement that policy. The proper relationship between them ought to resemble the unique “checks and balances” system of our federal and state legislative and executive branches, only with additional ceremonial mayoral responsibilities. 

Specifically, the relationship should include the council’s “advice and consent” for the hiring and firing of city department heads through a deliberative confirmation process following the manager’s nomination of a final candidate.  All other staff personnel matters, with the exceptions of the City Manager, the City Clerk and the Municipal Judge, should remain the exclusive purview of the executive manager.

Importantly, the council should also enact a “truth in government” city ordinance in order to insure honest, open, transparent and accountable governance.

Tyree Byndom asks:  What type of legacy would you like to leave behind?

I believe that the ultimate determination of one's legacy ought to be left to others. Frankly, too much attention paid to considering one's own legacy often leads to a poor one.   Allow me to offer a few guiding principles that I continue to rely upon in my current civic capacity:  Curiosity coupled with preparation; integrity coupled with judicious compromise; passion coupled with reason and accountability; persistence and tenacity coupled with pragmatism; political courage coupled with accessibility; and of course, dedicated public service coupled with vision and skilled leadership.

Jonathan Sessions asks:

1.   In this voluntary position, what are your expectations of necessary time commitment?  

My expectations and experiences are consistent with a full time position, ~40 hours per week.  Consider that for every hour spent in formal meetings, at least two hours are necessary to adequately prepare for those meetings.
Additionally, attendance at special events is often requested and is expected.

2. How do you plan to keep up with a demanding city council?

I have kept up with, and indeed helped set the pace for, the council's increased workload and output throughout my first term as Third Ward Council Representative.  The work is indeed demanding, but it is very satisfying to feel I can make a positive difference for the Third Ward and for the city as a whole. 

Mary Daly asks:  
What changes that would affect students could we expect to see if you were elected?

Certainly, students should have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities, as do all citizens of Columbia.  Specifically, however, I would engage the student population by volunteering as council liaison to the Missouri Students Association (MSA). 

In that regard, I recently met with the MSA President-Elect, Timothy Noce, to discuss mutual areas of interest.  The key is to engage as many "Town-Gown" stakeholders as practicable, bring them together with a shared goal, and apply the principles of effective democratic governance, i.e., policymaking informed from the "bottom up" rather than from the "top down."

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