Public works director: Council members "don't understand how government works"; City Hall should buy up and tear down central city neighborhoods
COLUMBIA, 10/21/10 (Beat Byte) -- It's been a jaw-dropping, loose-lipped few weeks for Columbia City public works director John Glascock, if recent accounts are to be believed.
Glascock reportedly told his staff that at least three Columbia City Council members were incompetent with regard to government affairs, then repeatedly condemned an entire neighborhood to the scrap heap of a city wrecking ball. His latter comments sparked ire at a neighborhood association meeting Tuesday night.
During heated city budget debates last month, Glascock allegedly urged public works employees to spend their entire budgets lest they lose the money next year. To make his point, he reportedly disparaged City Council members during an employee meeting.
"Mr. Glascock said the three business people on the Council did not understand how government works, and if we did not spend all of the money in our budget, they may use the money for something else and decrease our budget," a city employee explained. "We have been instructed by Mr. Glascock to spend 100% of our budget this fiscal year. Funds are even being transferred from one budgeted account to another to accomplish this. The concern is that if the budgeted money in a specific account is not spent, it will be reduced next fiscal year to what was spent."
Apparently city staffers are taking Glascock at his word. "Lately, the arrival of the UPS truck at the Grissum building is just like Christmas," the employee explained. "Many purchases have been for big ticket items that were not specifically budgeted. As a matter of policy, these should all be reported to Council."
Neighborhood wrecking ball?
In other reported episodes, Glascock has told city employees, neighbors, and a retired MU professor involved in stormwater policies that rather than repair serious, longstanding sewer, stormwater, and flooding problems in North Central Columbia residential areas, City Hall should instead buy the homes and tear them down.
The remarks sparked angry concern at Tuesday night's North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association (NCCNA) meeting, during which board members voted to publicly condemn Glascock's flippancy in a letter for the Columbia City Council's meeting this Monday.
The letter asks Council members to "direct city staff to exercise caution in telling concerned neighbors that the solution to the inadequate sanitary sewer and stormwater conditions throughout the city is for the city to buy their homes. Those statements trigger memories of an ugly past that Columbia experienced in the mid 1960s, when redevelopment of 'blighted' areas caused a rift in our downtown neighborhoods that continues to this day."
During "urban redevelopment" just four decades ago, City Hall, the Federal government, and a cadre of good ol' boys engineered a massive, eminent domain-driven land grab that decimated black business owners and black residents across hundreds of central Columbia acres. Poor drainage and inadequate sewer lines were among the many excuses used to label the areas "blighted."
Glascock's comments, the NCCNA letter explains, "seem geared towards intimidating good citizens from coming forward with their concerns, rather than addressing the problems we collectively face and finding solutions."