Thursday, December 23, 2010

COUNCILMAN RESPONDS: To Missourian and "Dirty Little Secrets" stories

2nd Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill provides detailed background on quotes
COLUMBIA, 12/23/10  (Beat Byte) --  I've been slow to the switch on local affairs of late, and didn't want to let Councilman Jason Thornhill's detailed response to yesterday's Columbia Heart Beat story about Ken Midkiff, David Shorr, and the EPA sit past the holidays.  The Heart Beat story quotes a Monday Columbia Missourian story, that in turn quoted Mr. Thornhill, a local real estate agent with Weichert Realtors.  Links to both articles are included below. 
Councilman Thornhill's response: 
Hi Mike:   
After reading the Dirty Little Secrets article in the 12/22 Columbia Heart Beat where I am quoted, I wanted to provide some clarity to my statement. 
I'll stop short of saying I was misquoted by the [Columbia Missourian] reporter, but I would like to make it clear that the actual sentence quoted in the article was part of a much larger conversation with context that was not explained.
As we talked, I told the reporter that in my opinion, the council cannot (and frankly shouldn't in many areas) micro-manage and attempt to become experts in fields or on subjects where it just is not possible to do so --   TMDL's, storm water, and pollutants included. 
I am a college graduate and feel I have a reasonable level of intelligence;  but am eventually overwhelmed by the minutiae that is the whole Hinkson Creek/TMDL/EPA/stormwater/pollutant issue.  The city frequently utilizes professionals for this sort of thing; from LEED-certified building design to civil litigation to contract negotiations and the like. 
Are we (the council) to be expected to be so well-versed in all of these subjects that we become experts at them? 
I don't think that's possible, and my interpretation of the charter doesn't lead me to believe I am wrong.  The manager and clerk serve at the pleasure of the council, and to that end we request all information from staff as required or requested as it may be, to set policy and ordinances accordingly.
At the tail end of the Missourian article, I am quoted as saying, "the city can seek out professionals to do this job." 
This statement was intended to mean we (the council) expect staff to either be experts, or to work with them (consultants and the like) to gather the necessary information for us to make educated decisions.  Representing the citizens appropriately can only be done using good information to make sound decisions.  Should we feel that we are not being provided with that good information, then we need to address that issue with our city manager. 
We are frequently provided with reports, findings, studies, surveys etc. that are used in one way or another, but may or may not be the subject of an actual council meeting or work session.  To be able to put all of that information into an official meeting format for public consumption would be massively time-consuming; more so than what is already undertaken by council and staff.  Therefore it is necessary for us to study these things individually, on our own time.
I, for one, earn my living based almost entirely upon the fact that Columbia is a great place to work and live.  An impaired Hinkson creek does nothing to accentuate the best parts of Columbia.  It hurts.  I think all of us would agree that a clean Hinkson is not only preferred, but necessary
But it is also incumbent upon us, as council members, to determine just exactly what is impairing that waterway before we decide to implement ways to correct a problem not clearly identified.  Much of the information that I've seen does not indicate just what it is that is polluting the creek. 
Could it be something from further north, outside of the city limits making its way through Columbia?  Can it be so simple as to say it is excess storm water?  I don't think we have a definitive answer.  Has the fact that the city, over the past few years, eliminated millions of gallons of effluent from old, defective sewage systems and lagoons eventually making their way to the Hinkson, not had a positive effect on the pollutant levels?
What if we spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to build retention basins and remove housing and people from the creek borders and test again, only to find that the pollutant levels have not decreased? 
What level of incompetence and irresponsibility will we be accused of at that point?
Thanks for hearing me out.  Happy Holidays to you and your family.
Jason Thornhill
Ward 2 Council Representative
City of Columbia, Missouri
701 E Broadway
P.O. Box 6015
Columbia, Missouri, 65205

No comments:

Post a Comment