COLUMBIA, 7/14/11 (Beat Byte) -- Imagine taking Columbia's most progressively-voting neighborhoods and stuffing them into a single Ward. Now imagine that single Ward -- the First Ward -- has long been the city's most under-represented, largely due to poor voter turnout, a high rental population, and a long history of racial marginalization.
Now imagine that a former deputy chief of staff to much-maligned Republican Governor Matt Blunt is pushing the most aggressive of these Ward reapportionment plans, which critics say would steal progressive votes from two other Wards -- the 3rd and 4th. If you are a progressive -- i.e. Democrat or liberal -- in either of those Wards, are you ready to reduce your representation at City Hall from three Council members to one?
That's what some residents of Columbia's ultra-progressive Benton-Stephens and Old Southwest neighborhoods are asking now that former Blunt deputy chief of staff Rob Monsees (above) has introduced Plan D, a City of Columbia Ward reapportionment design that would push Benton-Stephens voters from the 3rd Ward and Old Southwest voters from the 4th Ward into the First Ward.
"This looks all of an attempt to stuff into the First Ward progressive 4th Ward voters who -- had they united behind a single candidate rather than two -- could have cost Chamber of Commerce candidate Daryl Dudley his City Council seat in 2010," said an Old Southwest voter who wishes to remain anonymous during the proceedings. "Add the people from Benton-Stephens -- remember the Skala-Kespohl battles -- and you have the very real potential of a permanent two thirds reduction in the representation we now have on the Columbia City Council -- or is that the Columbia Chamber Council?"
An earlier reapportionment plan consolidates just the Benton-Stephens neighborhood into the First Ward -- so-called Plan A. That plan brought jeers from Benton-Stephens residents, who feared progressive gerrymandering and a vast reduction in representation on issues such as poor infrastructure.
But critics worry Monsees and company felt Plan A didn't go far enough in removing progressive votes from two other Wards. Plan D was born, since Plans B and C don't relocate enough progressive voters, they say.
Fourth Ward Councilman and Chamber endorsee Dudley appointed Monsees -- skewered for what left-leaning Fired Up Missouri considered his hair-brained right-wing ideas -- to the Columbia Ward Reapportionment Committee. The committee will send a new Columbia Ward map that reflects population shifts over the last decade to the Columbia City Council by Sept. 15.
A public hearing on Monsees' plan is set for tomorrow (Thursday), 7 p.m., Columbia City Council Chambers at City Hall.
Monsees' Millions: Matt Blunt's $15 Million MOHELA Slush Fund Fired Up Missouri screamed in 2007. "With carte blanche to use millions of dollars on projects to 'commercialize research' at state schools, the potential is manifest for Monsees or Blunt to engage in inappropriate self-dealing or kickback schemes with moneyed business interests who seek to profit from the projects."
"Not a day passes that Matty B doesn't look back with disgust on the moment in 2005 when one of his supposed 'aides' walked into his office, smiled, and plunked down on his desk a memorandum titled 'Proposal to Sell Assets of MOHELA.' That aide: Rob Monsees," Fired Up wrote the same year. "What Matty thought would be a gift from the gods --hundreds of millions in new cash to give out to universities so they could name new buildings after refinery owners, with the only cost being reduced access to college for poor kids-- quickly turned into a constant debacle."
On Columbia's Ward Reapportionment Committee, Monsees told the Columbia Tribune his intentions are sound. Old Southwest should move into the First Ward "because of shared concerns about the central city’s crumbling infrastructure," Monsees said. Both Old Southwest and Benton Stephens voters -- well-known for their voter engagement -- would lift low voter turnout in the First Ward, Monsees added.
Nonsense, said former City Councilwoman Colleen Coble, the First Ward appointee to the Ward Reapportionment committee. Ward lines on a map are unlikely to change voter behavior, Coble said, adding the annexations Monsees proposes "could change the dynamics of future campaigns."
That's exactly what critics fear. "Why is a man with such an aggressively-partisan background -- a Matt Blunt Chief of Staff! -- leading the charge on what should be an entirely non-partisan activity?" the 4th Ward voter wondered. "The fact that his plan could put the screws to Columbia progressives only makes matters worse."
Ward Reapportionment Public Hearing
Thursday, July 14, 7 pm
Columbia City Council Chambers
-- By Mike Martin for the Columbia Heart Beat
-- By Mike Martin for the Columbia Heart Beat