Tuesday, October 4, 2011

DISTRICT, DISCOMBOBULATED: Important themes emerge from local bank prez gripes

COLUMBIA, 10/4/11  (Beat Byte) --  It was a rambler, but with merit, a long June Columbia Tribune editorial by Landmark Bank owner and longtime downtown resident/observer Mark Landrum that read like a "State of the City" address, but with a heavy dose of pointed pessimism. 
 
The most striking thing about Landrum's editorial may not even be the many points he makes, but that a bank owner would dare make them.  This is rare work, indeed.  "Ironically, relative to its tremendous advantages, Columbia's downtown and surroundings are probably the worst realized of any near a university I have seen," Landrum notes.  "Columbia's downtown and central core are not acceptable."  
 
Some of Landrum's gripes about downtown Columbia are, admittedly, nitpicky.  But read in their totality, important themes emerge.  In this first group of 22 Landrum-isms, Columbia's love-hate relationship with the automobile comes through.   Landrum describes a city discombobulated by its come-hither attitude toward cars on the one hand, yet grossly inadequate streets and streetside parking on the other.   
 
He describes half-hearted attempts to encourage pedestrians and bicycles, with unused bike racks, pedestrians dodging cars, sidewalks in bad repair, and that most powerful symbol of all -- fading bicycle emblems called "sharrows" brought to Columbia by what is now $30 million in Federal "GetAbout" grants.  Dollar for dollar, GetAbout has underperformed its much-ballyhooed promise on almost every level, a point Landrum lands on with a simple yet blunt list.   
 
What a shame, he seems to say, that Columbia's leaders can't realize the "vision thing" -- despite all the vision-ing.
 
Twenty two Landrum-isms about downtown Columbia

1)    Alleys stinking with garbage and trash
2)    Vacant second-story offices
3)    Poorly-tended trees and flower boxes
4)    Scarce parking spaces intended for customers, but occupied by downtown residents and workers
5)    Delivery trucks parked in the middle of Broadway, or blocking the driving lanes of side streets
6)    Cars blocking intersections
7)    Cars running red lights8)    Pedestrians dodging cars running red lights
9)    Cars backing out blocking traffic
10)  Cars driving around trying to find parking spaces
11)  Unused bike racks
12)  Cars with windows open blaring loud music
13)  Really bad music played really loudly
14)  Cars parked in every nook and cranny around buildings
15)  People seeming to wait for or arrange drug deals
16)  Faded bicycle emblems on streets
17)  Streets in really, really bad repair
18)  Sidewalks in bad repair
19)  Empty retail stores.
20)  Some really scary-looking people. Some really unfortunate people.
21)  The slummification of neighborhoods west of Tenth Street along Worley past West Boulevard; north and south of Worley;
and around Stephens College, Boone Hospital Center, and Columbia College.
 
And finally, in a nod to Cool Stuff and City Hall honoree Arnie Fagan: 
 
22)  The attack of the soap bubbles.

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