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Muleskinners hold Columbia Ward 1 forum; candidates disagree on solutions to affordable housing


Ward 1 Columbia City Councilwoman Pat Fowler and challenger Nick Knoth had a lot to say about their plans Friday, if they were to be elected to the Ward 1 seat on April 4.

At a forum held by the Muleskinners, Fowler said her main focus for the community is on creating equitable opportunities for people. 

“And do we have racial equity in our city? Do we have economic equity in our city? And we know that equity is not equal,” Fowler said. “It's about acknowledging where we're left people behind and we help them catch up."

Knoth – who was recently endorsed by the firefighters’ union -- said he wants to expand resources for the unsheltered and improve environmental issues throughout the city.

"I would expand on that by saying you know we have a climate adaptation and action plan ...that I believe the city needs to really recommit and double down on,” Knoth said.

The candidates also shared their thoughts on making housing affordable in the city.

Fowler said Columbia needs to take a deeper look into all components that come along with living in a rental property and suggested the city looks at utility costs.

"Because what makes housing affordable is not only your base rent,” Fowler said. “It's what you have to pay in utilities. And it’s what you have to pay in transportation to get all the places you need to go for your family."

Knoth suggested building more housing would bring costs down. But he said the city could not solve the problem by itself.

"Whether that is people uh private builders building it, the land trust building, job point building, the habitat for humanity building, it's going to take every single organization who is impacted by it,” he said. 

Candidates had different ideas for what should be done with money the city has available from the American Rescue Plan Act. The city began accepting proposals in January.

Knoth said the city needs to put this money towards something that is going to provide it with long-lasting effects

"But this is one time money which means to me we need to in something, in a variety of things, in different initiatives that are going to make long-term impacts in our community, not one-off things," he said.

Fowler, however said her main focus is on the inequities that are seen throughout the first ward, and giving back to those who were impacted by the pandemic the most. 

“To me, the most important thing we need to do now is dig deep into as to where we put those ARPA dollars because we have an opportunity to tend to those disproportionate impacts,” she said.

Both candidates agreed in believing the city needs to be more transparent with the public about these funds.

The forum was held on Zoom. Representatives for the Muleskinners said in-person meetings are set to start back up on March 3, with a Zoom option still available. 

Article Topic Follows: News

Joushua Blount

Joushua Blount hails from Cleveland, Ohio and has a bachelor’s degree in media communications from the University of Toledo. He also has a master’s degree from the University Of Alabama. Roll Tide!

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