COLUMBIA, Mo, (KMIZ)
His name can be seen on signs in prominent places in Columbia, and now real estate broker Jim Meyer is hoping to channel that exposure into a successful run for Columbia City Council.
Family: Married to Lisa Evelyn Anne Meyer
Education: Bachelor of arts in geography, master of business administration
Occupation: Real estate broker
Previous political experience: None
What do you think of the city’s new trash pickup procedures?
I've been knocking on doors and talking to voters since November. And initially, you had a lot of people feel strongly about roll carts or feel strongly about bags, and they don't want roll carts. And now universally, since the first of February, everybody's united, and they hate the new system.
So that's, that's all I hear about is how bad the new system is, people don't like the fact that they know they're not going to be able to stay within 102 bags a year. So they're gonna have to pay extra and yet they'd rather be evened out on their bill throughout the year, rather than to pay per bag later in the year when they run out. They think the quality of the bags is poor. So ... there's a lot of concern about the new system, I think, a lot of growing pains. And I think frankly, it's probably going to have to change again, because they're just massive outcry.
What I would like to do with that system is allow residential customers, just like commercial customers can now, to opt out of the city's trash collection service, and hire one of the private vendors in the area. We have companies that serve unincorporated Boone County, like T-Mac and Advanced Disposal and others. And they could easily serve the city, if people could opt out of the city service and do that. I think that would give people a choice.
Would you support using roll carts?
You know, if your personal situation is such that you don't like roll carts, good. You could hire somebody that would do a bag service. Or if you wanted roll carts, you could hire somebody that would provide that service. Or paradoxically, if people had an option to opt-out that felt strongly against roll carts that might make it politically easier for the city to adopt roll carts. If that's what the majority of folks want. I think choice would be a good idea there.
I am personally ambivalent about roll carts. I've lived in places that had them, I've used them, you know, I personally like the bag service. But if people could opt out and choose the other option, then it wouldn't matter to me if the city adopted roll carts or not. Because people who feel strongly against that would have a choice.
What is Columbia’s greatest infrastructure need?
Well, I think it's hard to answer that, because there's a question of what's most pressing, or what's sort of the biggest issue. I think we have a large backlog of deferred maintenance, I'll put it that way, on our roads. And that's not an acute issue. It's not something that's causing a near-term failure, but it's something we have not invested in at the appropriate level for decades.
And so we have an increasing problem with street creep. We have problems with potholes and major potholes in certain places. And we have just a lot of issues with pavement. And a lot of that is not any big issue that caused it, it's just maintenance hasn't been done for decades, or it's been underfunded. So I think that's a thing a lot of people talk to me about when I'm knocking on doors trash is the No. 1 concern. A second concern, probably public safety. And then the third concern is streets. So I think we've got a big issue with streets. Now, they're probably similar issues with sewers and storm sewers. I think we just need to focus more on the basics of funding the things that the city government should be focused on. And I think common-use public infrastructure, like streets and bridges are things that a city should add more priority to.
Do you agree with city leaders’ approach to the coronavirus pandemic?
Well, I think it's certainly understandable. You know, how with all the unknowns that were happening at the beginning of the pandemic, how people reacted, why they reacted the way they did.
I think we're fortunate in that we quickly moved beyond the nonessential business closures and opened things back up within a matter of a couple months. I think we fared a lot better than other places in the country. So I think we did well there. But a lot of the specific measures I disagree with. So initially, the occupancy limits were 10% once businesses were allowed to reopen, and now 50%. And there's no real logic behind that -- that's just an arbitrary number. Fire code occupancy allows about 60 square feet per person just at 100% fire code occupancy. And that's more than enough to provide a six-foot spacing between individuals if people are cognizant of doing that. So a 10% occupancy limit means there 600 square feet per person, that's excessive, and there's no logic as to why that was imposed. There's no logic for the 50% limit that's there now.
So I disagree with those decisions. I disagreed with the operating hour limitations, which I think we've recently reversed. But I think that was poorly thought through. And I don't think that mask wearing should be mandatory. I think it should be a voluntary issue. So there are a lot of things about the policy that I would change if I was the person making those decisions, but I think we did a lot better than other parts of the country.
Has police community outreach worked?
Well, I think the biggest problem with public outreach, community policing, whatever term you want to you want to put on that, that's something ... Columbia has been implementing parts of that for 30 years or more. The issue is just the resources that the police department has.
Population has grown significantly, you know, since I came to town in 1977, as an elementary school student, and the size of the police force, and the training budget, and those kinds of things haven't kept up. So it's very hard to go out and proactively work in neighborhoods, build relationships with community members in certain neighborhoods, and do the kinds of things that you would want to do for a good proactive community policing model to be really, really effective. If your officers are spending all their time responding to 911 calls they never have time to go out and do those proactive steps.
So I think the issue is basically a resource issue. And again, public safety is one of those core functions that a local government should focus on. And I think we need to realign our budget to focus on those core functions like public safety and common infrastructure.
Do you think the city needs a comprehensive audit?
I do. I am in favor of that.
I think all government entities should be audited periodically for a performance audit, not just a compliance audit. And I think you get a better audit when that's being done not by an accounting firm ... that the city is a client. The scope and the report, in a situation like that, is dictated by the city management or the city council's wishes in terms of what they focus on. I think when you involve a higher level of government that has an independent duty to the public, and is not beholden to the political leaders at the local level, I think the audit would be more wide-ranging, more balanced and potentially more useful in finding areas that need improvement.