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Waner hopes to bring public health, civil rights advocacy to Columbia City Council

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Andrea Waner, candidate for the Second Ward seat on the Columbia City Council, is already well known to many in city government.

She's worked for the public health department and is the chair of the city's Human Rights Commission, which has helped push for workplace protections and fair housing policies.

She's looking to take over the seat being vacated by Michael Trapp and fend off fellow hopefuls Bill Weitkemper and Jim Meyer.

Family: Husband, Joseph; son, Henry, 5.

Education: Master of public affairs, University of Missouri; bachelor of arts in English, University of Missouri

Occupation: Director of advancement and operations at Central Methodist University

Previous political experience: Three years as chair of Human Rights Commission

What do you think of the city’s new trash pickup procedures?

I support the goals of reducing waste in our community, having equitable utility systems and protecting the safety of our employees. That being said, every program is pretty rough at the launch. And the pay as you throw program, I would say is no exception to that.

This solution incentivizes less waste while reducing risk to our solid waste employees. And I think we should give it a chance to work, but also keep exploring other and better options. I think it's crucial that as as a city and a city council that we're able to revisit any and all of our solutions to evaluate whether they're working or not, and whether they're actually furthering the goals of the city. So whatever system we choose, we need to retain our city owned utilities as with privatization, which some of the other candidates are suggesting, the emphasis stops being on what the voters of Columbia want, and starts being about the profit for private business.

Would you support using roll carts?

So the Columbia voters have already spoken on this issue once. And I really do believe that it's not the role of the city council to overturn their decision, it sets a dangerous precedent. I would support an initiative that is brought forth and is representative of the residents of Columbia. And if that means implementing a roll cart plan, then I would absolutely support that.

What is Columbia’s greatest infrastructure need?

I would say complete streets are the greatest infrastructure needs in Colombia. So in 2004, Colombia became one of the first cities in the U.S. to adopt a complete streets policy. But that policy hasn't been updated at all. And it's now incredibly outdated.

So our transportation and road systems are typically designed to move people from point A to point B. For example, I live north of 70, near Cosmo Park. And recently I've seen several times a dad and his two kiddos, one like a toddler, maybe 4, and then an infant in a stroller, crossing from Cosmo across four lanes of Stadium to get to the neighborhoods on the other side. So that's sort of just demonstrating that our roads are designed for cars and from getting to point A to point B, not necessarily bearing in mind the needs of the community.

So another example of that would be my child is 5 and he'll be starting kindergarten in August. I looked up what his bus routes are, and the stops for that, there are no sidewalks between my house and the bus stop. He has to walk on a street where it has been busy enough that the city has put traffic-calming devices in on that road. So people fly through that street even with the road bumps in there and there are no sidewalks but yet we're expecting our kids to walk to the bus for that. So I think we need to focus on creating streets that eliminate underlying causes of health inequities and really now allow our community to thrive.

Do you agree with city leaders’ approach to the coronavirus pandemic?

Absolutely.

So I strongly agree with the pandemic control measures that the city of Columbia and Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services put in place. I think it's important to reiterate that we all want a return to normal. We all want the economy and our schools to fully open up. We also all want to protect our friends and family from the pandemic. This winter, we got an opportunity to watch with a lot of concern as our local hospitals were near capacity, because of the lack of similar measures in surrounding areas. If we hadn't taken the steps to slow the spread, we would have been without access to emergency and intensive care for our non-COVID-related patients.

So each county is charged with making the decisions that are in the best interest for their community. And here in Boone County, our city officials and our county officials, as well as our public health officials, took a science-based, fact-based approach to our pandemic protocols. But as we look forward toward the future of Colombia's economy, and we're lifting restrictions, we should be ready to help local businesses get back on their feet and finding innovative and creative ways to allow businesses flexibility to the limitations that are in place. And so that could be allowing curbside pickup of alcoholic drinks or unprepared foods or just really encouraging creative use of outdoor spaces that maybe were reserved for vehicle traffic before and uplifting and rewarding our businesses while following our safety guidelines.

But when I'm thinking more towards longer term, we should prioritize career training, health and equity and focus on creating family-supporting jobs by fostering opportunities for technical training apprenticeships and education to provide that economic stability for everybody that calls Columbia home. But in order to attract and retain those types of careers, we need to continue to prioritize the health of our community, specifically when it comes to addressing systemic inequities in our community.

Has police community outreach worked?

So for the community outreach units within the Columbia Police Department, for the time that it was implemented and that we had buy-in and a concerted effort, yes, I think it did work. The community-oriented approach to policing did work and moved the needle even just in small bits on rebuilding trust and communications between our community and the police officers.

But it was rebranded or dismantled, depending on who you ask, due to staffing shortages. And, you know, our public safety workers and employees are overworked. But the solution to an overworked workforce of any kind is not to just blindly hire more people. Sometimes we need to look at what is being asked of the current staff. And if any of those responsibilities can be shifted elsewhere, I would like to see what kind of reallocation of duties are possible to relieve the stress on our police officers, but also fund critical programs and services that are geared at reducing crime and the underlying factors that can lead to crime.

So if we truly want to tackle crime, we need to address societal problems like poverty, mental illness, homelessness. Crime is not someone experiencing homelessness. These are issues that would be better served under the umbrella of public health or housing, education and youth services.

Do you think the city needs a comprehensive audit?

I believe that any sort of audit, fiscal or performance, would work to make the city operate in a more effective and transparent manner. In this instance, a performance audit would be crucial to regaining the trust from the public on how the city handles its finances. The internal audits that we have been doing don't really accomplish the goal of having a fresh set of eyes or a disinterested third party looking at how we do our business.

I believe a thorough and impartial audit is definitely worth the cost and would support entering into an agreement with the state auditor for an overall approach for a performance audit as we would eventually save money because we would be able to identify problems and allow the city to avoid any future duplication or hidden spreadsheets and tabs with funds that folks forget about.

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

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