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A Day in the Life

Someone asked me what I do all day? I had coffee with someone wanting to run for City Council and wanted to what it was like lifestyle wise. How do still run a business. A friend who is in City Management suggested I do a post on all the little things local elected officials. So everyday is different but here’s what I did yesterday.

I woke up and started water for coffee. I checked my emails, Facebook and Messenger. I messaged with a constituent in another Ward who is sideways with her Councilperson and did a little troubleshooting to figure out why her boxes weren’t getting picked up. Apologized raised the difficulty of collection being short staffed and emailed my contact in the City Managers Office.

Drank my coffee showered and rode my bike to the Columbia Independent School. I met with a student and his advisors. He is a fellow and his project is to advocate for a safe pedestrian crossing across the state highway the school is on. There’s a big city Park they use as a practice field and the kids have to Frogger across.

I’ve been pushing for the same thing for 8 years but the kid was getting some traction. There was a MODOT project coming in 2021 and they’re considering adding it on. The City was onboard and I had made some connections and requests via email.

I told him about Interested Parties Meetings the likely RFP process and who else to talk to. The Governor is a tough guy to get face time with but the state legislator is responsive and powerful. We looked at the traffic speeding by and walked the perimeter. Sight lines are the main criteria I’ve learned. I’ve picked up quite a bit of engineering lore over the last 8 years. Engineering and finance and truth be told local geography were my steepest learning curves.

I rode home and got a message from the City Clerk’s office that Marge Comley had called. I had just talked to Marge for a half hour or so a few days ago so I didn’t feel a need to call her back. She has my number, that’s for sure. She likely called the Clerk’s Office to speak to the Mayor who probably isn’t talking to her. The Clerk’s Office probably told her they would call me when she complained he never calls her back.

Marge is a pistol. She once called the police 156 times in a 90 day span. That will get you a home visit by a mental health professional if you didn’t know it. Marge has had a series of problems with her neighbors for at least the last eight years.

I was talk to her and I’ve gone out and investigated and mediated a number of times over the years. She lives in a cute little bungalow neighborhood where she and her husband bought their first home 45 years ago. He was a city lineman. The neighborhood since has become all rentals mostly owned by the family who owns the trailer park and apartment complex next to Marge’s subdivision. They don’t take her calls anymore. I’ve mediated with them and they have good reasons.

Mostly I think Marge is lonely. She’s estranged from her kids except one son who takes her shopping and to medical appointments but “he don’t listen”. After her complaint about noise and the police response. She knows 3 beat officers by name and likes them all. She spoke highly of “the girls” at the police nonemergency number.

After we talked about that she told me about falling and being in the hospital and rehabilitation center. The police were worried because she hadn’t called they did a welfare check and tracked her down in rehab.

Since I knew all that I knew I didn’t need to call her. I relaxed for a bit and hung my laundry on the line. I knew I had a day so I was proactive about it. I made and ate breakfast and then rode to the south side for a radio show.

I do a regular bit as a City Council update on The Eagle 93.9 but that’s on Monday’s. This was Inside Columbia an hour long local politics show that’s fairly new. The host is a Republican activist turned County Commissioner and we went over some interesting ground.

From where I’m from to poverty, segregation, my views on the growth of the city and homelessness it was much more in depth then I usually get to go. It was also exhausting. I had a swallow of coffee and was back on the bike. I had squeezed in an appointment across town and had to push hard in a headwind to be 8 minutes late and sweaty.

It was a bit of an interview. A smallish nonprofit was considering me for a strategic planning gig. I normally like to get paid an hourly rate but I had pitched a set price and a good one because I want to do more of this type of work. It’s also a way to get more work because you get to look under the hood and see how else you can be helpful.

The ED had called me for advice on a deaf individual needing substance use disorder treatment and someone had recommended me as someone who knows stuff. When she introduced herself I reminded her we’d met 12 years ago when she turned me down for a job I desperately needed when I first moved to town because I was over qualified. When she asked me what I did now, after I gave her some sage advice on getting someone into treatment, I ended up pitching strategic planning.

In spite of being late and sweaty it went well. I got the contract and collected info and we made a plan. I biked back downtown and was only a little late for my next deal. I met with a Civil Engineer who has an idea to change the code so we can allow duplex lots to be replatted and sold as individual lots. We allow that type of new construction but they have a fire wall and the sewer and water lines are run separate.

If we could subdivide duplexes with smoke walls and tangled utilities then we could create a home ownership product well below $100,000. You can hardly find a new home for less the $200,000 and even shitty fixeruppers are north of $100,000. It would also get some more owner occupied in big rental duplex neighborhoods which my ward is challenged by.

I had requested a staff report so we went over concerns. Safety doesn’t seem to be an issue we allow it for renters. It’s really just property. Banks and title insurance don’t care. You need covenants for shared roofs anyway you could do the same for your water and sewer.

Tutorials with engineers are critical if you want to be able to challenge your experts. I’ll discuss it at the next meeting and we’ll see. At least one peer who gets the issues is open to the idea.

After that I stayed on the affordable housing theme which I am trying to make a big final push on in my last term. I had a Zoom meeting with another Council Member and an activist from Minneapolis who worked on their 2040 plan which created a lot of zoning reform to address lack of affordable housing and segregated living patterns.

I ducked out early and walked over to the Presbyterian Church for the Spaygetti Dinner. It’s the big fundraiser for No Kill Columbia. I’ve done a lot for animal rights and go every year. I ate my plate of zucchini marinara and one with meat sauce. I grabbed a bottle of red from the wine pull. I haven’t looked it up to see if I got lucky. I might just experience it.

Then it was off to The Affordable Housing Summit. It was a presentation on Missing Middle Housing by Tony Perez. MMH is the idea that prior to WW II there was lots of varied housing that was walkable and affordable. Zoning had eliminated it and all you see being developed is single family and large apartments, mostly luxury.

It was fascinating, informative and inspiring. It was all code and design and how to reduce the concerns of NIMBYs. A lot of the questions were angry because they couldn’t see the connection between this and affordable housing. I made the connection at my table and got an invitation to do a talk show on community radio.

Then it was heading for home. It was a lot for what I’ve been doing lately but not to untypical. As I think about wrapping up I feel blessed for the wealth of experiences and the depths I’ve plumbed into this city I love. I got some serious biking on a sunny winter day, we moved the ball forward on affordable housing and I made a few dollars. On top of a load of laundry not to shabby.

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