writing for print and web

“Occupy the Hood” reinforces community action

Description of a local, grassroots community action meeting / 807 words / The Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA, MO. — Defining “the hood” was nowhere near as important as identifying ways to make it better at Saturday’s “Occupy the Hood” event near Douglass Park.

Inspired by the national Occupy the Hood movement*, this was a casual gathering of six people plus its organizer, Tyree Byndom, a human resources manager, community activist and KOPN radio host. His goal was to generate specific action items that each attendee would walk away with.

Byndom had neatly laid throw pillows around the perimeter of his living room for people to make themselves comfortable, but conversation didn’t move far from the dining room table, surrounded by shelves of spiritual books and Byndom’s children’s art supplies.

Over bowls of spaghetti, the group’s conversation looped easily from each others’ personal lives to memories of the city from earlier years and their own observations about what created some of the city’s “hoods” today.

Columbia residents invited to ‘Occupy the Hood’ event

Preview of local, grassroots community action meeting / 414 words / The Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA, MO. — Tyree Byndom wants everyone to know that while the “Occupy the Hood” gathering that will take place Saturday at his downtown home is about solidarity, it is even more so about action.

“It’s a little different from Occupy Wall Street,” said Byndom, a longtime Columbia resident and, increasingly, community activist. He said his three central questions for those who come to the open meeting will be: “What do you want to do? What do you need? And how do you want to get it done?”

Nationally, Occupy the Hood is an off-shoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has gone global in the two-plus months since it took root in New York. Generally speaking, Occupy the Hood’s aim is to integrate the burgeoning social movement with the faces and concerns of people of color, co-organizer Malik Rahsaan, a New York-based substance abuse counselor, told the Huffington Post.

To Byndom, “it means the empowerment of po’ folk.” He said he wants to help people escape their lethargy, entropy and disenfranchisement to become active participants in the community. He learned of the movement from Philip Jackson, executive director of the Black Star Project out of Chicago.

“Black people are used to suffering. So now that (other) people are stepping up to say, ‘We’re suffering,’ it’s a little different,” Byndom said.

Columbia’s glossy goes gourmet

In-class assignment for convergence reporting class: Grab your smart phone, go find a story, and report on it from the field in about an hour. It was hard to compose in the little box on my iPhone, but totally fun!

As Inside Columbia magazine moves to its new headquarters on West Broadway, the local glossy is changing a lot more than its address.

North Village demolition reveals murky zoning authority in Columbia

Explanatory article on brewing controversy between a county social service agency and some residents in the neighborhood of its headquarters / 1021 words / The Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA, MO. — When Boone County Family Resources demolished the house at 400 St. Joseph St. in August, a cloud of confusion over permitting remained even after the debris was cleared.

Two months later, uncertainty persists not only about the demolition permit but also about whether the city has any standing to determine how the agency uses the land.

Boone County Family Resources bought 400 St. Joseph St. in May and tore down a house on the property in August. It also announced this summer that it needed room to grow when it submitted a proposal for leased parking and office space at the new Short Street garage.

Residents in the agency’s North Village neighborhood, aware of inevitable development pressure as downtown Columbia grows, approached the city with concerns that Boone County Family Resources might be violating city codes and making moves that could compromise the historic character of their area.

The demolition also triggered a debate about whether Boone County Family Resources is subject to city zoning ordinances. This surprised city staff, which has since learned of a complicated case history informing the social service agency’s sense of zoning autonomy.

Columbia City Council to cast final vote on ward reapportionment Monday

Preview of city council vote on local redistricting plans / 776 words / The Columbian Missourian

COLUMBIA, MO. — City Council members remain in suspense about the outcome of their own vote scheduled for Monday. That’s when Columbia’s months-long discussion of ward reapportionment is scheduled to come to a close with a final vote.

The impact of that vote, however, will resonate long after next week. The new ward maps chosen Monday will determine the city’s voting districts for roughly 10 years. The city has redrawn its maps about every decade since 1973 to keep ward representation numerically equal according to the latest census numbers.

“I think it’s going to be very close, extremely contentious and a very long council meeting,” said Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony.

The council’s conversation will be held against the backdrop of a petition started this week to recall Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley from his post. The initiative was spurred by opposition to Dudley’s most recent proposal for ward reapportionment.

Dudley went out of his way to advocate for the map known as Trial D, which maintains a central city ward. His most vocal opponents favor Trial E, which extends the First Ward (currently the central city ward) to the west.

Dudley’s opponents have charged that he selected neighborhoods to move from the Third and Fourth wards into the First, purposefully relocating those in which he and Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespolh fared worst in the last election.

Dudley denied the charge at a meeting on Oct. 7. He did not respond to repeated calls for comment for this article.

No injuries reported in Columbia Area Career Center tractor fire

Breaking news report on fire at local school / 380 words / The Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA, MO. — A 1969 Ford tractor caught fire during a welding class at the Columbia Area Career Center on Tuesday afternoon. All students were evacuated immediately, but no one was injured.

The call to the Columbia Fire Department at 2:34 p.m. was initially a fire alarm alert and was quickly upgraded to a structure fire, according to Capt. John Metz.

He said five teachers used portable fire extinguishers to put out the blaze, which did not spread beyond the tractor.

Several large red Power MIG welders were stationed around the shop, but Boren said their tanks are full of a non-flammable mixture of carbon dioxide and argon gas.

Columbia’s Fourth Ward councilman faces possible recall over reapportionment map

Night-turn story on councilman’s public information meeting that ended in plans to recall him from office / 751 words / The Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA, MO. — Outrage filled the Friends Room at the Columbia Public Library on Friday afternoon, culminating in an initiative to recall Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley.

Angry residents alternately talked over one another, cheered each other on, snickered and shouted down Dudley. He had assembled them for a public meeting to discuss his latest proposal for how to redraw the city’s ward boundaries.

He did little talking.

Amidst accusations of gerrymandering, some of the roughly 40 people in attendance started plotting ways to recall him from office. Dudley was elected to the seat in April 2010.

Two Democrats eye vacant county commissioner seat

News update and explanation of how a vacant political seat may be filled / 464 words / The Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA, MO. — So far, two Democrats have put their names in the hat to replace former Presiding County Commissioner Ed Robb, who died suddenly Saturday night.

Scott Christianson and Don Stamper have both expressed interest in the position, according to Phyllis Fugit, chair of the Boone County Democratic Party Central Committee. Bruce Cornett, Fugit’s counterpart in the Republican Party Central Committee, said no one has come forward as a GOP nominee.

Christianson narrowly lost the election for Presiding County Commissioner to Ed Robb last November. Owner of Kaleidoscope Videoconferencing and adjunct instructor of business at MU, Christianson’s political background includes terms as chair and vice-chair of the Democratic Party Central Committee. He is also former president and currently a member of the Boone County Industrial Development Authority.

Stamper, in his bid for the seat, is looking to repeat history. He served as Presiding County Commissioner for 12 years through the 1990s. He is now executive director of the Central Missouri Development Council. According to the state’s lobbyist registry, Stamper is registered as an active lobbyist for the Central Missouri Development Council and several other entities, including Boone Quarries, Columbia Redi-Mix and Con-Agg of Missouri. Stamper could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

Downtown Columbia Leadership Council weighs in on Short Street Garage

COLUMBIA, MO. — A new trio is in charge of the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council, which voted in its new executive committee Tuesday afternoon.

Outgoing chairman Randy Gray urged the group to “stay the course” on the work they’ve done since 2008. In the immediate future that work includes input on the planned Short Street Garage.

The new executive committee consists of current members Rosalie Gerding as chairwoman, current secretary Brian Treece as vice-chairman, and Historic Preservation Commission representative Brent Gardner as secretary.

Presiding County Commissioner Ed Robb, who passed away unexpectedly over the weekend, had been serving as representative to the DCLC from the Boone County Commission. According to the legislation that established the DCLC, the commission is called on to appoint a representative. Discussion Tuesday afternoon did not go beyond memorial services for Robb.

The Short Street Garage was the topic of the hour, including the most recent design plans, the upcoming public hearing, traffic implications and the private development proposed for an adjoining parcel of land.

Boone County Presiding Commissioner Ed Robb dies

Breaking news story on the death of the presiding county commissioner / 1280 words / The Columbia Missourian

By Alexandria Baca and Hilary Niles

COLUMBIA, MO. — Ed Robb was a tough politician whose expertise in economics and budgeting made him a formidable foe, former political opponents and colleagues said. As a Republican, he didn’t mind going after public offices traditionally held by Democrats.

Robb, who had been Boone County’s presiding commissioner since Jan. 1, died Saturday night, his wife, Rosa Robb, confirmed Sunday morning.

Robb, 69, was elected to the county’s top position in November and sworn in just days after he had a pacemaker installed to address an irregular heartbeat.