writing for print and web

Redrawing Columbia’s wards proves puzzling for representatives, residents

Explanatory feature on reapportionment of the City of Columbia’s political districts / 1557 words / The Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA, MO. — Louis Wilson occupies a rare place in Columbia. What makes him — and his neighbors — unusual is location, location, location.

Anecdotally, many people in Columbia don’t know which of the city’s six wards they live in. As communications director of the Historic West Broadway Association, however, Wilson knows his neighborhood is one of few in the city that straddle two wards, in his case the First and the Fourth.

Because each ward elects one representative to the Columbia City Council, Wilson and his neighbors have the benefit of being able to bend the ears of two council members.

“That may be a stupid type of political addition, but it seems to make sense,” Wilson said. He spoke as an individual citizen, not on behalf of his neighborhood association. “It’s nice to have access to two parties.”

The issues of access and representation are central to the debate over how to redraw the city’s ward boundaries. Equalizing ward populations was the primary goal of ward reapportionment, but the committee charged with the task was also directed by the council to avoid splitting neighborhoods. Aside from neighborhoods, any number of constituencies can be concentrated in one ward or spread among them.

Demand precedes Short Street garage

News update on city plans for a new parking garage / 881 words / The Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA, MO. — The surprise question looming about the new Short Street garage is whether there will be any public parking spaces left by the time it is built next year.

“It’s a good problem to have, to have it all sold out before you build it,” Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl said.

In addition to deciding what Columbia’s fifth downtown parking garage will look like, City Council members now are considering whether to build commercial space into the ground floor of the structure and to add an extra level of parking to accommodate advance demand for leased spaces.

The current four-story design provides for 340 spaces, and already 150 of them could be spoken for. Adding another level would add about 70 more spaces and cost about $1 million more.

MU alumna Jennifer Wilson killed in South Carolina

News brief on the death of a local university alum / 335 words / The Columbia Missourian

ST. LOUIS — A young professor who received her doctorate from MU was killed Sunday morning in South Carolina.

Jennifer Wilson, 36, taught at the University of South Carolina, after leaving Missouri in 2005.

Hank Hawes, 37, was charged with murder. According to an incident report filed by the Columbia, S.C., police department, he was identified by a neighbor as the victim’s boyfriend.

South Carolina news reports quoted colleagues and students of Wilson’s as saying she was trying to end the relationship and was concerned about his aggression.