By Isabel Lohman and Shoshana Dubnow
Three candidates with ties to MU are running for the First Ward City Council.
Incumbent Clyde Ruffin, MU senior Andrew Hutchinson and administrative assistant for classical studies at MU Pat Kelley, are all running to serve the First Ward which includes MU, downtown and the Business Loop.
Andrew Hutchinson’s campaign for the First Ward includes three main tenets. The first is community policing. He hopes a strategic plan with more people on the ground would help people feel safer in their neighborhoods. His second platform is fixing the stormwater drains and sewer systems, much of the First Ward infrastructure is in disrepair. Finally, he is most passionate about affordable housing, an issue he understands particularly well as a working student.
“Whether you’re a low-income family or a working student, getting affordable housing is incredibly difficult in the city of Columbia, especially with new developments that are prioritizing luxuries and amenities to catch the eye,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson says his age does not make him any less qualified. Since he grew up in Columbia, Hutchinson said he has been exposed to and gotten to know many different communities of people. He points out that being young could benefit the primarily older individuals that make up the city council.
“We elect representatives that are supposed to represent us. A lot of people are wanting newer, fresher blood in council,” Hutchinson said.
Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, the president of Race Matters, Friends, has worked with Hutchinson at the Blind Boone Community Center. She agrees with Hutchinson’s sentiment
“I think it’s also really important when people who are not white can center themselves as an advocate in other communities. That means they can walk-in other worlds besides their own. I think as an elected official, that’s a really powerful place to come from,” Wilson-Kleekamp said.
Pat Kelley co-founded the Ridgeway Neighborhood Association in 1998 after she and her friend, Verno Forbe, were unable to find renters for their upstairs apartment. She had hoped to change the attitude of the neighborhood but soon realized “how systemic things are.”
As someone who lives in a low-income neighborhood, Kelley also sees affordable housing as a problem.
“It is not a place where people can just buy their problems away,” Kelley said.
Kelley says violence is an issue that lacks attention. Last spring, she came home to find a bullet lodged in her wall. No one was home at the time, but the hole is a large part of why she is motivated to run for the First Ward.
“I look over there and I see my bullet hole and I realize I cannot really rest until we really start addressing the shootings, the violence, the crime.”
She believes her experiences talking with individuals in neighborhoods would help bring a “lot to the discussion.”
John G. Clark, the Treasurer for Kelley’s campaign, says along with her primary issues of community policing, affordable housing and infrastructure, her fourth platform is engagement.
“She has demonstrated that and lived that and has the tools to carry on doing that at this next level,” Clark said
Clyde Ruffin, the incumbent, is the senior pastor at Second Baptist Church. If re-elected, his main goals would be to promote social equity through the city’s Strategic Plan, neighborhood meetings, affordable housing and the community land trust. Additionally, he sees great promise in creating more jobs.
“My priority is to bring living wage jobs into this community with benefits,” Ruffin said. “I know that if people are able to work and make a living, it impacts the entire community.”
Ruffin believes that one of Columbia’s most pressing issues is the disparity of unemployment, specifically in the African-American community.
As a former MU faculty member, Ruffin has used his time in office to bridge the gap between MU and the city.
“The work I’ve done on the campus has given me the confidence to walk onto campus and feel as though I have a place there,” Ruffin said.
Ruffin hopes to be given the opportunity to connect the different communities of the First Ward together.
“I feel that through my life and my experiences, I am prepared to speak with those varied communities and hopefully to bridge them together and bring resources to each of them in an effort to make Columbia a better place for everyone,” Ruffin said.
The election for City Council will be on April 4, and every candidate hopes to see a great turnout of voters.
Edited by Aviva Okeson-Haberman | firstname.lastname@example.org