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CITY HALL DOUBLE STANDARD: Stymies Sidewalk Art group

Why were roll carts -- but not art -- allowed in City Hall lobby?


COLUMBIA, Mo 1/16/14 (Beat Byte) -- A double standard favoring the Columbia city manager may be at work regarding exhibits in the City Hall lobby on City Council meeting nights.

On the night of a Sept. 17, 2012 Council vote approving a so-called roll cart pilot program, city manager Mike Matthes authorized several roll carts that hold trash and recyclables for placement in the Daniel Boone City Hall lobby outside the Council chambers.  

But after approving it in December, Matthes abruptly cancelled a lobby exhibit called Sidewalk Art, planned to coincide with the Council's January 21 vote on sidewalks for Clark Lane.   Both amateur and professional artists contributed work about the need to "build concrete, attractive, disability accessible, safe, grass buffered sidewalks away from the road," artist Catherine Parke explained.

"After gathering more details, it became apparent Sidewalk Art is designed to reinforce a specific political point of view on the Council Agenda for the evening," Matthes wrote the Clark Lane Sidewalk Campaign (CLSC), the group organizing the art exhibit.  "Any material designed to politically advance a point of view is strictly prohibited inside the building."

But if that's true, why were roll carts permitted?

"The city manager had garbage cans on display in the atrium to promote a hot political issue that required Council votes," CLSC organizer Mary Hussmann told the Heart Beat.   Two different rules must apply to lobby displays, she added:  a prohibition for taxpaying citizens but approval for city administrators.

Roll cart vs. Sidewalk Art

City staff supported the roll cart program but opposes the Clark Lane sidewalks.
 
Matthes and public works director John Glascock want shoulders on both sides of Clark, between Woodland Springs Court and McKee Street.  Asphalt would stand in for sidewalks as a "temporary improvement" until the street is expanded to four lanes.

The Matthes proposal accomodates more development and costs less.
 
But like the roll cart program -- ultimately defeated after becoming the most contentious issue in years -- his Clark Lane plan has drawn widespread public opposition. 
 
The Clark Lane Sidewalk Campaign formed in October to lobby for what they consider a better fix.

"We residents of the Third Ward working to have our voices heard are surprised and disappointed that this neighborhood art will not be allowed to be shown in the City Hall atrium," Hussmann told the Heart Beat.

Kicked to the curb

After getting the bad news, CLSC members Parke and Linda Green met with city official Don Cizek asking if they could display "two categories of art: work in the lobby illustrating sidewalks in daily civic life; and work outside the building representing Clark Lane specifically.

Cizek granted the group permission to "exhibit paintings and photographs that do not depict or make reference to Clark Lane sidewalks or the Council vote on this matter."

But the okay may be too late.  Based on City Hall's initial approval, "people who care about this issue distributed several hundred flyers in the Clark Lane area and a few other places (attached), inviting Columbians to come and view this art," Hussmann explained.  "But now, we've been 'kicked to the curb' outside." 

To the curb with the roll carts, which when they were in the lobby had no impact, Hussmann noted. "The Council didn't approve the garbage change," she told the Heart Beat.
 
 
 
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