Does City Hall bigwig-emeritus know something we don't?
Green, 73, takes aim at everyone from Columbia city manager Mike Matthes
(an "unwise rookie" who gave former assistant city manager Paula Hertwig Hopkins "the shaft"
by "pushing her out the door
"); to his favorite targets: meddling citizens -- and citizen Council members -- who pay the retirement and benefits that helped Green spend five years traveling the country in an RV after he left City Hall at age 58
"Some members of the council do not know their responsibility," rgreencolm -- R. Green, Columbia, Mo -- grouses. "What we need is a new council who knows their place....Council, keep your nose out of management."
Green has stuck his nose squarely into a debate that, by his own logic, shouldn't concern him. The 4th Ward resident has repeatedly urged the controversial demolition of properties in the 1st Ward's North Central neighborhood, sparking discussion that he may know something neighbors don't about city government's long-range plans.
Just days earlier, Green urged demolishing the Heibel-March store
, a City of Columbia notable historic property purchased by the parks department in 1998, the year he retired. With no help from the city, neighbors and non-profits have struggled for years to renovate the building, which they can never own or borrow against
for renovations because it sits on a city park.
"Should have been done thirteen years ago," Green wrote about tearing it down. "That neighborhood association has been nothing but a block
for a lot of projects that would only improve the area
where they live. Let the bricks begin to fall....
[Disclosure: This author contributed $2,000 to replace the back roof of the Heibel-March building.]
The houses on St. Joseph "are old and falling apart and ought to come down," Green told the Columbia Heart Beat in a telephone interview. "The people who bought them ought to have the right to take them down. No one else wants to restore them."
The Heibel-March building, which sits on Field Park, "needs to come down, too," he added. "It just needs to come down."
But Green wouldn't answer questions about his reasoning. Why tear down the Heibel-March, a building so many people have tried to save for so many years? Why not have City Hall finally step up and restore it?
When asked if he supported a public disability-services agency -- BCFR -- spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on old houses just to tear them down, Green said the question was "beyond my expertise." A harsh critic of taxpayer waste on the Tribune, he abruptly hung up the phone.
So why the rush to rip down property in North Central, arguably Columbia's most well-located neighborhood? Perhaps, as some suspect, it's because the land is now more valuable than the buildings on it.
In March and April Tribune posts, Green played into a long-running narrative that Columbia College has plans to expand its campus all the way to the Business Loop, tearing down an entire block of houses and businesses to get there. It's a narrative every old timer around the College has heard. This writer heard it as an excuse not to fix up derelict homes in back of the college.
"If this will help Columbia College move north to the Bus Loop, what a good thing," Green wrote in March, under a story about the Blight Decree/EEZ
. "It would be great if they had a nice entrance to their campus from the loop
and would utilize all the land
between them and the loop."
"Wouldn't it be nice if Columbia College could take control of some land between the existing college and the Bus-loop to make a great entrance to their campus?" he continued. "They have a great start on the street they recently improved. Extending that same design to the loop would be great."
The Heibel-March store lies between Columbia College and the Business Loop. Residents have long b
eved Columbia College is the chief behind-the-scenes advocate for bulldozing it
, a plausible explana
tion as to why City Hall steadfastly refuses to renovate it
. Columbia College building and maintenance director, former City Councilman Bob Hutton
, has been a
vocal critic of efforts to preserve it.
"Councilman Hutton could be quite acerbic about it," North Central resident and long-time Heibel March supporter Betty Cook Rottmann
once said. "I always thought we were lucky he didn't rule the day."