"We may need the University, but they need us just as much."

COLUMBIA, 3/4/13 (Beat Byte) -- "It's time we put on our big boy pants now. When the University says bend over, we don't have to take it anymore."
So said Grasslands resident Will Littrell at the last Columbia City Council meeting, in what was the most colorful testimony about a plan to widen Providence Road near his neighborhood across from Mizzou.
"The city of Columbia no longer has to be the 'junior partner' in its many dealings with the state and University," Littrell told the Council. "We can approach the university as an equal partner in our community."
Littrell's comments reflected earlier thoughts from Columbia residents Patty King and Pat Fowler, who criticized Mizzou administrators at a Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) meeting earlier this month for bullying city leaders.
About the Providence Road project, University officials have reportedly engaged in bloviation without participation -- i.e. making demands of the community with minimal community engagement.
"I have a question that really kind of blows my mind," King told HPC commissioners. "Why do citizens -- and even the City of Columbia -- allow a bully as big as the University of Missouri to dictate what they are going to allow to happen, and what’s not going to be allowed to happen?"
All the road expansion is slated for the privately owned west side of Providence, and will include demolition of eight stately and historic homes under the currently approved plan.
"Why do we give up so easily without asking the University to give us a portion of their property on the east side of Providence?" King asked. "It doesn’t make sense. Even if we took 12 feet, that would allow us to widen the lanes, and we wouldn’t have to get rid of the houses."
University officials routinely say "NO" to city plans that might adversely affect them, a situation Fowler, president of the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association, called "disturbing."
"I know our Mayor thinks the University is the economic engine of Columbia, and in many ways it is. But so are the rest of us who live here," Fowler told the Historic Preservation Commission. "Time and again, when the City or MoDOT or whomever has gone and said to the University, 'Can we reverse the traffic on this street? Can we accommodate this in order to help our neighbors in the Grasslands?' the University has said 'NO'."
"It's ridiculous that we as a community allow this to happen," King added. "It’s very sad to watch."
Both King -- and Littrell a few weeks later -- cited poor planning as one reason University officials take advantage of city government. Littrell told City Council members his "jaw dropped" after he moved back to Columbia a few years ago. "We don't have a publicly released plan for where our city is going. And now, we have people up in arms."
Meanwhile, Mizzou leaders are "aggressively trying to get more students to come to the University," Patty King told the HPC. "But they’re not addressing the fact these students have no place to live. And we’re allowing this, as a community, to happen."
Columbia needs to stop allowing it, Littrell insisted. "We're out of the teen stage now, folks. WE are the mover, shaker, and driver in mid-Missouri. It's not the University. We're not the dog to the University's tail. This is a great opportunity for us to say 'let's sit down' and create a plan with the University."
"We still have voices," Patty King reminded. "We may need the University, but they need us just as much."

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