I attended a mayoral debate last Monday, an event hosted by the Missourian newspaper, and couldn’t help thinking that Tracy could debate circles around all of the mayoral candidates. I didn’t get to stay for the Fourth Ward debate, but I’ve seen Tracy in action, and I’ve seen video footage of a forum for the four candidates, as well as video clips of the other candidates put up online by the Missourian. My overall impression is that Tracy is more knowledgeable than anyone else about the details, intricacies and complexities of city government and public policy.
Here’s one example: In the mayoral debate, candidates were asked about whether under the current and future economic constraints, Columbia should continue to fund social services. I had heard Tracy address the same question the previous day, and she pointed out that the money that the city spends on social services is used to leverage funding from state and national sources, and without the city’s allocation, we would not have access to the outside funding that provides three or four times as much funding, ultimately, for the city’s most vulnerable members.
The depth and breadth of Tracy’s grasp of complex questions have impressed just about everyone who has met her. Her knowledge is in large part a function of her educational and professional background. She has a PhD in rural sociology, and is the Associate Director for Community and Economic Development-related initiatives at OSEDA (the Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis at the University of Missouri). In this capacity, Tracy has worked with dozens of communities throughout the state of Missouri, including Columbia. She has analyzed the data on funding of social services, which is why she knows so much about it. The local Chamber of Commerce often call Tracy’s office (including Tracy herself) to get needed information about the city. (I think it’s utterly ridiculous that the Chamber endorsed a candidate, Daryl Dudley, who has none of the sorts of skills that Tracy brings to the table.)
Although I have described Tracy as a progressive, Tracy makes a point of saying that she takes seriously her responsibility (should she be elected) to represent and work for ALL members of the community. Although one of her opponents is running on the claim of being able to facilitate communication and help people on different sides of an issue to reach agreement, I am confident that Tracy has all of these skills too. She has served on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission as well as other boards and commissions, all of which require the ability to communicate and work well with others. She is highly professional, respectful of others and able to command their respect. She is a kind, understanding, and empathetic person, which I think goes a long way towards being able to work with people whose viewpoints are different from hers.
This election is critical to Columbia's future, because the city council will soon begin work on a new long-range comprehensive land use plan for the city, the impact of which will be felt for the next 10 or 20 years. It's important to elect a council that will stand up for the welfare of all members of the community, with council members who understand the complexities of public policy and its impacts on people.
What I want to say to all of my friends who are voters in Columbia’s 4th ward is this: to vote for anyone other than Tracy would be a mistake; and if Tracy does not win this election on April 6, it would be a real loss for the city of Columbia. It would be a lost opportunity to have a council member who brings to the table an incredible skill set, and a vast background in the kind of community involvement that will make for a highly effective council member. This is an issue of fundamental importance to us all; the election is not a popularity contest, it's about real issues and will have profound and lasting effects on what happens in our community. You owe it to us all to vote for the most qualified candidate for the job.
Tracy has been endorsed by the Sierra Club.
I was interviewed for and quoted in this Profile on Tracy for the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Update, March 28, 2010:
Tracy has just picked up another endorsement, this one from the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition.