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City Beat: County resident asks city to fix litter issue

Council member resumes critique of chamber influence

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Some of the vehicles hauling waste to the city’s Noble Hill Sanitary Landfill are strewing garbage along Missouri Route 13 north of Springfield, according to Jeanie Sullivan, who addressed Springfield City Council about the issue at its meeting March 6.

Sullivan raised the issue of trash flying from improperly tarped vehicles on their way to the dump. Sullivan lives outside of Springfield in Greene County on Farm Road 94.

“I know that it’s a state problem, because that’s where the trash lands on the road, and it’s the state’s responsibility to get it cleaned up, but basically I’m here to talk about prevention,” Sullivan said.

She shared photographs with council of roll-off trucks that she described as improperly tarped. The landfill does require tarps, but she said her photos showed vehicles on which tarps had been used incorrectly, allowing trash to blow out of them.

She suggested the city require the landfill to reject loads that do not properly use tarps.

Sullivan noted that the Missouri Department of Transportation can’t control everything that goes down the highway, but the city can control what goes across the scale at the landfill.

City Manager Jason Gage agreed with Sullivan that the issue is a problem.

“We talk a lot about quality of place, but you can’t have quality of place if you have trash strewn along roadway corridors,” Gage said.

He said he suspects the city may need to tweak its ordinance to penalize haulers that contribute to the litter problem.

“Certainly, we will look towards the guidance of council, perhaps a committee if we need to do that,” he said.

Sullivan suggested offending haulers be required to clean up the roads, or for taxpayers to be given tax credits for cleanup efforts or for maintaining clean yards.

Councilmember Craig Hosmer suggested police or landfill personnel cite haulers at the landfill.

Gage said a law review is necessary to determine what the city’s options are.

“All options are on the table,” he said.

Chamber influence
With a series of questions directed at the city manager, Hosmer raised what has become one of his persistent themes: the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s influence on the city’s governing body.

Hosmer asked Gage if the city was still a member of the chamber, and if so, how many memberships it had. Gage said following previous council direction, he was working to limit the city’s membership to one.

Hosmer said that the chamber had endorsed City Council candidates for the April election, which affects the mayor, two incumbent council members running unopposed and three seats being vied for by two newcomers each. Hosmer is not up for reelection in April.

Hosmer asked Gage if the city had given any input toward the chamber’s endorsement, since it is a member. Gage said the city doesn’t get involved with election activities.

“Do we even know what their criteria was for interviewing?” Hosmer asked. “Because I’ve heard from people running for council that they never even got interviewed by the chamber. ... It seems sort of counterintuitive that you’d want to interview people to make sure those people have the same values that our city does and priorities that we think are important.”

Gage said city staff do not weigh in on issues related to the council election.

“Quite honestly, if they did ask the staff to be involved, because of our separation from the elected aspect, we would decline that,” Gage said.

Hosmer asked Gage to find out if, in choosing candidates to endorse, the chamber considered recent local issues like the 7 Brew Coffee on Sunshine Street and Jefferson Avenue or a proposed Galloway Village development and rezoning that citywide voters decided against last year.

Hosmer said voters can become confused since the city is a member of the chamber and that organization takes positions on council matters.

Reached after the meeting, chamber President and CEO Matt Morrow said Hosmer was mistaken in his claim that the chamber endorses candidates. Instead, the Springfield Good Government Committee, described on its website as a partnership of the chamber and the Home Builders Association of Greater Springfield, makes endorsements, he said.

At the meeting, Hosmer asked if city staff are still meeting monthly with a chamber development input group and noted that he had asked to get a copy of the group’s agenda for the last month but one was not provided.

Gage said the city was invited to participate in the group, which represents a variety of members of the development community and provides them with a chance to talk about general development topics and for the city to offer input where appropriate. There is no voting in the group.

“It’s really just a conversation opportunity for everybody,” Gage said.

Hosmer asked if city staff have those same conversations with neighborhoods. Gage replied that there is a Neighborhood Advisory Council, but he doubts there is a monthly meeting scheduled with each neighborhood.

In a January interview with Springfield Business Journal, Hosmer said he believes the chamber and the development community have undue influence on council.

“The city’s a member of the chamber. All council members go to the chamber breakfast every month; they travel with the chamber,” he said. “It’s influence peddling.”

Hosmer said the chamber can do whatever it wants to do, but the city should not be a member of the organization.

“I think it doesn’t look good; I think there’s a conflict,” he said.

In the interview with SBJ, Morrow said he thought Hosmer was referring to a body called the growth and government advisory council, which he described as a roundtable of people in industry, development and various government bodies. He added that Hosmer has been invited to attend meetings of the group.

When asked if he had a response to Hosmer’s critiques, Morrow said he had no desire to go back and forth on issues that he believes have been addressed thoroughly many times before.

Hosmer’s contention, as he explained to SBJ, is that business interests – not necessarily just the chamber – hold too much sway over council. If a developer wants to build an apartment complex on a given corner, the chamber is never in opposition.

“They put their wealth behind those projects,” he said.

Hosmer said when the city is too accommodating of developers, they lose the incentive to work with neighborhoods.

“By being so overly friendly to developers, we cause them to not be as collegial and compromising as a good developer is,” he said. “A good developer goes in and makes sure the neighborhood wants them to be there. They can make concessions that don’t change the bottom line a whole lot.”

No action proposals emerged from the conversation, which occurred after the city manager’s report and before the consideration of resolutions.

Action items

  • A resolution will allow council to add to or modify conditional use permits. Under previous city code, only the Planning & Zoning Commission could add conditions. Council approved the resolution 8-0, with member Andrew Lear absent.
  • Council voted 8-0 to authorize the issuance and sale of $15 million in special obligation improvement bonds to fund improvements to Historic City Hall, a portion of the city/county animal shelter, the public works operations building and some fire stations.
  • A $200,000 art purchase was approved for the Springfield Art Museum from its own funds.
  • Annexations were approved, each 8-0, for 9 acres in the area of West Sunshine Street and Moore Road and for an acre in the 3700 block of East Cherry Street. Planning and Development Director Susan Istenes said the first would be for a retail mixed-use development, and the second would be zoned for low-density multifamily.


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