I have lived in this town almost as long as the courthouse columns and have never seen the like. Gerrymandering has produced exactly the opposite outcome envisioned by the cartographers. The drama is playing out on Business Loop 70, where contiguous business interests have spent time and money concocting a community improvement district like the one encompassing downtown. Moreover, they have engaged former downtown guru Carrie Gartner as their director, the one person in the world with the most experience designing and creating a CID district in Columbia, Missouri. According to state law, a CID board draws boundaries and property owners in the area decide whether to ask the city to establish the district with power to enact sales taxes. If no residents live within the district boundaries, the vote to establish the sales tax is left to property owners. Property assessments already have been approved by business interests in the district. Both special taxes must be ratified by the city council. Gartner & Co. drew their district lines very carefully to include all the interested business interests and no nearby residents. But they made a mistake, failing to exclude a lone dwelling located on the Mizzou North campus where University of Missouri student Jen Henderson lives. Henderson is a registered voter and says she is skeptical of the district. If she follows through with a “no” vote, the district idea is dead.
Henderson worries about a new sales tax that would be paid by low-income residents in the neighborhood. One of her complaints is what she calls the “manipulative” way the district was formed and the election planned. “Manipulation” is the right word, but Business Loop 70 CID planners make no bones about how they intended to form and fund their district. They had a chance to tailor boundaries to produce a desired electoral outcome. In politics, this is called gerrymandering. Electoral maps are drawn by majority parties to favor their own candidates and defeat opponents. On Business Loop 70, their gerrymandering effort bit them in the behind. It produced exactly the wrong constituency.
That said, promoters of the Business Loop CID are fomenting a good project. A taxing district in the area would raise needed money for infrastructure improvements. The CID would focus additional tax revenue on an area long neglected. Visions of a much better-looking, customer-appealing area are exciting. Everyone knows the north entrance to the city can stand some polishing.