Petition + Payments = Bribery


Have you been following the story about the residents at the Columbia Regency mobile home park?

Have you figured out the back story yet?

If not, let me give you a hint – possible bribery and voter manipulation.

OK, that may be a little strong, but that is how I am interpreting the accumulation of information found in both dailies. That is my opinion.

First, “bribery” as defined in 25 CFR 11.426

“A person is guilty of bribery, a misdemeanor, if he or she offers, confers or agrees to confer upon another, or solicits, accepts or agrees to accept from another:

“(1) Any pecuniary benefit as consideration for the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant, party official or voter; or

“(2) Any benefit as consideration for the recipient’s decision, vote, recommendation or other exercise of official discretion in a judicial or administrative proceeding; or

“(3) Any benefit as consideration for a violation of a known legal duty as a public servant or party official.”

The residents of Regency were given notice of the closure of the property with notice, per Columbia ordinance, to relocate. Each trailer owner was offered a flat amount to help offset moving expenses. It did not matter if the trailer was a single or double wide, every owner would receive the same amount.

Though the owners of the property can do what they wish with that property, within the limits of the law, there was little the residents could do. What they did do was to make noise and got Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe involved. And the press.  Good job, residents!

On November 16, the Missourian’s Hanna Spaar reported that Aspen Heights, the new owners of the trailer park, changed their offer of financial assistance, increase the moneys available for a single-wide and allowing a bigger moving off-set for those who own double-wides. They also extended the move-out date. Good for Aspen.

But, as they say on every infomercial, wait, there’s more!

As part of the new incentive, for each owner or renter in Regency who signs petition in support of rezoning the property, Aspen Heights will pay an additional $500. (See numbers 2 and 3 above.)                                                       

Now, residents and owners of trailer-homes are not wealthy people. I would venture to say that they fall in the categories of lower-middle and lower economic classes. In today’s economy, when paying for gas to get to one’s $10.00 an hour job or jobs is a severe burden on the family’s budget, $500 is a lot of money. Few have turned it down and signed the support documents.

I see this as a bribe to gather support for yet more student housing as opposed to affordable housing for the working class residents of our fair city. In fact, that is exactly what I will call it – a bribe.

But Aspen Heights is not stopping there. Now they are “bribing” the student population at the University of Missouri. Most specifically, the fraternities and sororities on campus.

As Hanna Spaar reported in a separate story on Nov. 16, “Residents of Columbia Regency mobile home park aren’t the only people Aspen Heights is offering $500 for signatures on petitions. Sororities and fraternities are possible recipients of the company’s money, too.”

Spaar continued, “Aspen Heights is also holding a contest among sororities and fraternities at MU. The winner will receive $500 for a social or philanthropy effort.  

“The rules? Sorority or fraternity members must like Aspen Heights Columbia on Facebook, like the status about the member’s sorority or fraternity and sign an online petition saying “Aspen Heights would be a great addition for University of Missouri students”.”

Is this not yet another form of a bribe? I believe it is.

A Nov. 21 City Council vote will determine the zoning of the property. This rezoning must receive a “No” vote from all Council members.

There have been several attempts made to contact Aspen Heights’ Austin, Tx office, all unsuccessful.

So, as I have asked so many times in the past: What is wrong with this picture?

What Columbia needs is more affordable housing for her full-time residents, whether apartments, condominiums, townhomes or single-family residences.

What Columbia does not need is a company bribing targeted residents to get their way in City Council.

I urge City Council to reject such petitions on the basis of the payment to the citizens for their signatures.

I urge the University of Missouri’s Assistant Director Student Life Janna Basler to stop any and all fraternities and sororities from participating in Aspen Heights’ charade of gathering signatures for their private enterprise.

I urge you to write to your Ward Council representative and the Mayor, and demand that they tell Aspen Heights to cease their attempts to financial persuade petition signers –

NOW!

David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. David’s new book, A Christian Nation?, is now available on CreateSpace eStore and on Amazon.com. Missourian readers can receive a 20% discount at CreateSpace with code 5H3W9SN8.

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About David Rosman

David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com, InkandVoice.com and NYJournalofBooks.com.
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2 Responses to Petition + Payments = Bribery

  1. Jim says:

    I TOTALLY disagree with you. By building this project for STUDENTS, those students will (hopefully) leave other rentals that they are occupying in the city thereby freeing them up for non-students who are having a very hard time finding rental housing. I just checked the Columbia Multi List Service for ANY rental housing with 2 or 3 bedrooms for $800 or less a month and found just 9 listings. and if you looked in the Columbia Daily Tribune classifieds yesterday, you would have seen only 35 total and some of those may have been outside Columbia.

    You are SO misguided when you say that this project should be denied because we need low income housing. That is like saying that we should fire our basketball coach because our football coach got a DWI!

  2. David Rosman says:

    Jim,
    I disagree with you on both counts. First, by the definitions provided by federal and state laws, the actions by Aspen appear to be aimed at influencing government vote.

    Second, I think that all sports professionals and coaches, NCAA or NFL, or NBA, or MLB, are way over paid as compared with the return on investment for our future. Why should a rookie baseball player be guaranteed a minimum salary of almost one-half million dollars, when a teacher with 20-years experience makes 10 percent of that. Isn’t the teacher’s work more beneficial to the long term economic fair of the community?

    Let’s see. $800 a month for a person making a gross of $2400 a month. that is about $580 take home. On top of the $800 there is utilities (about $130), phone ($20 to $100), if in the county, water and sewer ($60), and possibly cable ($75 with internet). Let’s call that $1,125 to be on the conservative side. This does not include car payments, weekly gas costs, food, clothing, et cetera.

    This individual will still be some $500 to $750 short every month – per CMCA and the MO DSS. If that person’s salary kept up with inflation, this person should be taking home 125 percent of what is in the pay check today, and to no fault of theirs.

    Read my column of November 23/24 concerning the final decision of the City Council. They were caught between a rock and a hard place on this one.

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