UDO sign sparks commissioner discussion

Published 11:45 pm Monday, September 29, 2014


by Leah Justice


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Politics are heating up in Polk County as one sign placed near the roundabout traffic circle in Columbus sparked a discussion between commissioners during the county’s Sept. 22 meeting.

Polk County officials have not mentioned the unified development ordinance (UDO) in well over a year, but the issue is being brought up just prior to this November’s election. The UDO, which was an effort to combine all county ordinances into one document was controversial during the last election and was dropped by the new majority of the board of commissioners elected in 2012.

During commissioner comments last week, commissioner Ray Gasperson (D) mentioned the sign, which said, “Say No to the UDO.” Gasperson said the sign has gotten a lot of reaction and people have been asking what’s going on.

The sign commissioners discussed has been replaced with a new sign with a picture of a person dragging a ball and chain that says, “Remember the UDO? Vote Republican in November.”

“The UDO is an old issue,” said Gasperson. “It’s gone.”

Gasperson said written at the bottom of the (first) sign was www.polkliberty.org, which was an organization that placed advertisements and signs during the 2012 county election.

Gasperson said he would hope the leadership in the local Republican Party, especially the candidates for this year’s election, would go and talk to whoever is with that organization.

Commissioner Tom Pack said the issue of the UDO keeps coming up, indicating it is still an issue for this election. He said at a recent meeting one of the republican candidates was asked to attend and was asked his position on the UDO.

“I think (the sign) is an answer to that,” said Pack.

Pack was referring to a recently created Political Action Committee (PAC) called A Better Polk County, which is a group of residents from all political parties, particularly unaffiliated voters who are pushing for change from the current commissioner majority.

Commissioner Michael Gage also said the UDO question was asked at the PAC meeting, which invited candidate Shane Bradley (R) to attend.

“That meeting was interesting,” Gage said. “It was open to the public and I was asked to leave. So I guess I’m not the public.”

During the sign and UDO discussion, commissioner chair Ted Owens said there have been misconceptions about the interim county manager position. He said the position was not created for current interim manager Marche Pittman. Owens said commissioners had to appoint someone as interim because of the position the former county manager left the county in when he left for active duty.

Gasperson said as far as the sign is concerned, it is a big banner that is promoting fear mongering and “frankly, it’s telling a lie.”

“I don’t know why it’s even out there,” said Gasperson.