COLUMBIA — For the first time, four of Columbia’s advisory boards and commissions were able to meet with the City Council in an effort to improve communications and facilitate better relations.
During the City Council’s work session Saturday morning, representatives from GetAbout Columbia, the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Water and Light Advisory Board and the Environment and Energy Commission came before the council to introduce ideas and voice their concerns.
The groups were chosen as priorities by the council.
“At 30 minutes each, we were only able to meet with so many commissions. We picked the ones that were important to meet with prior to the retreat and budget process,” Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said.
Hoppe indicated that before this meeting, communication was less than ideal.
“Occassionally, there would be some meetings. There really has not been much communication formally. If you were interested in communicating with your councilperson, you could call up the chair or talk to someone when you see them in the store or downtown,” Hoppe said.
Council members are pleased to see that a change is taking place.
“There has been an interest since I have been on the council to pay more attention to work of the boards and commissions and to have more official interaction,” Hoppe said.
Each group expressed their gratitude for the opportunity.
John Ott, who was representing GetAbout Columbia, said, “The attention of the whole council outside of a council meeting and in a work session is rare so it was a great chance to talk to them about the project.”
In preparation for the meeting, the council sent a questionnaire to each board to gauge concerns and priorities that needed to be addressed.
Responses varied from budget concerns to fundamental alterations to the city’s charter.
Some responses addressed concerns with the performance of the council in terms of its ability to communicate effectively with advisory groups.
For example, Water and Light Advisory Board Chairman John Conway wrote that his commission is “not always sure what the council expects from the board.”
Conway’s response was directly addressed in the work session by Hoppe, illustrating the council’s concern for failures in communication such as this.
Council members created a rough outline of improved communication through two avenues. They intend to meet with every board and commission, and also have requested written quarterly reports from each group as needed.
Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said, “The quarterly information will serve as an open line of communication for overarching concerns.”
Quarterly reports will be formally introduced into the council agenda for review.
“The meeting was beneficial for both groups. We can’t communicate enough,” Ott said. “My preference would be to get another meeting in person if at all possible, but I still think reports could be a positive thing.”
The council was also able to make connections between groups with common interests and further the goals of the commissions.
“Our commissioners are great resources and we should make good use of their work,” Hoppe said. “We should help them accomplish more, which will help us accomplish more.”