New commission to shepherd visioning process

Sunday, October 12, 2008 | 4:15 p.m. CDT; updated 10:02 a.m. CDT, Monday, October 13, 2008
Columbia City Council has approved the creation of the Columbia Vision Commission to oversee progress of the Imagine Columbia's Future project.

COLUMBIA — When the City Council approved an ordinance formally establishing the Columbia Vision Commission at its Oct. 6 meeting, it officially breathed life into the citizen advisory group that will have a key role in assuring that visioning goals come to fruition.

The volunteer commission aims to help sustain momentum for visioning by tracking and measuring its progress. It hopes to encourage public discourse and promote citizen involvement.

Additionally, the commission intends to play a coordinating role for the city boards, commissions and departments directly responsible for implementing the vision, as well as nongovernmental groups such as universities, schools and nonprofits.

In 2007, the Imagine Columbia's Future project gathered community input from public forums, citizen groups and committee work to identify shared values and goals for the city's future. The input was condensed into 13 topic areas deemed most important to Columbia residents.

In February, a final plan sewed together the results and outlined strategies to turn the goals into realities. Establishing the commission, an independent oversight group, was part of that final plan.

What will the Columbia Vision Commission do?

Assistant city manager Paula Hertwig Hopkins describes the commission as the "shepherd who makes sure visioning is moving forward."

It's about citizens working to develop and bring forward goals and strategies, she said, noting that tracking and monitoring the visioning progress is a big job.

The commission is responsible for putting together an annual report that measures citywide progress toward meeting the outlined goals. The commission will identify by March 31, 2009, specifically how it will measure and report this information. The first annual progress report will be issued in December 2009.

Every two years, the commission will issue an Implementation Report that will identify "the tasks, goals and strategies (the commission) will monitor for the next two years," Hopkins said. The initial Draft Implementation Report will be sent to City Council in March 2009 for approval. The City Council will review the first Implementation Report, in conjunction with the budget, in October 2009.

The commission also will conduct public outreach efforts and education for the public.

No city money is budgeted for the commission, but it can seek grants and other money to offset the costs of its work.

Who will be in the commission?

Up to 12 volunteer positions are open to Columbia and Boone County residents. Those who are interested can apply or nominate another person for a role in the commission. Appointments will be made by the City Council.

The creation of the commission is an important signal to the public that visioning is a citizen-driven process, said Jeffrey Williams, a co-chair on the vision committee.

"It's important because it's a reflection of our commitment to those citizens who took part in the visioning process," Williams said. "We are creating an entity that will follow up on the recommendations set forth in the vision."

Williams said he thinks citizens will rise to meet the challenges of the oversight role.

"I think there's a tremendous amount of excitement about making Columbia a better place," Williams said. "People think their voices can be heard in this community. There will always be individuals in town who will put their proverbial blood, sweat and tears into making this a better community."

Hopkins also thinks citizens will take an active leadership role in advancing the process.

"I'm 100 percent confident the community is up for it," Hopkins said. "So many people have been involved with developing and completing the vision plan from the very beginning."

More than 1,000 community members participated in some aspect of the visioning process, according to the final report of the "Imagine Columbia's Future" project.

"This is a unique opportunity as citizens to weigh in with regard to what they'd like to see in the future of this city," Williams said. "There has been an earnest commitment on the part of the city manager and others to make this a living document, and the visioning process reflects this."

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