City Council begins to narrow down visioning applicant field

Tuesday, December 9, 2008 | 7:17 p.m. CST

Nine of the 23 applicants for spots on the Columbia Vision Commission answered questions during interviews with the City Council on Monday night.

The task at hand for the council is to fill seven "coordinating committee" slots on the commission, which also will have five resource members with individual areas of expertise and equal voting rights.

The commission's charge will be to track progress of the Imagine Columbia’s Future vision.
 The first report from the commission is due March 31.

The council plans to pick coordinating committee members at either its Dec. 15 or Jan. 5 meeting. All 23 applicants are still in the running, but the nine called in for interviews were of particular interest to the council, said Sheela Amin. A tenth, Daniel Goldstein was out of town and will be interviewed later.

Here is a list of the council’s questions, and examples of applicants’ answers:

Why do you want to serve on this commission, and what skills would you bring? Mayor Darwin Hindman asked.

Many applicants, such as Phillip Clithero, said they have been involved in visioning  since the beginning and want to see it through. Many candidates also noted that they were born and raised in Columbia.

“It is important for me to see that Columbia continues to improve because I’m going to live here forever,” said Jay Lindner, whose goal is to guide the established priorities.

Julio Lorio said he came to Columbia planning to stay for just two months. But he has been here for 20 years.

Dianne Drainer was the co-chair of the original visioning committee.

“It is an honor to be involved," she said. "I don’t have an agenda, my agenda is the visioning process."

Jeffrey Williams, who was also co-chair of the original project, said that Columbia is a place where people can have a voice and that this project has tremendous potential.

Applicants listed assorted skill sets to contribute to the commission. Lorenzo Lawson said he plans to bring a different point of view and perspective to the commission. Philip Peters said he will bring his attention to education, race relations and health to the commission.

What is the role of the commission? What resources will the commission need?  Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala asked.

Williams said its primary goal is to track, monitor and provide periodic updates of the process. Jan Weaver said the commission’s charge is to support and shepherd visioning. The commission needs to identify measurable goals, get statistics and begin checking off goals, Weaver said.

Although there are organizations and processes in place, the commission will make communication more efficient and identify how different, unrelated groups can be tied together, Paul McConnell said. “I look at this whole process kind of like the shaking of the tree,” he said.

Lawson said the commission will help bring the vision to fruition. 

Clithero agreed.

“This isn’t a commission to come up with ideas," he said. "The ideas are there.” 

What would you do if you don’t personally agree with an idea? Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe asked.

A common theme in applicants’ answers was to find middle ground. Many said it is important for those who disagree to respect what others say and come together. People need to see both sides, such as pro-development and anti-development, Lindner said. McConnell said he will seek out the guidance and insight of the group. “It is not my interests that matter,” he said.

How will you maintain enhanced community interest? Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku asked.

Lawson suggested nominating a public relations person because it is important that the public buy into the process. Lorio suggested going house-to-house to increase involvement, or going to different groups to spark interest. Peters suggested the commission bring meetings to the people. Weaver recommended the commission's reports be published in the paper, making them easily accessible to the public. Williams also suggested publishing editorials in hopes that transparency will keep the public informed and involved.

What relationship should the commission have with the City Council? Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade asked.

“Communication, communication and more communication,” Lorio said.

Williams took a different perspective. "We work for you guys,” he said.

Lawson pointed out that the relationship is “vital.” McConnell said he wants the council to take the commission’s suggestions and see how the council can fit them into its individual wards.

The council is the eyes and ears of the public, Lindner said. Peters also said the commission will be an extra set of ears. The council works with issues that need to be decided today, but the commission can listen and look down the road. Weaver suggested the commission participate in the council’s annual retreat.

How will you remain impartial? First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz asked.

Clithero said he carries a key chain around with him that says “Trust me,” and he is going to ask the council to do just that. Lawson said that if visioning is done properly, everyone will benefit, and he said his passion is the city as a whole.

Is there anything else you would like to add? Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser asked.

Williams added that he and Drainer complement each other. Drainer also said that the two don’t come as a pair, and that she would understand if he were chosen but she were not. She said she respects that this is a new process. Peters added that he has a “utopian hope” for visioning. Lindner closed his interview by saying that Columbia is home to him and that he wants to “continue to build upon what we have and create the best Boone County we can.”

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