Vision Commission seeks means of tracking progress

Group begins its work early next month
Monday, December 22, 2008 | 4:22 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Now that Columbia's Vision Commission is in place, its members must begin the task of identifying methods for monitoring the goals of the Imagine Columbia’s Future report and for moving that vision forward.

The commission has until March 31 to recommend an initial reporting framework to quantify progress. Sarah Read, a consultant with The Communications Center, has compressed the vision into seven major themes that run through the vision plan, Assistant City Manager Paula Hertwig Hopkins said. These goals and strategies are grouped together by categories.

The Vision Topic Groups that drafted Imagine Columbia's Future suggested distributing work to different groups so that implementation of the goals and strategies could be more manageable. For example, Hertwig Hopkins has asked the board of the New Century Fund, which raises money for city improvements, to drive two strategies in the vision report. The commission also needs to identify necessary resources to help implement the vision.

"They have a challenging task ahead of them to talk about how they are going to quantify it, track it and what it is going to look like," Hertwig Hopkins said. Starting in December 2009 the commission will begin an annual report on progress.

The new commissioners are ready to get the public excited about the vision process. Here are some of their ideas for tracking progress:

  • Jan Weaver, 54, is director of environmental studies at MU. Weaver has been involved in development issues both formally and informally for the past 10 years and is a member of the Friends of Rock Bridge Memorial Park.

“I am very interested in Columbia’s future. ... I have experienced it as a resident, as a student and as an employee,” she said.

Weaver’s idea for tracking progress on the city's vision is to rely on the collection and analysis of annual statistics, for example high school dropout rates or data about the water quality of Hinkson Creek, to discern whether the city is headed in the right directions.

“I would want to identify three to five key measures for each of the subtopics or areas and find things that were measurable or find some statistic that would indicate a measure of our success,” she said.

  • Jeffrey Williams, 55, is director of Access and Urban Outreach at MU and a co-chair of the original Vision Committee. "Our job was basically to kind of shepherd the process through getting the necessary feedback," he said.

Williams has a history with the goals of the visioning process.

“I think the biggest attribute that one could bring to this is a history of civic engagement, an ongoing interest in the civic affairs of the city, an ongoing interest in trying to make life better for the broadest spectrum of people in the city,” he said.

Williams said that understanding what resources the city has available would be crucial for implementation.

“I think that Columbia is a place where people can get their voices heard, and I think that is what this process is about in a large part," he said.

  • Dan Goldstein, 45, is a research scientist at Northwest Research Associates. He was originally one of four facilitators of the development subgroup when visioning began. Goldstein wants to monitor and track progress by identifying the resources Columbia already has on its many board and commissions.

"One of the issues we will be looking at is if there isn't something that is covered, we need to discuss with council ... and recommend a given commission take on a task or a new commission needs to exist and be formed."

Tracking progress is less about looking at numbers and more about looking at how to best utilize resources, Goldstein said. He also thinks it is important to get the community excited about the process.

  • Jay Lindner, 28, is executive vice president of Forum Development Group. Lindner attended every vision meeting, from the kickoff to the session when the various subgroups completed their goals. He also said that since he was born and raised in Columbia, he wants “to make sure the vision for Columbia is the best it can be.”

Lindner said he is qualified for the position because of his community involvement and because his “knowledge of development and the growth side of the community will bring a lot to the table and be able to open up dialogue.” His initial idea to monitor and track progress toward visioning goals is to reintroduce the vision to Columbia and build community excitement.

The commission will meet for the first time at 4 p.m. Jan. 6 in the fourth-floor conference room of the Daniel Boone City Building, 701 E. Broadway. The meeting is open to the public.

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