COLUMBIA — Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala will represent Columbia on a panel sponsored by the National League of Cities (NLC). The panel on democratic governance is connected with the nationwide CityFutures Program.
Skala is the only Missouri representative among the mayors, council members and other officials appointed to the 22-person panel sponsored by the NLC. He was selected for the panel even though he had not submitted an official application. The panel's purpose is to help local officials promote citizen engagement and cooperative problem-solving in "responding to their cities' most daunting challenges and promising opportunities," according to a city press release.
Up for discussion are three important challenges confronting cities across the country: declining budgets, demographic changes and perceptions of trust in government. According to a press release, other issues include unreasonable expectations by citizens in the face of limited resources and the limitations on public discourse presented by typical formats of public meetings.
Skala said he felt these were "timely, yet timeless issues" that are relevant to Columbia. He said he was attracted to the panel because of its discussion on planning and development, finance, public safety, crime and school issues.
"I recognize this privilege as a way to acquire many of the critically important tools and ideas necessary to realize a serious commitment to open, transparent and accountable local governance," Skala stated in a city press release. "Fully engaging Columbia citizens in this process is the only real path to achieving our shared goal. The promise of Columbia's future depends on this bedrock principle of democratic governance."
Skala emphasized that democratic governance should be a "bottom-up operation," in which citizens get involved in issues even before the city knows how they want to move forward.
The CityFutures panel on democratic governance is one of several supported by the NLC. Some of CityFutures' accomplishments include publishing "The Rise of Democratic Governance" and a how-to guide called "Changing the Way We Govern." The panel generally meets twice a year, at the NLC's two conferences in March and November. Skala was unable to attend the March conference because the trip did not fit into his professional development and travel budget. He has, however, already registered for the November conference.
"Although it's a lot of fun for me, I am involved (in the panel) not just for my benefit, but to implement a vision for the people who elected me," Skala said.
Participation in the panel is open to interested persons in member city halls. To officially join, submit a nomination form in October; members are appointed in January. The panel welcomes participation from local officials and other interested parties.
For more details, see the panel on the NLC Web site.