LAKE OF THE OZARKS — The first session of the Columbia City Council retreat at the Lodge of the Four Seasons kicked off with a proposal to begin airing periodic segments on the City Channel to educate Columbians about the city wards they don’t live in.
Communications Director Toni Messina presented the tentative name “Walks in the Ward,” a program that would allow members of the council to teach their constituents and other residents about their ward. The focus would be on education, and council members expressed an interest in pointing out the boundaries of their wards as well as the landmarks within them.
A memo prepared by Messina estimated a 10-minute segment would cost about $2,000 to produce, depending on the number of graphics used.
Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said he liked the idea, but he said it walked a “very fine line” between education and political advocacy.
Mayor Darwin Hindman echoed that concern. Bringing up particular issues in a ward usually means taking a stance on the issue, he said.
“That’s news, but it probably doesn’t belong on the City Channel,” Hindman said. “I think you can pull it off, but I think you’re heading toward some sort of justifiable criticism.”
Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said it’s up to the council member to refrain from advocating for particular issues or their own re-election.
Wade said he thought it was important that issues considered by the council are put in the public domain, and he would refrain from taking a side on an issue.
“I think it’s more important to get these issues out there and let them be known,” he said.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser said she saw it as a “generalized” program, where council members could introduce themselves and talk about their wards.
“I don’t get up into other people’s wards very often,” she said. “I think it would be interesting to see people talk about their own wards.”
City Manager Bill Watkins said if it were pursued, it would be a 10- to 12-minute segment on the City Channel, and that the segments would “shy away” from wards near an election.
The council agreed to pursue the idea, and Messina said she would move forward with it.
After the meeting adjourned, Messina asked Wade to be the first volunteer and he agreed, he said.
Other business discussed Thursday night:
- Streaming online video of precouncil work sessions, similar to what the city does with official council meetings.
- Hiring interns to assist members of the council.
- Modifying the city-project tracking system to improve communication between the council and the city staff and boards and commissions.