COLUMBIA — Because of restrictions on ward diversity, the Commission on Cultural Affairs has had problems filling openings with qualified candidates.
The Columbia City Council voted unanimously Monday to help solve this problem by requiring at least four wards to be represented through its 12 commissioners. Previously, membership was limited to no more than three people from each ward.
The Downtown Leadership Council may add a 17th member from the Tenth Hitt Elm Locust Neighborhood Association. This ordinance was on the April 5 council meeting agenda, but it was tabled.
Downtown Leadership Council Chairman Randy Gray said the vote should be postponed because the council has other recommendations and would like to have everything presented at once.
City council also voted unanimously Monday to approve the Downtown Leadership Council's recommendation to allow H3 Studio Inc., a St. Louis design firm, to conduct an urban design charrette for downtown Columbia.
The charrette — a series of meetings with downtown stakeholders — would "build consensus on the long-term view of what downtown should be," Gray said.
The Downtown Leadership Council voted to recommend H3 Studio Inc. on Feb. 23.
"We are seeing situations where there are qualified people that can't be on the commission because we already have three people from that ward," said Marie Nau Hunter, manager of the city's Office of Cultural Affairs.
Mayor Darwin Hindman said that although the restrictions have good intentions, they can at times bog down appointments.
As originally written, the proposed ordinance would have eliminated ward restrictions altogether, but Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade suggested the amendment.
"Wards have different characteristics," Wade said. "The more the membership gets concentrated in just a few wards, you end up, I think, missing some of the diversity the wards bring."
Hunter said that with the proposed amendments, candidates, who the council previously had to turn away, might instead have landed a spot on the commission.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe liked Wade's suggestion.
"It frees it up quite a bit, but still helps with diversity," Hoppe said.
The ordinance also means the commission now requires that up to two members be involved in elementary or secondary education. The older version required exactly two.
Other requirements already in place for commissioners:
- Four members must have significant knowledge of and interest in one or more areas of art.
- Two members must be from the business community, one of whom must be involved in the Special Business District.
- One member must be a regular person with no special knowledge of the arts.