GENE ROBERTSON: New Columbia public officals face many challenges

Thursday, May 5, 2011 | 11:22 a.m. CDT; updated 8:12 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Welcome to the new elected, appointed and hired public officials  in Columbia and the surrounding area.

How lucky you are. You have a clean slate and the ability to perform at a level of excellence that other officials should envy. All that is required of you is for you to utilize your education, skills and experience to passionately address your new responsibilities with clarity and courage. Allow me to offer a few suggestions to you.

Start by paying attention to what your constituents have told you while you were seeking your new job.

Establish a means of communicating with your constituency.

Set short-term and long-term goals for yourself in your new position.

Assess your potential resources and obstacles, then act. Passivity should not be an option.

All citizens are equally your constituents. You do not have to please them. You do have to serve them fairly.

Seek respect for your public service, not friendship or love.

What an opportunity. Columbia has so much potential. All that it needs is some dynamic and courageous leadership to release its potential. The brains and talents are here. Use this opportunity to challenge us to be the best that we can be.

The two new Columbia City Council members who were not endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce bring skills that the council should be able to use. One has planning experience; the other has experience in finance. These are valuable resources that any council should welcome; particularly a city council that is influenced by the developers, real estate agents and financial interests of Columbia. There is ample opportunity for you to enhance Columbia with your efforts.

If you are qualified, moral and passionate, we will all benefit. It is important that you have a sense of what you do, who you serve and the outcomes you seek in Columbia.

The First Ward in particular needs your attention. It contains a sample of the diversity of the city. It is the heart of the city. What an opportunity; what a challenge. An array of all of the city's assets and liabilities are contained in this ward. Address this job well and your next job will be easier.

An even more awesome challenge is representing the interests of the First Ward while serving the interests of all of Columbia. The issues before you include safety, the role of the Citizens Police Review Board in our community, Tasers and resources for all city departments in a tight economy.

City ambiance issues are of particular interest to me. I remember the height limits being placed on buildings in the downtown area to preserve the city's skyline. Now the skyline has been accentuated with a downtown parking garage. The main entrance from I-70 down Providence to Broadway (the center of the city) is filled with a strip of unplanned and uncontrolled buildings. The center of the city looks no better than the road leading to it. Yet there have been attempts to utilize eminent domain on the city's behalf in other downtown areas.

There are numerous other interest and issues that await you. You can address them better if you utilize the citizens you represent appropriately. We stand behind you. Lets get busy.

William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU.

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Jimmy Bearfield May 5, 2011 | 12:24 p.m.

"The main entrance from I-70 down Providence to Broadway (the center of the city) is filled with a strip of unplanned and uncontrolled buildings."

For a long time, people have complained that it's embarrassing when prospective college students and their parents enter the city that way and see block after block of shanties and Section 8.

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