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Columbia city manager recommends restructuring boards, commissions

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 | 7:05 p.m. CST; updated 2:56 p.m. CST, Thursday, December 22, 2011

*An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect year for when the Conley Poor Fund was established. It was created before 1937.

COLUMBIA — A plan to streamline or dissolve some city boards, commissions and task forces will go to the members of those groups for input.

City Manager Mike Matthes and his staff presented a report to the Columbia City Council on Monday outlining a plan to restructure the city’s 61 boards and commissions. Mayor Bob McDavid suggested that the council send the recommendations to the boards themselves for their input before making any changes. His council colleagues agreed.

What do you think?

This story is an overview of the city manager and staff's recommendations for restructuring Columbia's boards and commissions. The Missourian plans to explore the report's proposals in more depth during the coming days. What are your reactions to the proposals, and what more would you like to know about them? Let us know by commenting on this story.


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“I rather suspect some of these will be objected to, and some will be accepted,” McDavid said. “I think we’ll all agree (the boards) deserve the courtesy of input into what we decide.”

The report calls for reducing the number of boards and commissions from 61 to 43, Matthes said. Under the new plan, the city would merge some boards, rename or refocus others and eliminate 18 altogether.

The report recommends eliminating electrical, mechanical and plumbing examiner boards, which issue licensing and certification for trade workers. The new plan would assign those boards' tasks to the Building Construction Codes Commission.

Among the boards on the proposed chopping block are the Armory Board and the Community Cooperation Board, neither of which have had members in more than a decade.

The Conley Poor Fund would go, too. It was established before 1937* through the will of John Conley as a trust meant to benefit the "deserving poor." About $142,000 is left in the fund; city staff recommends appropriating the money to the Community Foundation of Central Missouri.

City staff also recommends dissolving the Public Communications Resource Advisory Committee, a volunteer group established by the council. Its duty was to recommend small grants to community groups that pitched projects to enhance engagement with city government. The council, however, cut the committee's funding for fiscal 2012.

Other volunteer groups that would be eliminated under the plan once their tasks are fulfilled are:

  • Mayor’s Transit Task Force
  • Comprehensive Plan Task Force
  • Downtown Parking Task Force
  • GetAbout Columbia
  • Infrastructure Task Force
  • Mayor’s Pension Task Force
  • Source Water Protection Plan Task Force

Matthes said at the meeting that he also recommends “rebranding” the Environment and Energy Commission as the Sustainability Commission. The new group would collaborate with other commissions, such as the Bicycle/Pedestrian Commission, which, in turn, would be absorbed by the Transportation Advisory Commission.

The Downtown Columbia Leadership Council also would be absorbed by the Downtown Community Improvement District Board of Directors under the plan. The district board also would take on the responsibilities and funding of the Columbia Special Business District Board.

City staff also suggests “exploring the idea” of merging the Water and Light Advisory Board with the Railroad Advisory Board, which would require an amendment to the city charter. The city-owned COLT Railroad falls under the auspices of the Water and Light Department.

Karl Skala, who heads the Environment and Energy Commission, spoke at Monday's meeting as a member of the public.

"I initially came here to speak to the issue of the recommendations for the boards and commissions," Skala said. "But I want to thank you instead for the mayor's suggestion to refer this back to the commissions and the council's endorsement of that recommendation."


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Comments

Ray Shapiro December 21, 2011 | 5:34 p.m.

Perhaps less is more.
However considering that the city council ignored Planning and Zoning's recommendation to not rezone Regency Trailer Park for 1,000 student housing rentals, why have these commissions at all?
Are these commissions just extensions of the power of the city council or reflective of the community-at-large?
Without any legal clout, only commissions like the Human Rights Commission carry any real impact over the council. Perhaps the Citizens Police Review Board and the disabilities commission should merge into that commission?
Perhaps voluntarism would be better served if citizens of Columbia worked through their Neighborhood Associations and local, "independent of city government," advocacy groups to impact decision making. It's harder to "fight city hall" from the inside when commission chairs have their own agenda while rank and file commissioners are subject to city council/mayoral approval.

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