City Council to consider recommendations about merger of two downtown boards

Monday, February 6, 2012 | 1:44 p.m. CST; updated 11:32 p.m. CST, Monday, February 6, 2012

COLUMBIA — Two reports calling for increased cohesion between the city's two downtown boards are up for discussion at Monday night's City Council meeting.

The Downtown Leadership Council and the Downtown Community Improvement District each prepared a memo to the council after a meeting between both groups' leadership last month. Should the council choose to keep both organizations, they would call for measures to ensure collaboration and reduce duplication of efforts.

If you go

WHAT: Columbia City Council's regular meeting.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday.

WHERE: Council chambers in the Daniel Boone City Building, 701 E. Broadway.

OTHER INFO: The council will discuss reports on a potential merger of the Downtown Leadership Council and the Downtown Community Improvement District, along with many other matters.

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A December city staff report that suggested a merger of the two groups prompted the the Jan. 16 meeting. The staff report said that if there were a merger, the Improvement District should consider ways to increase the scope of its representation.

By law, members of the Improvement District board must be a business owner, a property owner or a downtown resident. The Leadership Council board comprises representatives of other city boards and commissions as well as surrounding stakeholders, such as MU and neighborhood associations.

In her report to the council on behalf of the Leadership Council, Chairwoman Rosie Gerding defends her organization.

"We believe that stakeholders in Columbia's downtown area include all of us, not just landowners and merchants," Gerding said.

Gerding said Monday that the broad representation of the Leadership Council board allows the group to take some of the deliberative burden off the City Council. Members represent varied interests and solicit the input of numerous stakeholders to inform their recommendations, which can make discussion easier when issues come before the City Council, she said.

"To me, that's one of the biggest reasons the DLC needs to exist," Gerding said.

The Leadership Council provides a voice for the landowners and merchants as well. A member of the Special Business District sits on the Leadership Council, but that organization will disband later this year, and its duties will be assumed by the Improvement District.

A proposed ordinance change that would place an Improvement District member permanently on the Leadership Council board is also on the council's Monday agenda.

Improvement District Executive Director Carrie Gartner writes in her report to the council that involving business owners in planning increases effectiveness and efficiency. She notes several projects downtown that came to fruition through the cooperation of Improvement District members.

"Simply put, planning cannot be imposed on the people, it must include the people to be truly successful," Gartner said.

Gerding worries in her report that these planning projects might not be a priority for the Improvement District members.

"The DLC also believes that the focus of these two groups is fundamentally different, with the DLC concentrating on long-range planning for greater Downtown Columbia, and the CID responsible for providing services and amenities to its taxpaying constituents," Gerding said.

Gartner counters this assessment with a list of numerous planning projects coordinated by the Improvement District, including the development of new parking garages downtown and the removal of canopies on Broadway.

"This organization has historically played a vital part in planning for the downtown and our membership reiterated this goal in our recent organizational revisioning," Gartner said.

The Leadership Council's other concern is that the boundaries of the Improvement District are much smaller than the area it oversees. The Leadership Council's focus extends from MU north to Business Loop 70 and as far east as Old 63, while the Improvement District is restricted to a 43-square-block area downtown.

Both groups recognize the need for greater cohesion should the council decide to keep them independent.

"I think there's room for both organizations," Gerding said Monday. "I don't see any reason why we can't get along. Both of us do good stuff instead of interfering with each other."

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