COLUMBIA — A new group met Monday night to discuss a different vision for Columbia.
The Columbia Climate Change Coalition hosted the event called "A People's Visioning" at the Columbia Public Library. The meeting focused on topics related to community improvement.
Monta Welch, president of the coalition, led the meeting that more than 30 people attended. Welch said at the event that she wants to see jobs created without blight.
"The ultimate goal is to help Columbia be a better community, to help it move faster in certain areas," Welch said. "Government can move very slowly — there are concrete things we want to make government move faster on."
Topics discussed by the group were:
- Neighborhood revitalization.
- Water use and conservation.
- Zoning and land use.
- Development and finance.
- Public health.
Following Welch's improvement outline, the crowd split into smaller groups to discuss their own ideas in regard to each issue. The groups will meet two to three times over the next six weeks to begin to draft a proposal for city officials.
Sam Allison is a former county recorder and County Council member in Bloomington, Ind., and directed an enterprise zone in Mitchell, Ind.* Allison sat in on the development group to share his expertise in city finances and enterprise zones. He said he was shocked to see the amount of taxpayer dollars the city puts towards Regional Economic Development Inc. and the Downtown Community Improvement District.
“I don’t know why they continue to take actions that seemingly infuriate the majority of the community,” Allison said.
Jan Dye is the chair of the Osage Group of the Sierra Club, a co-sponsor of the event. She says the group has potential to be successful because it allows for a person to come who might not normally attend a city government meeting.
“It can be a little intimidating for the average person to go to those,” Dye said. “Here it’s a little less formal and has more brainstorming. I think we have the opportunity to get really creative here.”
Jim Oakley, owner of O2Geothermal, a ground source heat pump company, participated in the small group discussion about energy. He said people are enthusiastic about opportunities to use alternative energy, but figuring out how to deliver those products and services to a wide number of people is why he attends these meetings.
Oakley said the meeting was a way for people to share ideas with positive energy and promote change.
“It helps to generate group interest,” he said. “This is how it all starts, but we have a long way to go.”
The group will meet next at the Columbia Public Library on Oct. 10.
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