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Columbia Missourian

GUEST COMMENTARY: People's Visioning looks to create solutions for Columbia problems

By Monta Welch
October 3, 2012 | 3:49 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Some of you have heard about another "visioning" in Columbia — a People's Visioning— a different visioning for an amazing future in Columbia. We, the People's Visioning, a "real, bottom-up, grass-roots" visioning, have been, since August, meeting regularly in small visioning topic groups to brainstorm solutions and great ideas to many things we know we can make a difference to and make this wonderful community far better.

Some of the goals would be to envision a different way to create jobs and repair blight where it exists in our community and do it without the need for incentives and tax breaks for job creation; and, therefore, with greater revenue on hand do these repairs.

People's Visioning

Bring your ideas and vote for the best phase 1 solutions and ideas at the People's Visioning Re-Convene, 2nd mini-conference, Oct. 10 at Columbia Public Library in the Friends Room.

There will be music and refreshments at 6:30 p.m. and the program at 7 p.m. For more information, go to the Facebook Group: People's Visioning and go to

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Citizens recognize that the enhanced enterprise zone and many other things speed through city hall without sufficient consideration. While it might be well-intentioned, city hall also has not had sufficient repairs and maintenance allocations for our public roads and other public holdings in our regular city budget and plans.

The solutions that People's Visioning citizens are brainstorming will focus on this and also on resolving problems that have allowed any public blight to occur. At the same time, we will address climate change issues and take our community further toward sustainable solutions faster.

These solutions don’t leave anyone behind and will create lots of job opportunities, along with mentoring and community education. We plan to suggest changes and look at shifts in the budget to accomplish greater overall sustainability, energy efficiency and, later, decentralized renewable energy generation with plans and programs that will save Columbia money and keep our energy dollars at home, circulating in our own community.

We are looking at food and water security as well as public health and how some of these issues, along with their solutions, often overlap to resolve and reduce crime, improve public health, offer hope, protect all our neighborhoods and help heal old wounds in our community.

Education will also be a part of this vision. We hope to interact with Columbia Public Schools, as well as our community colleges and the university. Citizens believe we can create good jobs in our community without giving away our tax dollars to support the services we need, such as schools, police, fire protection, good roads and a better maintained community infrastructure — all things that are critical to our community and Columbia’s desirability as a great place to live, work and bring business.

Events show us it is not necessary to declare much of our city as blighted to be economically viable, competitive and successful in creating jobs. It is worth noting Columbia has two new companies that opened for business here this summer without tax incentives, including a company originally telling officials it would not come here without an EEZ. This is an example to us that Columbia doesn’t need tax incentives to compete and therefore can use this future business tax funding for transportation, infrastructure, other services and our schools and to help create additional jobs through our high-quality educational system and trained workforce.

Blight and eminent domain are written into the state statute creating EEZs and are, therefore, expected to take place. Proponents of tax incentives for EEZs have no data to show that EEZ and similar tax incentive programs work that has not also been found lacking or questionable by our present and former state auditors, Tom Schweich and Susan Montee, each from different political parties. On the other hand, many citizens opposed to blighting large, mostly unblighted parts of our community have presented multiple sources of data indicating EEZs do not work. Many of them have come together to address solutions, by visioning, for climate and sustainability issues, food and water security, public health and other community issues, repairing blight and bringing good jobs, all at the same time.

Join us — your friends and neighbors — in creating this "Different Community Vision," affirming we don’t need EEZs and that we can find and create plenty of opportunity and good jobs without them. Bring your best ideas and let’s work together to solve these problems as we repair blight, heal old wounds, support our neighbors and neighborhoods, create jobs, better health, greater food and water security, improve educational opportunities, help address climate change and work together to implement much of what we envision.

As for climate change, we believe ourselves to be a nation of laws, recognizing the benefits of reasonable and necessary laws, and we know that more than 40 years ago, because of a broad national people's movement, our Environmental Protection Agency and environmental protection laws were established. Back then, a few other people cried that this would crash our economy and hurt business, but these rules saved millions of lives while cleaning up our air and water and actually spurring business and our national economy as we put ourselves to the task of cleaning up the environment and solving these environmental problems together. This is much like what the People's Visioning is working toward. We are ordinary citizens, recognizing common problems, rolling up our sleeves and coming together to solve them.

We invite you to join our People's Visioning process and bring your ideas. We plan to take new ideas on an ongoing basis; however, you will miss our phase 1 stage of implementation if you don’t get on board now.

Monta Welch is the founder and president of the Columbia Climate Change Coalition and Interfaith Care for Creation.