Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade’s Saturdays are about to get a little fuller.
After his special time with his grandson, which he wouldn’t trade for anything, he told the Columbia City Council he will be drinking coffee waiting for the community to join in conversation.
Following in the footsteps of councilman Karl Skala, Wade will be at Rendezvous Coffee Shop, 3304 W. Broadway Business Park Court, on the first and third Saturday of every month between 10:30 a.m. and noon, starting Aug. 4.
Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the councilmen are just continuing their open-door policy.
“I think what Jerry and Karl are trying to do is just a continuation of what they were doing during their campaign when they had info sessions with the community,” St. Romaine said. “I think their constituents want to keep that face-to-face relationship going with them.”
City communications director Toni Messina said appointing a specific time and place may make it easier for the community to respond to and discuss important issues.
“I think there are people that are not comfortable speaking in public,” Messina said. “If they have a problem that is more personal, they may not want to speak at a meeting. They may want to look their council person in the eye and know that they hear what they are saying.”
St. Romaine said that while the addition of “office hours” in coffee shops is new to the council, they have always been open.
“They are obviously as representative of their constituents as they possibly can be,” St. Romaine said. “This is not an unusual situation — our council people have always invited their constituents to talk to them. Many of them do it through telephone and e-mail.”
The conversation starts with the community, Messina said, but the more give and take between the council and the community, the better.
“I know from an elected official’s standpoint, the more they hear from their constituents — what they are thinking, what their concerns are — the more they can enhance what is happening in their ward,” Messina said.
St. Romaine agreed.
“I think it will benefit the community as a whole. It does nothing but help us be a transparent organization, and that’s what we try to be,” St. Romaine said.
Soon, informal meetings may be able to take place in-house, St. Romaine said. In the initial renovation plans for the Daniel Boone City Building, there was a proposed “council lounge” on the first floor. This has adapted into a more formal setting, based on the council’s request, with shared office space for council members and a conference room.
“So instead of having to meet in a coffee shop, or an independent business, they would have a space here,” St. Romaine said. “They are the leaders of our city government; I think it is very appropriate that they have a professional place to do business. These are volunteers, not paid positions, but they are not any less professional.”