By BRIAN EASON
COLUMBIA — On the heels of an 18-month visioning process that wrapped up in September, the Columbia City Council at a Monday night work session created its own list of goals for improving the city.
Council members insisted that although the community visioning goals should be kept in mind for any future plans, the council should articulate plans of its own.
Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade was quick to stymie any thought of breaking the council’s early New Year’s resolutions.
“Goals also entail implicitly a commitment to achieve,” Wade said.
His fellow council members unanimously agreed.
The goal that produced the most discussion came from Mayor Darwin Hindman, who raised the idea of improving infrastructure financing. Although the council agreed that topic could cover issues as diverse as electricity and community services, such as police and schooling, “roads are the No. 1 issue,” Hindman said.
The council wants to increase funding for these areas to accommodate city growth, but First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton reminded everyone that money does not grow on trees.
“Who’s paying for that? You’re either going to have to raise somebody’s taxes or cut something,” she said.
Hindman said he’d like to see a combination of developer and community contributions to meet infrastructure needs.
The council identified 17 additional goals, including economic development and improving general efficiency in city government. The challenge it now faces is articulating the goals in an organized way.
“Staff is going to take these things and put them in a recordable form,” Hindman said. “We’re all going to look at it and ferment our ideas. We’ll talk about it maybe at our next work session, begin to sort out those (issues) that — like infrastructure — we need to start figuring out how to address.”
“I think there are a lot of ideas here that were at the top of everybody’s list,” Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said.
One of those ideas was economic development.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser suggested developing a list of target industries the council would like to attract. Other issues raised included increasing affordable housing opportunities, establishing citizen oversight for the police department and developing a comprehensive long-term financial plan.
The final list of goals probably will be shorter than the 18 discussed Monday, but the council thought the brainstorming session was worthwhile.
“We start out with the assumption that all 18 are important,” Wade said. “We’ll get it down to maybe four or five and figure out how to handle it.”
There is no definitive timetable for completing the goal-setting process.
Before discussing their goals, the council members talked at length about what they felt the council had accomplished in recent years.
A recurring theme in the discourse was the improvements the city had made in environmental policy; its list included the addition and pursuit of renewable energy sources such as wind and landfill gas and its work toward improving bicycling and pedestrian opportunities using a $21.5 million grant from the federal government.
The council members also said that programs such as the visioning project had promoted citizen involvement. Skala noted that the Planning and Zoning Commission last spring received a record 21 applicants for two vacancies.