COLUMBIA — After more than a year and a half of community conversation, the Vision Committee and ACP Visioning and Planning have compiled a 255-page document that brings together the different goals, strategies and action plans that feature the ways 13 groups of citizens think Columbia can be improved.
One of the newest additions to the project is an implementation section that outlines the steps that need to be taken to use these strategies practically in the community. Dianne Drainer, co-chairwoman of the Vision Committee, said that one of the most important parts of this process will be putting the community’s ideas into practice.
Recommendations for Implementation of Vision Plan— Present the Vision Plan to the Sponsor’s Council and City Council for acceptance and/or adoption — Establish an “Imagine Columbia’s Future” implementation committee — Create a vision management and oversight group
Top Six Community Priorities as Voted on During the Community Choices Open House135 Votes — Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas using techniques promoted by the International City/County Management Association’s publication “Getting to Smart Growth: 100 Policies for Implementation.” (Category: Environment, Subtopic: Environmental Quality) 132 Votes — Develop the necessary infrastructure to support emerging technology industries including high tech business parks, community internet access, and a skilled workforce. (Category: Economic Development, Subtopic: Science and Technology) 124 Votes — Increase connectivity by flying to major airline hubs and adding other airlines with a variety of flight times. (Category: Economic Development, Subtopic: Airport) 122 Votes — Expand the public transit system, and identify and fill in existing gaps in that system to include longer hours of service, more frequent service and greater coverage of the city. (Category: Transportation, Subtopic: Public and Human Services Transportation) 107 Votes — Create a Regional Science and Technology Network (RSTN) with access to distinctive business and technical competencies needed to identify, develop and launch entrepreneurial high tech businesses in our area (i.e., a “Springboard Program). (Category: Economic Development, Subtopic: Science and Development) 106 Votes — Promote positive attitudes toward economic development. (Category: Economic Development, Subtopic: Economic Development)
“I didn’t get involved in the visioning process, and I wouldn’t have encouraged anyone else to get involved in it, if I didn’t believe in the seriousness of this vision process and the final report that would come out of it,” Drainer said. “This is not just going to be another book on the shelf.”
The vision plan is the result of formalized discussions, designed by hired consultants from ACP Visioning and Planning Ltd., that have sought to gather citizen input about issues in the community. The “Imagine Columbia’s Future” project has included “big idea” gathering meetings, the creation of 13 groups made up of volunteers from the community at large in areas such as downtown, economic development, and the environment, and the community choices open house, which have focused on giving people from different parts of the community the opportunity to voice their opinions about Columbia.
The steps to implementing the vision plan include presenting the document to the city and the Sponsor’s Council, made up of public officials, so that it can aid in adopting it.
The vision plan says that the city would be responsible for creating an “Imagine Columbia’s Future” committee, which will be made up of citizens, city representatives, and private stakeholders, such as members of the Chamber of Commerce, who will work to implement strategies in different areas. The vision management and oversight entity will be a more formal organization that will help them with this task, including putting together a report on visioning activities.
Lynda Baumgartner, co-facilitator for the downtown citizen topic group, said that the most difficult phase of the process will be implementation because of the commitment it will require.
“The hardest part is going forward, deciding what to do now and being patient with some of the things that will happen five years in the future,” she said.
After the final draft has been completed by the Vision Committee, the co=facilitators of the Vision Committee — Drainer and Jeffrey Williams — will go before the Sponsor’s Council and City Council. The Sponsor’s Council is made up of the mayor, the presidents of Stephens College and Columbia College, MU’s chancellor, the superintendent of Columbia Public Schools, the presiding commissioner of Boone County and the city manager. Drainer estimated that she and Williams will go before the Sponsor’s Council in December and before the City Council in December.
One member of the Sponsor’s Council — Dr. Phyllis Chase, the superintendent of Columbia Public Schools — said that based on verbal reports, she supports the plan.
“I think they are very well done, and it (the vision plan) shows a high degree of input from our community,” Chase said.
Compared to other visioning processes done by the ACP, Drainer said that the one in Columbia has been a “great success” because more than 450 community members have been continually involved in the process, about 340 of whom have been a part of citizen topic groups. She said that Gianni Longo, the principal for ACP Visioning and Planning, told her that this number was comparatively high.
“He said, ‘I’ve had 30 years of experience, and if you get 100 people involved, it’s good,’” Drainer said. “I think what he’s saying is we’ve done very well.”
During the open house, the Vision Committee took preliminary steps to get new people involved in groups that will be responsible for the project’s implementation. Through commitment cards, people were given the chance to sign up to participate in future visioning committees.
Drafts of the vision plan are available at the Columbia Public Library reference desk or at the Daniel Boone City Building. An online version is available by going to gocolumbiamo.com.