Are out-of-touch leaders taking Columbia residents -- and their money -- for granted?
COLUMBIA, 10/18/12 (Beat Byte) -- About 25 people gathered last Wednesday evening for the second People's Visioning "mini conference" at the Friends Room of the Daniel Boone Regional Library.
Organized by area residents with no involvement from City Hall or city-compensated consultants, the alt.Visioning conferences seek a unified plan with integrated parts that better represents what attendees believe Columbia and its citizens want and need from policy makers, local government, and tax dollars.
Blight, enterprise zones, TIFs, non-sustainable energy consumption, underfunded infrastructure, and over-funded parking garages are among leadership priorities that do not represent the majority of Columbia and Boone County residents, participants say.
Instead, they seek different plans that support small business and home-grown startups instead of large, out-of-area companies; better mass transit funding; and smarter planning that doesn't force hundreds of student renters into cramped, single-family residential neighborhoods in older parts of town with historically inadequate roads, sewers, and storm drains.
Group members also discussed low-income housing; sustainable energy; crime reduction; minority issues; education, training, and mentoring.
To be effective, People's Visioning will require the same paradigm shift that changed the political landscape of Bloomington, Indiana about six years ago, explained conference attendee Sam Allison
, M.P.A., a former County Commissioner, county clerk, and Enterprise Zone director in that state.
After an economic development monopoly headed by the local Chamber of Commerce overstepped once too often, Bloomington residents took ownership of their community back, Allison explained, realizing that when they paid taxes, they weren't giving that money away, but putting it to work for what they wanted and needed.
Taken for granted by out-of-touch leaders, Bloomington voters finally said "no."
"It's our money -- yours and mine -- that Columbia's leaders keep using to push ideas nobody likes
," Allison said. "It's not okay to give $500,000 of our money to a business lobby like REDI to support Blight and EEZ," he explained. "It's not okay to keep spending our money on projects we don't want."