An important alternative to city-driven planning exercises. By Monta Welch

You may have heard about "People's Visioning," a bottom-up, grass-roots effort for an amazing future in Columbia.

We invite you to get on board. Bring your ideas and vote at our ‘People's Visioning’ second mini-conference, this Wednesday, October, 10th, at 7:00 pm in the Friends Room at Columbia Public Library.
Since August, we have met regularly in small topic groups to brainstorm ideas. We envision a different way to achieve goals such as economic development, sustainability, job creation, and neighborhood preservation.
For instance, it is not necessary to blight large areas of our ‘un-blighted’ city to be economically viable, competitive, and successful creating jobs and attracting new business. Columbia has two new companies that opened this summer without tax incentives, including one that originally told officials it would not come here without an EEZ.

Seeking solutions envisioned at the grass-roots level, People's Visioning will focus on economic development and problem areas -- like crime and infrastructure neglect -- which allow blight to develop, rather than using blight as a means to an end.
Residents believe we can create good jobs without giving away tax dollars necessary to support services we need, such as schools, police, fire protection and good roads. City government does not allocate adequate funds for maintaining public roads and other public holdings as it is.
Citizens also recognize enhanced enterprise zones (EEZ), TIFs and other ‘Corporate Friendly, incentives speed through the City Council without much consideration. When City Hall is packed with ordinary citizens from right, left and center, objecting to taxpayer handouts, they don’t seem to be heard! This doesn’t help public opinion and trust in our government.

The Peoples' Vision also addresses climate issues, while pushing for sustainable solutions that won't leave anyone behind and will create job opportunities. We plan to suggest changes in the city budget to accomplish greater energy efficiency and renewable energy generation that will save Columbia money and keep our energy dollars at home.

We are looking at food and water security, public health, and how these issues overlap. We seek to reduce crime, protect all our neighborhoods, and help heal old wounds in our community. Mentoring, training, and education are key parts of our vision, through interaction with Columbia Public Schools, our colleges, and our university.

During the EEZ debate, you may have heard that citizens have no alternatives, no ideas of their own for job creation and economic development. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

We want job training and small business startup support through local schools and colleges.
We can improve neighborhoods with renewable energy and energy conservation projects, better transportation, food and water security.
We can build our community with maintenance for historic buildings and public infrastructure.
We can help those in need with assistance for youth, veterans, former offenders and those in poverty with low education/poor health or addiction problems.

So join your friends and neighbors in creating a different community vision. Bring your best ideas. Let's work together to solve problems and forge a citizens' vision for the road ahead.
[Ed. Note: Past Visioning initiatives, charrettes, and similar community planning projects have been operated almost solely by City Hall and a consultant hired by the city to direct discussion. The Peoples' Visioning project breaks that mold.]