Written by Mike Martin
Concerns that Columbia's prominent types view citizens as "pieces on a chess board"
An Open Letter to our City and County Elected Officials, their Executive Staff, Community Business Leaders, and Members of our Boards and Commissions:
We in the North Central Columbia (NCCNA) understand that a lot is changing in our city. A rebounding economy and the current confluence of local events enable those with the financial resources to act now, while the rest of us work to financially catch up.
We’ve known, as have others before us, that North Central would be more intensively redeveloped.
We do not know if we can, collectively as a community and as a neighborhood, find common ground to do redevelopment responsibly in ways that protect our investment in our homes, our current uses and our current neighborhood relationships. We welcome development, we welcome increased density, we see as positive an influx of mixed use, mixed income and responsibly scaled development that respects our residential streets, our open spaces, and our mature trees and green spaces.
Change is both turbulent and uniting. We will at times be at cross-purposes. We will have disagreements. Some of us will not get what we want. We understand this. What we hope to gain from you, now, is a solid, earnest commitment to communicate with all citizens who are directly affected by your proposed redevelopment changes.
Let’s show our youth, especially in light of the recent gun violence that has claimed the lives of three of our young people, that adults in our community treat each other with respect and equanimity. Let’s show our youth that we talk through our disagreements, face to face and voice to voice, and that thoughtful, caring adults do not have to resort to verbal assaults or physical violence to protect their homes, their neighborhoods, and their identities.
Let’s show that we both know how, and value, listening to and hearing each other’s points of view.
We share a sacred belief that we can govern ourselves through representation and an aggregated voice that welcomes diverse opinions. As fellow citizens who subscribe to this form of government, we are obligated to respond to each other with respect and care. It is not okay give lip service to inclusive conversation when it suits us and then ignore it when it does not. It’s our collective obligation to include in our planning those affected by our plans.
Citizens come to our neighborhood association to express their anger at how elected officials, business leaders and local newspaper publishers feel free to approve rezonings and new development, begin new construction, or publish opinions without talking first to those very citizens and neighborhoods most directly affected.
These taxpaying citizens and invested residents feel as if you view us as pieces on a chess board, pieces that you are free to move as you see fit.
I'm specifically referring to the statements and actions of Hank Waters, Skip Walther and the Downtown CID, the City of Columbia Executive Staff, and the Parks & Rec Commission.
Our board officers attend between 3 and 5 city and community meetings each week, we are easy to find, and easy to call on the phone. While I am the board president of North Central, I speak for the Neighborhood Association after we have had a chance to come together to discuss the situation; I do not speak for them without our consensus.
Even while seeking a broad consensus and having discussions, we are able to address many subjects and concerns as shown by the list above. We are volunteers, unpaid, and rewarded only by the friendship and respect of our neighbors. We think this approach models the problem solving and communication skills we want our children and our community to develop and practice.
Patricia J. Fowler
North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association