Columbia made steps toward social equity but also faces a lean budget, Columbia City Manager Mike Matthes said in his state of the city address today.
"We have begun to close the employment gap between white and black Columbians. The American Community Survey measures unemployment by race; they’ve measured it since 2005. The gap is now the smallest we’ve ever seen," Matthes said. "When the City Council established the strategic plan, African American unemployment was 15.5% in Columbia. Today it’s 11.9%. We still have work to do, but we’re gaining on our goal."
Looking to public safety, he credited community outreach policing efforts for significant decreases in crime in three neighborhoods.
"Overall, if you add all of these together, we experienced a 30% drop in crime in just one year in our strategic plan neighborhoods. This kind of work sends ripples throughout the city. When crime drops this far in a part of the city, it drops in all of the city."
Matthews also lauded higher graduation rates for African American students in Columbia Public Schools, and jobs Aurora Organic Dairy will bring to Columbia.
But, Matthes said, online shopping continues to affect retail jobs in Columbia and affect tax revenue.
"We have, and we will continue to have, a serious revenue problem. We built our funding system on a sales tax approach with no notion of a nontaxable online world. The world has changed."
Matthes said the city must move away from sales tax as a funding source and should look to property tax for future ballots for public safety and roads.
Listen to the full address below, or click here to read the text.