The city of Columbia is looking toward the future. City Manager Mike Matthes spoke at public forum at City Hall Thursday morning about the city’s strategic plan for the next four years.
The plan, which will be introduced and could be approved by the city council at Tuesday’s meeting, includes five key projects: the economy, social equality, public safety, infrastructure, and workforce performance. Matthes said the biggest issue the city is looking to address is poverty.
“It’s easy to say, ‘I don’t know how to fix this problem,’ right?” Matthes said, “Or, ‘poverty has been around forever, you can’t fix that.’ But after all, we’ve been in the social service business from the very beginning.”
If the resolution is approved, city leaders will take several steps in executing the strategic plan. The first step is to improve the economy by increasing the number of living wage jobs in Columbia by encouraging current businesses to pay a living wage, and attracting businesses that will pay people a living wage.
“We want to make Columbia a city where people from all walks of life have a fair shot at success and prosperity,” Matthes said.
The second step is city leaders will identify three neighborhoods with the greatest need of municipal support, and directly work with residents of these neighborhoods.
The third step is building trust between residents and emergency personnel, while also raising citizens’ perception of their safety. One option in the plan includes seeking a tax ballot initiative to hire 70 police officers and 30 firefighters. Community volunteer Joe Adler said now is the time to act before a crisis happens in Columbia.
“People aren’t going to support it by voting for the funding that’s necessary unless somebody enunciates and clarifies the issues,” community volunteer Joe Alder said. “It’s always harder to do something before something happens than after it happens.”
Leaders also would increase public transit usage and implement a complete street repair policy in areas with the greatest need.
Finally, along with bringing more living wage jobs to Columbia, Matthes said city leaders also want to make sure their own workers are satisfied and residents are aware of the services the city provides. They want to increase employee engagement and launch an all-in-one contact center for residents by 2018.
The city council chamber was full for the discussion on Thursday, but Alder said the key is getting the word out to more of the public.
“Nothing good, like an effort like this, can ever succeed unless there is involvement and support from the citizens at large.”