Sunday, January 17, 2010

VISION COMMISSION: Pans council candidate's report

COLUMBIA, 1/17/10  (Beat Byte) -- Decrying what they call "inequitable access to City administration," the nine-member Columbia Vision Commission is distancing itself from a "Draft Vision Implementation Report" to the city council prepared by 4th Ward council candidate Sarah Read and her firm, The Communications Center, Inc. in January 2009.   
Referencing their own "Final Vision Report" they claim better represents "citizen work groups," commission members spelled out concerns about Read's report in a letter to council members up for discussion at this Tuesday's city council meeting.   
Calling the Read report a "product of collaboration between the consultant (Read) and City staff...overseen by City administration," commission members criticized it for "adding ingredients not found in the original Final Vision Report, which may unintentionally favor one interest or strategy over another, in a manner not sanctioned" by the commission. 
Citing "confusion" over the Read report's emphasis on so-called "shovel ready" development sites, which "appears nowhere in the Final Vision Report," commission members called it "inappropriate, in our view," to treat the Read effort "as an expression of the citizen's groups who drafted the 13 Vision Statements." 
Originally conceived in 2006 as "Imagine Columbia's Future," visioning has been a multi-year effort to craft a comprehensive 20-year plan.
But the process has featured a long-running conflict between paid consultants many visioning participants view as beholden to City Manager Bill Watkins, and volunteers, who in 2007 rejected a similar visioning plan from New York-based ACP Visioning and Planning.
Ironically, Read was a member of the Vision Commission when members objected to the ACP plan.  "I thought" the consultant’s plan "would cost a lot, take a lot of time and be unworkable," Read told reporters at the time. 
This time, Vision Commission members -- who include Dee Dokken, Lee Henson, Khesha Duncan, Dan Goldstein, school board candidate Phil Peters and Tracy Greever-Rice, Read's campaign opponent -- are calling Read's report "the City Manager's report, expressing staff's perspective.  It was not written by a citizen's group or public commission tasked to oversee the project."

1 comment:

  1. In my opinion, this process was turned toward being a lost cause some time ago. Despite some efforts, the Big Idea Gatherings that took place in the fall of 2006 and early in 2007 were not comprised of representative samples of the residents of Columbia. Moving forward to establish a commission that is going to operate according to the findings of this process was necessary to keep things moving; but, it is premature and it creates a bureaucratic structure that is not connected to local interests.

    The criticism of the Columbia Vision Commission is probably warranted, and it should be extended to include a proper assessment of how the Commission itself was formed. Whose vision does the Draft Vision Implementation Report represent? and, What is the likelihood that this vision will be implemented at a high cost without broader citizen engagement in the development of program objectives?