Safety And Justice: Join The Dialogue

Next dialogue online:  April 24 from 5 to 6 pm. Link to join will be posted Monday on the Trib’s website.

We continued our dialogue  on April 18, using the “Safety and Justice” dialogue guide created by the Kettering Foundation and National Issues Forum for this year’s “A Public Voice” effort. We were joined by a very thoughtful group of students from Battle High, who will be leading their own dialogue on May 4 from 4:30 to 7 pm.  The public is welcome.

Several areas of agreement emerged from our inter-generational, economically and racially diverse group.  The primary theme was that everyone wants to feel safe in their own neighborhood. With regard to the “working together” option in the dialogue guide, the key sentiment was that police and citizens need to first come together as fellow human-beings and get to know each other. Besides future dialogues, ideas for “coming together” included barbecues, sports, ride-a-longs, and mentoring opportunities. Another emphasis was the need to build bridges between poorer and wealthier neighborhoods.

To address inequities in the system, another option in the guide, the observation was made that in order to do that people need to first know what is going on and that means having citizens who are willing to ask the hard questions and knowing where to report.  It also means having leaders who are willing to answer those questions as the Supreme Court is now trying to do with municipal court reform.  We generated several ideas – including simply posting an 800 number for comments and concerns on courtroom doors — that might help in this effort.  As with the prior on-line discussion, there was also support within the group for focusing police resources on serious and violent crime rather than minor drug or traffic offenses.

The third option,  providing training in de-escalating violence to police and citizens, was supported by the group, which also wondered how to establish a community culture that rewards de-escalation.  A final theme was mutual respect, both in the sharing of experiences and being willing to listen and accept another’s perspective on their own experience.

This dialogue will continue on-line on April 24th from 5 to 6 pm – the link for joining will be posted Monday on the Trib website.  You can review the “Safety and Justice” dialogue guide or watch this video or simply join in.

Your voice matters!  Join us on-line on April 24th from 5 to 6 pm or on May 4 at Battle High from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

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Building Bridges: What Ideas Will We Commit To?

Determine that the thing can and shall be done and then we shall find the way.”
– Abraham Lincoln

At our December 20 forum we will be looking at what can we do and how we might do it. Whether something is done will depend on what participants are willing to commit to doing.

Since our very first forums, participants have identified loss of a sense of community as a key issue for Columbia.  Building bridges between groups has been a key theme for how we might move forward. The “Are We An Us?” dialogue guide that emerged from our first round of conversations summarized that theme this way:

Rapid growth and increasing diversity have made it harder for us to know our neighbors and communicate about the things that matter.  We need to be intentional about providing spaces and places for people to interact with those anything they don’t know.  The sense of community will naturally grow as people connect.

Several ideas have been generated and can be grouped into 4 categories: celebrations, intentional dialogue, personal invitation, and connecting through media. Below we summarize ideas that have been shared in each of these categories.

Celebrations.  Art, music, and food all bring people together.  This has been observed at several sessions, including our November 15 community commons.  Various ideas have been suggested for community events that could be affordable and of interest to many.  These have included

  • a “Columbia Small World cup” soccer tournament;
  • a series of concerts featuring local talent and picnics hosted by various neighborhood associations and open to the entire community;
  • a “Trib Fest” featuring a range of local artists downtown or in Douglass Park;
  • an International Fair.

Any event requires focus, partners, funding and planning.  Is there an event you want to help develop? If so who can partner, and how might we reach out?  Bring your thoughts on December 20!

Intentional Dialogue. Those attending the Community Commons have suggested “taking this out in the community”.  Places suggested included Battle High, the Chamber, St. Luke’s church and neighborhood associations.  A dialogue will be hosted at Battle High School by the student-run Wake Up! Campaign on February 7.  The Tribune has offered a Neighbor2Neighbor guide for hosting dialogues, although few have occurred (why?).  At our January 17 Community Commons, we will host a training on the “Conversation Cafe” format which will help you take this dialogue on community into the community – – at block parties, dinner parties, or coffee shops, and report back in. Come on December 20 and share your ideas and connections as we talk further about how to build more intentional dialogue.

Invitations.  Participants have noted that although Columbia has various celebrations, including the “Columbia Celebrates Diversity” celebration, often those attending stay in their small groups and there is no planned follow-up. As one participant observed, after such events “people go back to their respective enclaves, which most are already in during [the event].” Can we commit to personally inviting someone from a different “enclave” to such an event (and sitting with them)? to our service clubs? to our places of worship? to a dialogue?

Connecting Through Media. One great thing about these forums has been the range of ages that shows up (participants have ranged from teens to 80+).  And it is clear that we have people who like their news in print and those who rely on electronic forms of communications.  The range of platforms participants are using to communicate include Twitter, Facebook, blogs, other forms of social media, news feeds, in person and of course print. How do we best share the topics we are discussing and combine these various platforms into one overall community conversation?  We look forward to hearing your ideas on December 20!

Join us!

Community Commons
Tuesday, December 20, 7-9 pm
Enter the Tribune Training Room on Walnut Street, between 5th and Providence.

Sponsored by The Columbia Daily Tribune in partnership with the Kettering Foundation.

Continue The Conversation – December 20!

We had energized conversations at our November 15 Community Commons.   You can read the notes taken during those conversations here.  These conversations will continue as we focus on how to move forward with specific actions during our 4th Community Commons,  December 20, 2016 from 7 to 9 pm at the offices of the Tribune.

The conversations on November 15 centered around two themes, Building Bridges and Citizen Centered Planning.  The group discussing how to build bridges among Columbia’s diverse groups reviewed progress made on ideas shared in prior conversations that related to how media coverage of minority communities might be improved. Student reporters, assisted by community mentors will soon be contributing stories to the Tribune. Other comments emphasized that although there is an interest in building bridges, there has to be a plan for doing so.  In December we will focus on how to follow-through with several ideas that have come up relating to fostering intentional gatherings of diverse people.  Those ideas will be listed for ease of review in the next post.

The group focusing on Citizen Centered Planning continued to address the themes of accountability and communication.  Several additional ideas for improving our processes for planning, maintaining, and building needed infrastructure were raised and will also be summarized in a future post. A group member who was new to the Community Commons commented that he was fascinated by the idea that we could have “a civil conversation on a difficult topic.”  It is those civil conversations between citizens that will help us move forward!

What were some take-aways from both conversations as expressed by the group?  These might be summarized as follows:  Listening is key, talk leads to action, and we will need ongoing engagement, creativity and follow-through to make change.

Working together, we can make a difference.

Join us!

Community Commons
Tuesday, December 20, 7-9 pm
Enter the Tribune Training Room on Walnut Street, between 5th and Providence.

Sponsored by The Columbia Daily Tribune in partnership with the Kettering Foundation.

Information, Misinformation, Statesmen and Politicians

How ironic to read that the 5th Ward councilperson recently objected to pausing the design phase for a new sewer line  on the grounds that project costs would continue increasing if action were not taken soon. Ironic because the same councilperson actively supported  “pausing” construction on the new electric substation and transmission line earlier this year.  (See council minutes from January 19 ). Unlike the sewer line, whose projected costs have rapidly increased, the transmission line project was, at the time it was paused, on time and within the allocated money for the transmission and substation budget that had been presented to voters. The concern of project costs increasing was not in evidence when the council voted to pause the transmission line, and has not been much in evidence since as the project remains stalled.

Those participating in our “Community Commons” dialogue on “citizen centered planning” have been asking what citizens can do to help our leaders make better and more predictable decisions about our public infrastructure. Part of this discussion has focused on the difference between leaders who are “public servants” or “statesmen”, and those who are merely politicians. Differences identified included:

  • focusing on the common good v. catering to special interests or the loudest voices,

  • being a good steward of our public resources v. following the political winds,

  • being transparent v. “trying to control the message”, and

  • staying true to a vision and core values v. changing with the polls.

The council’s actions with regard to the transmission line have been a frequent reference point during these discussions.  The decision to pause the transmission line (which was first approved in 2013) was made as public meetings were being held on pole placement and design, in response to public opposition engendered by those meetings, and without input from the citizen led Water & Light Advisory board. Shortly thereafter, the 4th Ward council person suggested that maybe conservation could solve the the transmission issues (Note: as explained here, it won’t). In May 2016 the newly elected mayor supported the ongoing delay and suggested that a new “Option E”, might be possible based on his conversations with another electric provider.  Neither has updated the public on the feasibility of these alternatives, nor provided a timeline for their evaluation, nor provided estimates of the  costs associated with ongoing delay.  A letter sent by the Water & Light advisory board to the City Council on September 18, 2016 providing an analysis of the public concerns  and reaffirming the advisory board’s support for Option A, appears to have been largely ignored.

The recently released 2016 “Citizen Handbook” – which is offered as the City’s “performance report” to its citizens, stated (p. 8) “Wherever you live, water, sewer, electric and stormwater systems should be safe and reliable.” What are we doing to ensure that that goal is met?  Who is responsible for the costs and risks of delay when a project is “paused”?  What information should be gathered before an “alternative” is put on the table for consideration? What information should be shared with the public and when? What circumstances justify reopening decisions already made?

On p. 31, of the Citizen Handbook this report is given with respect to our electric service:

“The tricky part of getting the electricity exactly when and where it is needed is very complicated. Over the years, Columbia electric ratepayers have invested in the infrastructure to build a system that has a reliability rating of 99.9876 percent. Although the electric load growth has dropped from a 2 percent increase to a 1.25 percent growth rate, it was identified in 2007 that an additional substation and transmission lines were needed in southern Columbia. After many public meetings, gathering feedback from residents in the area and the meetings with the City Council, a route for the new transmission lines was decided at a public hearing in 2013. Voters approved the funding for the project through using bond funds in 2015. In 2016, the City Council decided to reconsider the route. At the time this article was published, a solution to electric reliability and overloading issue had not been decided by the City Council.”

How do we want our key infrastructure decisions to be made? What would best serve the common good? What can we do to ensure good stewardship of our public resources?

Join us tomorrow at the Community Commons and share your ideas.

Community Commons
Tuesday, Nov. 15, 7-9 pm
Enter the Tribune Training Room on Walnut Street, between 5th and Providence.

Sponsored by The Columbia Daily Tribune in partnership with the Kettering Foundation.

Our Town – Join Us Online June 21 at 5 pm

Did you know that between 2010 and 2015, Columbia grew twice as fast as Springfield and three times as fast as Kansas City? That more than 50 languages are spoken in our public schools? That we have students from more than 77 different countries? Find out more about how growth brings both diversity and prosperity and much more in the Columbia Daily Tribune’s 2016 Our Town guide. Print copies were included in the Sunday paper June 12 and can be purchased at the Tribune’s offices.

Join us online for a Trib Talks forum June 21 at 5 pm to talk about Our Town and its future.