City Council doesn’t do its reading, votes anyway

At its meeting on Monday night, the City Council took Tim Teddy’s word for it.

The council voted unanimously to adopt the Consolidated Plan for Housing and Community Development 2010-2014. But council members hadn’t actually read the city’s long-range strategy and five-year investment plan for community development, housing and homeless services in its entirety. Instead they based their decisions on whether to give the plan the green light on the 14-page abridged version Teddy provided. Teddy said he chose to put together the shorter executive summary “instead of burdening” the council with the entire document.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that recipients of funds submit a consolidated plan twice each decade. The document describes the community’s needs and the activities for which it proposes to use the money. It also serves as a benchmark to measure annual progress and as Columbia’s application for HUD money. It’s due to the department by Nov. 15.

First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz acknowledged the problem.

“It seemed like one issue is that we only got 14 pages of this much longer document,” Sturtz said. “I just realized the 14 pages I read were only a smidgeon of the whole document.” But he voted aye, anyway.

Mayor Darwin Hindman called the full-length plan “formidable.” He said the plan was an interesting read, to which one council member interjected “in chunks.”

The public’s interest was also lackluster. The plan was the third agenda item scheduled for public hearing, but no community members showed up. That put the resolution in the same company as the turnout for the new maintenance bays at the landfill operations center, which also incited no comment. In contrast, the construction of the new bicycle boulevard on Ash and Windsor Streets prompted around 40 minutes of residents’ discussion.

But the community has a second chance that lasts until 5 p.m. Oct. 27, the time when the public comment period on the plan ends. Public comments on the plan (which is available in its entirety at the department’s office, the Columbia Public Library and online) can be sent to the Planning and Development Department’s office at 701 E. Broadway or e-mailed to the department at planning@gocolumbiamo.com. Suggestions will all receive written responses.

If the comment period yields comments or changes, the council will vote again on whether to approve the plan. But if no one speaks up, the application will go straight to HUD with the council’s uniformed blessing.

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