City hosts Central Neighborhood follow-up forum to address community concerns

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COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia hosted a Central Neighborhood follow-up meeting Tuesday evening as a part of its Strategic Plan for 2016-2019.

The loosely-structured forum, held at the Family Impact Center on Ash Street, comes after an initial meeting and barbecue hosted on June 23. 

Carl Kenney, a consultant for the City of Columbia, officiated the meeting. City Manager Mike Matthes was in attendance, along with Sgt. Mike Hester of the Columbia Police Department. 

According to Kenney, the meeting and others like it are used to facilitate a conversation about how to best address community issues.  

As a part of its three-year plan, the city identified three low-income neighborhoods (Central, North and East), in which it will focus efforts to promote economic development and job creation, housing and infrastructure, etc. 

The city's 2016-2019 Strategic Plan is centered around five priorities: economy, social equity, public safety, infrastructure and operational excellence. Kenney said neighborhood meetings fall under the social equity priority of the plan.

Central Neighborhood residents brought up some concerns during the meeting. The concerns included: heavy littering, public housing maintenance and tensions with Columbia police. 

Kenney said he anticipated police relations would be on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting in light of recent national tensions. 

"Of course, tonight's conversation is probably going to be a lot about policing. Community policing is a part of this project, but the community's going to give us a sense if whether or not we're on the right track with the way we want to approach the policing," Kenney said. 

Kenney said the city has not scheduled meetings for the North and East Neighborhoods yet.