Columbia City manager highlights poverty in strategic plan

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COLUMBIA - At a news conference Friday morning, City Manager Mike Matthes presented his 2016-2019 strategic plan for the city.

The plan includes five priorities, and each has its own set of objectives and actions:

  • Economy/jobs
  • Social equity
  • Public safety
  • Infrastructure
  • Operational excellence

A statement from the city said it plans on establishing a baseline of current living wage jobs, increasing the number of living wage jobs, reducing the median wage gap between white and minority households in Columbia by five percent by 2019 and reducing the skills gap in the labor market by 10 percent in three years.

Matthes said part of the plan was to address what he calls the two Columbias, or "a Tale of Two Cities," referring to the unemployment disparity among minorities.

Matthes said he wants people from all walks of life to have an equal chance to thrive.

"We are capable of paying human beings a living wage," Matthes said.

In another statement, Matthes said, "Poverty can feel like a prison. Escaping it seems so impossible. As we reflect on what we can do to provide escape routes, it is easy to say, 'I don't know how to fix that problem,' or, 'Poverty has been around forever - you can't fix it."

Community leader Tyree Byndom said if people should take away one thing from the city manager's presentation is hope. 

"For a lot of us, we're focused on really the basics - food, shelter, clothing, taking care of our families, trying to pursue happiness, trying to work toward a more perfect union - but we don't really know like the map or the big picture of what everyone else is doing."

Byndom said he thinks the strategic plan is a step in the right direction to helping improve the community.

"I think this gives us an opportunity to really have the structure for everybody to participate and to thrive," Byndom said.