The Columbia Chamber of Commerce is concerned with the Columbia City Council’s lack to advance voter-approved projects forward. In 2017, 86.13 percent of the 1670 citizens polled by the Chamber said it is important to complete infrastructure projects approved by voters. At that time, the Chamber urged council members to think about what’s best for Columbia, its businesses and what voters approved. Since then, council members have continued to delay certain projects that would advance the city. This has eroded the business community and public’s trust that our elected officials will follow through with voter-approved projects.
The Chamber finds it unacceptable for projects like the Henderson Branch Sewer Extension to not be completed or at least have called for bids to jumpstart construction. This project and others were approved by nearly 80 percent in the 2013 November Special Election. That ballot initiative was widely supported by voters and the business community. There were 30 projects to be funded through that initiative and 16 have still not been completed or addressed. This is unsatisfactory. Nearly 10 years into the Transmission Lines project with no plan on when or how the project will be completed. It is the City of Columbia’s responsibility and obligation to make sure projects like these get completed.
“City of Columbia staff does a great job at vetting the projects and gathering the information council members use to determine whether or not to send the initiative to voters,” Chamber President Matt McCormick said. “Certain council members continue to delay projects. This is harmful to relationships, community trust and the success of future ballot initiatives.”
The Chamber respectfully requests the city to reconsider the Henderson Branch and Transmission Line projects and make them a priority. This will help heal the trust between city leaders and its citizens. Furthermore, we request the city to be more transparent on the status of all bond issues. Increased communication about progress, or lack of progress, with voter-approved projects will improve the public’s trust and help make future ballot initiatives successful.
“We understand there may need to be minor tweaks to voter-approved projects, but those changes need to be communicated properly, which is not being done right now,” McCormick said. “If we want to continue to be competitive on the state and national levels for business, we will need the support of the community. If council members continue to not communicate appropriately, when it comes time for voters to approve a much-needed initiative, that support will not be there.”
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors past chairman, David Nivens, is addressing the Columbia City Council at it’s July 16, 2018, meeting on these issues. He will ask the council to reconsider the Henderson Branch Sewer Extension project and make it a priority along with other voter-approved projects like the Transmission Lines and Substation project.