Concerns about a “blight” designation in the city of Columbia are continuing to come out in public forums. Issues such as using outdated census data from the year 2000, incorporating the first ward in the blighted zone, and potential employment of felons in the new “blighted” areas are among concerns being raised.
The Blight Decree proposal passed at the February 6th City Council meeting created a map that made about 60 percent of Columbia a “blighted” zone. About 80 people gathered to discuss the ramifications of the Blight Decree proposal that was brought before the Columbia City Council by Regional Economic Development, Inc., or REDI.
In attendance were Mayor Bob McDavid, City Council members Barbara Hoppe and Helen Anthony, REDI president Mike Brooks, and Attorney Dave Roland. A suggestion from Hoppe that the Council “might have put the cart before the horse” brought applause from the group. Hoppe says at the time the map was created, council members did not have all the facts necessary to pass a measure on the issue.
"The city and the Council has learned something, and hopefully in the future anything that is this significant will be brought forward much slower and with much more public discussion. So we’re having that public discussion now. It’s better now than not having it at all. Better before than after, but we’re doing it," Hoppe said.
The group Citizens Involved and Invested in Columbia, or CiVic, hosted the meeting. Spokesperson Mark Flackne said he believes the forum brought more information to the table.
"I thought it was a very good, very informative meeting for both sides. I think we learned a lot from the folks that showed up on our panel. And then I think the city and the representative from REDI, Mr. Brooks, learned a lot from us too," Flackne said.
Brooks said REDI will not bring a new proposal to the City Council at their April 16th meeting.