COLUMBIA, Mo. - Columbia city leaders are working to improve the quality of life for residents living in the central part of the city.
About two dozens residents met Thursday evening for the city's second central neighborhood meeting. It's part of Columbia's 2016-2019 Strategic Plan, which is aimed at addressing issues in neighborhoods that haven't had as much investment from the city in the past.
"This is one of the critical parts of implementing the strategic plan," said Mike Matthes, Columbia city manager. "We get out in the neighborhood, we connect with folks, we make sure the ideas in plan make sense for the neighborhood."
Resident listed their top priorities that they believe would improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods, which included things like safety, access to education and resources, youth activities and bringing neighbors together.
"The neighborhood itself seems like it's divided," said Crystal Quinn, who has lived in central Columbia for about three years. "I wish it was more like a family over there."
Quinn believes if her neighbors knew each other it would help improve a feeling of safety in central Columbia. Quinn said she doesn't like to take her daughters to Douglass Park because of the criminal activity that sometimes takes place there.
"It takes a village, you know? If we could all get to know each other and have each other's back it would definitely make our neighborhood a better place," she said.
Matthes said Columbia's poverty rate has decreased since strategic plan efforts began. He said an announcement with statistics is expected to be made next month. But he acknowledges there's still work to be done.
"We still have a big gap in black and white unemployment rate, he said. "We still want to focus on that. We’re going to continue to create jobs where we can."
A follow-up meeting for central city residents is scheduled for April 25. Meetings with east Columbia neighborhoods are scheduled to take place in the summer.