COLUMBIA, Mo. - Saturday morning, Columbia City Hall held an orientation for candidates and the public to learn about how the city government works.
There are two seats on council up for grabs and five people running to fill them. Ward 1 and Ward 5 have seats to fill. Ward 1 covers much of Central Columbia, while Ward 5 covers the southeast part of the city.
The orientation explained how Columbia is made of more than 35 non-profit business entities, and how they work together "in the mission of making life better for everyone who lives in or visits" the community.
The city of Columbia government is a council/manager style of government. The candidates were told that everything must go through the city manager, Mike Matthes.
"To use an analogy," Matthes said, "the mayor is the chairman of a company, and the city manager is the CEO."
The orientation also explained the state's "Sunshine Law." The law is to create more openness in government. The candidates were told what could be subject to Sunshine requests, including conversations about public business.
The candidates were also told three examples of things that could cost them their seat on the council if they were to be elected. The first was interfering with city administration. Matthes said a council-person cannot say things like, "There needs to be a stop sign there," because that could be interpreted on putting pressure on a department. Instead, the council-person should go to Matthes and ask if there are plans to put a stop-sign in a specific place, or what can be done to start a project like that.
Conflict of interest and nepotism was also explained to the candidates.
The candidates and public in attendance will learn about the city's strategic plan consisting of the city's mission, vision and core values. The plan also includes the city's five strategic priorities of social equity, public safety, infrastructure, economy and operational excellence.
Candidates also learned about the city survey, which is conducted annually with residents. Matthes said these surveys allow the council to get a good idea of what the residents are worried about and what the city needs to improve on.
The orientation also explained the city budget of more than $400 million and how it is divided into more than 50 separate budgets. According to a city video, Columbia only receives two percent of the more than eight percent sales tax charged in the city. On top of that, Matthes talked about the reduction in sales tax revenue as more people begin to shop online, where cities cannot charge sales tax.