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Buffaloe details lessons learned from trip to Switzerland


This week, Columbia Mayor Barbara Buffaloe returned from a trip to Switzerland. The trip included eight other female U.S. mayors as part of a delegation to Switzerland. 

Buffaloe said the trip did not cost taxpayers any money. The Swiss government organized and paid for the trip in an effort to bring leaders from both countries together to discuss a variety of topics. Buffaloe visited five cities in five days to see how local governments deal with some of the issues Columbia is facing. 

Buffaloe said affordable housing was an issue for cities represented by the other mayors on the trip, which included:

  • Mayor Jane Castor, Tampa, Florida
  • Mayor Remy Drabkin, McMinnville, Oregon
  • Mayor Janifer Kulmann, Thornton, Colorado
  • Mayor Nadia Mohamed, St. Louis Park, Minnesota
  • Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Albany, New York
  • Mayor Acquanetta Warren, Fontana, California
  • Mayor Debra Wimpee, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
  • Mayor Lily Wu, Wichita, Kansas

One of her takeaways from the trip was Zürich's Department of Housing Statistics, which uses data to try and be ahead of the curve where housing gentrification may start to happen. 

“It reminded me of what we are doing right now with the county and the housing assessment and our study where we are looking at the data. Like how old is some of the housing that we have,” Buffaloe said. “Where are some of the areas where there are utilities but there is vacant land. And what we could do is what Zurich did, which is they look at: How do we look at some of these homes and areas that might be being changed over. What can the city do to help allow that to happen, but also maintain the community character that they have going on? And how can we incentivize so we can bring down the cost of it, so they’re not just pushing people out?”

Buffaloe also looked into road safety, handling drug use and homelessness.

“For me, I think the coolest thing that they do is that they do a plan and then they implement it. That’s my biggest takeaway always building in those implementation actions into the plans that were doing and starting to resource that,” Buffaloe said. 

Buffaloe went onto say Columbia currently has three major plans including zoning in central Columbia, a transit study and a housing assessment. Buffaloe wants the city to implement some of these plans as the city continues to plan the budget for the next fiscal year. 

“I don’t want to do these plans and have it sit on a shelf,” Buffaloe said. 

This marked Buffaloes' third trip overseas in the last seven months. 

The other two trips included a visit to China as part of the U.S. Heartland China association, and the COP28 climate summit in Dubai with the U.S. Conference of mayors last fall. The trips were paid for by those organizations.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.

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Lucas Geisler

Lucas Geisler anchors 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.. shows for ABC 17 News and reports on the investigative stories.


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