Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman delivered his twelfth State of the City address tonight from the second floor gallery at COSI, located downtown at 333 W. Broad St.
In his opening remarks, Coleman emphasized Columbus’s ingenuity, calling it “a city that is on the cutting edge of science, technology, and education.”
He went on to announce several new initiatives and developments intended to buoy the creative sector, encourage cooperation between Central Ohio municipalities, and position Columbus as a national center for green energy and green jobs.
Coleman also called for common sense gun laws at the state level and asked one company in particular to start requiring background checks at its local gun shows.
The first major announcement of the night focused on a live-work community for creatives in the Franklinton neighborhood immediately west of downtown.
“The city will make its first investment in the amount of $900,000 in a warehouse to be owned by the Franklinton Development Association as an important catalytic project for the area,” Coleman said. “The Franklinton Development Association will transform the warehouse into 42 units designed for living and working.”
Further, private developer Urban Smart Growth Co. will convert an abandoned factory there into commercial space for creative business, retail and entertainment uses, and demolish a portion of the nearby B&T Metals site to “implement a plan that embraces both living and working along McDowell Street,” Coleman said.
This summer, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority will relocate residents currently living in Riverside Bradley and a new, mixed income neighborhood similar to New Village Homes in Italian Village will be constructed in its place.
The new district will be a healthy, sustainable community connected to downtown housing.
“It will be a cool, funky and, most of all, an affordable place to be,” he added.
In recent years, Columbus has grown while other cities’ populations have dwindled. But that didn’t seem to satisfy Coleman, as he claimed tonight that Columbus can be a greater city by leading a great region and called on jurisdictions surrounding Columbus to shift to a more regional paradigm.
“Individual jurisdictions can no longer expect to prosper in this new fiscal environment, unless each jurisdiction begins to share services, share expenses, maybe even share revenue,” he said. “Most importantly, we must share a common vision that for Columbus and Central Ohio to thrive we must work together to grow together.”
Coleman then announced he is launching an effort to explore which services can be combined across jurisdictional lines and how Columbus’s neighbors can grow the regional economy by working with, rather than against, each other.
“I invite the Chamber of Commerce, the Columbus Partnership, and the jurisdictions of the region to work with us to get this done,” he said.
Last year, Columbus was named the Ohio Hub of Innovation for Advanced Energy.
CODA Automotive, PlugSmart, Venturi, and other businesses are in Columbus to research, manufacture, and globally distribute products such as electric vehicles, charging stations, and energy storage systems, Coleman stated, adding that thousands of high-tech jobs can flourish here.
“If CODA Automotive receives a federal loan of $500 million, these possibilities become realities,” he continued. “Congressman Tiberi and I have established a bipartisan task force to get that loan here. The task force includes Senators Brown, Portman, Congressman Stivers and Governor Kasich, and I thank all of them for their partnership on this important effort.”
Toward the end of the address, Coleman touted Columbus’s rank as the second-safest city in America for families with young children (according to Underwriters Laboratories), but also noted that illegal guns were used in more than 74 percent of the homicides in Columbus in 2010.
“A plain and simple fact: There are too many guns on the streets of Columbus,” Coleman said. “They are taking the lives of too many of our young people.”
He went on to say that “common sense” suggests that when 30 percent of crime guns in the country pass through a loophole that allows private gun sellers at gun shows to sell guns without a background check, that loophole should be closed.
“In fact, an undercover investigator discovered that 83 percent of the time, gun dealers at the Westland Gun Show right here in Central Ohio knowingly sold guns to people who admitted they could not pass a background check,” Coleman said.
But the mayor didn’t stop there.
“C&E is the company that holds gun shows at Westland Mall,” he continued. “Without the proper background checks, unlicensed private gun sellers will have the ability to sell to gangsters, criminals and drug pushers at the C&E gun shows.
C&E, we are calling you out today. If you have a nickel of moral responsibility in your pocket, I ask you to spend it in Columbus. Require background checks on all private gun sales at your gun shows.”
With Columbus’s bicentennial just one year away, perhaps it was unsurprising that at the close of Coleman’s address he referenced a passage from a textbook written five decades earlier by Columbus City Schools Staff Member Anamae Martin.
She wrote, “It is hard to believe that so many changes have taken place in such a few short years…. But if Columbus founder Lucas Sullivant would be surprised with the Columbus of today… what of the Columbus of the future?”
Yes, we can dream of the future, Coleman said.
“But, like Lucas Sullivant, we have to work hard to make it come true,” he added. “As we grow with our city, new problems will face us. By being good citizens, and by helping with things that can make our city a better place in which to live, we can always say with pride, ‘I live in Columbus.’ “