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Chamber’s Government Day Considers Education, Transportation

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Chamber’s Government Day Considers Education, TransportationPhoto via Columbus Chamber.
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Friday was a day of political engagement as the Columbus Chamber of Commerce put on their 11th annual Government Day.

Local and state party leaders, political strategists and local business owners discussed many of the main challenges Columbus is presently facing — from lack of faith in the school system to shortcomings in public transportation to preparing for a million-person projected increase in the area’s population by 2050.

The event started off with Barbara Benham’s interview with Dan Good, Superintendent of Columbus City Schools. Benham is Executive Vice President and Director of Corporate Communications and Government Relations for Huntington Bancshares, a Columbus bank holding company.

Much of their conversation considered a public-private partnership between the school system and local business owners. This could be achieved through an internship program that would supply real life job experience to high school students before they graduate.

Good mentioned the support the schools received from AEP in the form of a $5 million check. The grant was designed to fund college preparation and career certification opportunities.

“They’re establishing these pathways to careers,” Good said. “Our students are now graduating with 30 college credits.”

After the interview attendees broke off into different panels. Each of the four was held in a conference room, and topics included education, tax reform, the workforce and transportation.

Marie Keister, President of MurphyEpson moderated the discussion on transforming transportation with panelists Jennifer Gallagher, Director of the Columbus Department of Public Service, Marty Stutz, Vice President of Communications, Marketing and Customer Service for Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), and William Murdock, Executive Director for Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC).

Together they discussed and answered questions from listeners on how public transportation will be updated and expanded.

Murdock said ITS research and development is the first step to moving the transportation system forward.

Columbus is one of seven cities to be named a finalist in the Smart City Challenge, a competition held by the United States Department of Transportation. The department is pledging $40 million to one city to help it “become the country’s first city to fully integrate innovative technologies.” Columbus joins Portland, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Austin, Denver, and San Francisco in the running. The winner will be announced this summer.

Aside from banking on a $40 million check, the panelists discussed a need to focus on meeting needs neighborhood by neighborhood. One neighborhood might benefit more from more pedestrian or biking space, while others might prefer more bus stops.

Parking Downtown seemed to be a relatable issue for everyone in the room. Between the spot shortage and the infrequent bus stops, getting to work can end up being a hike for employees.

“It’s about mobility, cars, parking, bikes,” Keister said. “All these things have to work together.”

After the hour-long panels, people filtered back into the main room for a debate on the presidential election. Political strategists Kevin Madden (R) and Stephanie Cutter (D) joined State of Ohio Republican Party Chair, Matt Borges and former mayor of Columbus, Michael Coleman in a dialogue about their support and/or opposition to the race’s front-running candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

According to a Quinnipiac Poll released Tuesday, Trump is edging Clinton in Ohio 43-39. Sen. Bernie Sanders comes in over Trump by two points, 43-41.

For more information, visit www.columbus.org.

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