Equitable Recovery, Rebuilding Key Topics in Ginther’s State of the City Address
During Mayor Andrew Ginther’s State of the City Address, he referenced phrases like “still standing” and “moving forward” multiple times.
Throughout his address, Mayor Ginther referenced the key issues every other American city faced over the last 12+ months: COVID-19, calls for police reform, rising crime and a racial justice reckoning.
Much like last year’s equity agenda, he emphasized an equitable recovery as the best path forward.
“Our first step toward recovery must be to stop the violence in our neighborhoods,” said Ginther. “Columbus is not the only city that saw a spike in crime, and we know the cause is tied to the pandemic.”
He outlined anti-violence investments the city would be making, including new investments into Growing Up and End the Violence programs, and the expanding of Reroute, Safe Streets, and Safe Neighborhoods programs.
He also announced a $500,000 commitment to diversion programs, and asked suburban mayors to contribute to those efforts.
Funds from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan will contribute to those efforts. He also called on the state and federal governments to pass “common sense” gun laws.
Coinciding with the investment in anti-violence efforts is an investment in young people. Ginther announced that Columbus Recreation and Parks would host a pop-up mobile arts festival this summer, which will include paid performance opportunities for 200 artists.
Recreation and Parks would also host paid leadership training and job readiness for 112 young people, ages 14-23. The Departments of Public Service and Neighborhoods will also provide its own paid summer positions for youth.
Ginther called on local employers to reach out to the city’s Workforce Development Board to provide work opportunities for youth. Employers can receive grants in exchange for the work and mentoring provided to young people.
Update on Equity Agenda
In the past several years, infant mortality in Columbus and the racial disparity between White babies and Black babies has been a crucial topic of conversation. Ginther pointed out that the city has seen a 29% decrease in infant mortality overall, but disparities still persist.
He announced a new goal: Another 28% decrease in infant mortality, with a focus on minority babies.
He also gave an update on various projects and initiatives the city has undertaken. The city broke ground on the Hilltop Early Learning Center late last year and launched Future Ready Columbus, an organization tasked with building kindergarten readiness.
Ginther also revisited the city’s ongoing neighborhood redevelopment efforts, especially in the Hilltop and Linden: two new community centers, including the Scioto Southland and Linden Community Centers, a $35 million investment; a new fire station in Linden; the ongoing creation of the Linden Fresh Market; the beginning of a $10 million investment in Hilltop streetscape; a Sanctuary Night drop-in center in the Hilltop, which will be open seven days a week starting in July.
Moving on to affordable housing, Ginther said Columbus doesn’t currently have enough housing at any price point. He set a goal of cutting the number of people paying 50% or more of their income for housing by half by 2030, thereby making housing more affordable for at least 27,000 residents.
“It is a bold goal but completely attainable through local policy, state advocacy and increased pay for our residents,” he said. “Together, through public-private partnerships and an all-hands-on-deck approach, we can begin to fix the housing crisis now.”
He also mentioned that a search for a new housing director was wrapping up and an announcement would come soon.
Additionally, Ginther announced that he would be sending legislation to City Council for the creation of a security deposit insurance program. He also mentioned the city’s zoning code overhaul and LinkUS in service of affordable housing efforts.
“We know that climate change is a social justice issue because of the impacts on neighborhoods that have faced socio-economic challenges,” said Ginther.
He pointed toward the city’s energy benchmarking ordinance, community choice aggregation — to begin in June — and the Urban Forestry Plan as ways the city is working toward being a more sustainable city.
Ginther recalled his executive order requiring the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to investigate all deaths involving Columbus police as well as a change in CPD’s use of force policy regarding non-violent protests last summer.
Additionally, Ginther said that the search for a new police chief is underway, notably adding, “We are in the process of hiring a new police chief from outside the division – a transformational leader with experience creating culture change.”
Following weeks and months of public discussions regarding alternative crisis response efforts, Ginther announced that 20 social workers would be integrated into the local emergency call system.
Other Announcements & Accomplishments
Ginther also outlined a few other announcements and accomplishments of the city:
- A Columbus Innovation District, announced a few weeks ago with JobsOhio, Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital
- $74 million in contracts for the new Crew Stadium went to minority-owned businesses
- The city will implement a score card on its equity projects, to be shared with the public
- The city joined the Columbus Urban League’s Equity Now Coalition, a social justice initiative focused on equitable outcomes for Black Columbus
- Columbus is contributing $2.9 million in direct financial support to at-risk expectant mothers through CelebrateOne’s Healthy Beginnings at Home Program
- Columbus was selected to receive funding and support from the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund
Read the full State of the City here.