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Equity, Stopping Racism Focus of Mayor’s State of the City

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman Equity, Stopping Racism Focus of Mayor’s State of the CityPhoto via Mayor Ginther's Facebook page.
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In his 2020 State of the City address, Mayor Andrew Ginther spoke on an Equity Agenda and a focus on addressing racism and discrimination in the city.

In his speech, he highlighted where the city stood on issues of infant mortality, diversity and inclusion, improving neighborhoods, affordable housing, public safety, innovation, economic development and sustainability.

Of note were several new affordable housing projects across Columbus, including Downtown, a commitment for Carbon Neutrality by 2050 and a November ballot issue for a program that would move the city toward 100% renewable energy sources by 2022. In addition, the mayor announced projects in Linden and the Hilltop to address food scarcity and human trafficking.

Early on, two protestors interrupted Ginther’s address to bring attention to police brutality, calling out the names of civilians that have been killed by Columbus officers, as well as the officers involved. This included 15-year-old robbery suspect Abdirahman Salad, killed in a CVS pharmacy in late January.

Ginther responded to the protestors by saying, “I hear you.” Later, after he returned to the stage once protestors were removed, he said: “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism” and “We have to have all voices at the table. Even the ones you don’t agree with.” Ginther added that he does not look down on activists and those who choose to raise their voice, and that he looked forward to speaking with the protestors and their group within the next few weeks.

This is the second protest at an event Ginther has spoken in recent months. In January, two different protestors interrupted a breakfast honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to call attention to the killing of Julius Tate Jr. and the prosecution of Masonique Saunders.

Infant Mortality

On infant mortality, Ginther highlighted progress in infant mortality rates since 2011, but that the racial disparities in mortality rates have been unchanged. He said that stable housing was a key to healthy homes for infants and young children, and highlighted an upcoming Hilltop Early Childhood Center that would provide “high-quality” pre-K on the West Side.

Diversity and Inclusion

On diversity and inclusion, Ginther said that the city is developing and implementing policies to address prime contract and sub-contract disparities for minority and women-owned businesses. He said since 2016, the city had increased its spending with these businesses by 47%.

On pay equity, Ginther emphasized the Columbus Women’s Commission and The Columbus Commitment, an agreement the city has companies sign for ensuring gender and pay equity within their companies, and that Nationwide had already achieved success. Ginther also pointed to a recent Franklin County Municipal Court decision that shortened the length of time eviction records would be kept from seven years to three years. He said that amounted to over 400,000 records cleared.

Ginther later mentioned that the city would be including language in its Human Services Grant contracts that would require companies to agree to provide services without discrimination on the basis of gender identity, expression or sexual orientation and commit to cultural competency within their organizations.

Neighborhoods

Ginther said that neighborhoods were his top priority. He highlighted the progress of the One Linden Plan, including the $20 million redesigning of Hudson Street, which breaks ground in November, the development of a Downtown Linden, which will include 100-units of senior housing and commercial space to be developed by HomePort. He also stressed the issue of food scarcity on the Northeast Side, mentioning a market to be built at Cleveland and Chittenden Avenues in November, that will provide free food as well as free prescriptions and health screenings by Charitable Pharmacy of Central Ohio.

The mayor also highlighted that the Linden Community Center has broken ground, and would be completed under a Community Benefits Agreement that guarantees a portion of the work being done by local residents in the neighborhood.

In addition to the Linden area, Mayor Ginther addressed the Hilltop, specifically the Sullivant Avenue Corridor. He announced the city would be implementing a police substation on the corridor, which would have a new code officer that would address the issues and concerns of Hilltop residents quickly and be embedded in the community. He mentioned several road and traffic improvement projects, as well as a new innovation center and market for healthy and affordable food access called Wheatland Farm that will be run by the Mid-Ohio Food Collective.

He addressed human trafficking, a particularly significant issue in the Hilltop. To address the issue, Ginther said the city would work with nonprofits in an effort to emphasize education and outreach, especially prior to arrest. The mayor also announced a 24/7 drop-in center known as “Sanctuary Night,” which would feed and provide counseling to human trafficking victims.

Affordable Housing

Regarding affordable housing, the mayor said that density was key to solving the crisis. He said the city would begin to reevaluate 70-year-old zoning codes to address the issue.

Ginther said that he wanted to make every neighborhood affordable and mixed-income — from market-rate housing in Linden and the Hilltop to affordable housing in Clintonville and Downtown. He highlighted an investment of $33 million through 2022 for 1,300 new or renovated housing units for families of four making less than $75,000 a year. He said the city’s Department of Development would be hiring a housing executive that would be focused on increasing the number of affordable and market-rate units in Columbus.

On the Community Land Trust, Ginther said an additional 46 trust homes on the Northeast and South Side, as well as Franklinton, were underway, with houses available as soon as March. He said the goal was to make Columbus’ trust the largest in Ohio.

Ginther said that private money was also needed to address affordable housing. The city set and met a goal of $100 million in funding from businesses and nonprofits to go toward affordable housing. These funds will go toward over 300 new affordable housing units for those making $25,000 to $40,000 a year on the South, North and East Sides. He also announced a 100-unit affordable housing project Downtown that would be geared toward those making less than $46,000 for at least half of the units.

Ginther later addressed homelessness, announcing $1 million to be dedicated to homelessness prevention.

Public Safety and Health

Ginther highlighted the work of new Columbus Chief of Police Thomas Quinlan to build community relations and efforts to implement the recommendations of the Matrix Consulting firm and the Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission. Ginther said the main goals he had for Chief Quinlan were to mentor officers coming through the ranks, especially women and minorities, increase cultural competency, and “explore” the creation of a civilian review board for the department.

Later he talked about working with Police and Community Together (PACT) to provide human trafficking victims resources for mental health care and addiction, instead of arresting them.

Mayor Ginther said that racism was also a public health issue and that he was interested in looking at the long-term effects it can have on the city with a newly implemented health commissioner, who will look at racism as a serious health crisis and come up with recommendations to address it.

The mayor also said rebuilding trust between the police and Black residents was a priority.

Economic Development

The mayor said that the city has seen 10,000 new jobs since 2016.

He highlighted a partnership with Next Street to assess Columbus’ small business ecosystem that pointed to disproportionate issues with accessing capital for women and people of color. The city, he said, would be moving forward with its Small Business Assessment program to address this concern.

Sustainability

Ginther said that climate change can be life-threatening for the most vulnerable people in Columbus, including seniors, children and low-income families. He announced a commitment to making the city carbon neutral by the year 2050 and that he would be getting an issue on the November ballot for a Community-Choice Aggregation program, which through bulk buying power will help the city move toward 100% renewable energy by 2022.

Mayor Ginther closed his address by saying the country is divided and though Columbus is showing unprecedented growth, the city must close the divide for those people who don’t see themselves in that growth and feel left behind. He emphasized a “dynamically” and “inclusively” growing city, that is willing to “learn from all voices” and “be willing to learn and change and lead in a new, bold direction.”

Read the full State of the City address here.

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