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Mayor Ginther Focuses on Safety, Schools and Neighborhoods in 2016 State of the City Address

Walker Evans Walker Evans Mayor Ginther Focuses on Safety, Schools and Neighborhoods in 2016 State of the City AddressPhoto via CTV.
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Tonight, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther took part in his first State of the City Address, utilizing the event to provide details on plans that will address some of the city’s biggest issues during his first year in office. Some of the big focus areas that Ginther spent the most time discussing include improvements to local police forces, a larger focus on pre-school education, and economic development investments targeting underserved neighborhoods like Linden and The Hilltop.

“Our city is in a time of great momentum, a time of tremendous growth, hope and potential,” stated Ginther. “Because of our economic vitality, the Columbus region is growing faster than any other metropolitan area in the Midwest. I stand before you tonight to announce the state of our city is strong. Yet, while we have much to be proud of, we still have challenges ahead.”

Echoing some of the comments that he made during a pre-election interview with Columbus Underground last year, Ginther reiterated that while many neighborhoods are thriving, others are not taking part in the same kinds of opportunities. In addition to Linden and The Hilltop, Ginther also mentioned the Near South Side, Near East Side, Franklinton, Northeast Columbus, Southeast Columbus and Northland areas as places where there is room for improvement.

“Our 2016 capital improvements budget will propose investments of $27 million in Linden and its contiguous neighborhoods, including infrastructure for the adjacent American Addition neighborhood, sidewalks on Joyce Avenue and the reopening of the newly renovated Douglas Community Recreation Center this spring,” outlined Ginther. “Our capital budget proposes $34 million for the Hilltop, including sidewalks on Mound Street that will allow children to walk safely to school, neighborhood flood control and streetscape improvements along Broad Street as well as the reopening of the rebuilt Glenwood Community Recreation Center in April.”

Acknowledging that the public investments will not address all issues, the city’s role in providing a foundation for improved quality of life should have a ripple effect that can hopefully lead to increased private sector investment in those neighborhoods.

Ginther spent a good amount of time discussing the sensitive issues of policing and neighborhood safety during tonight’s address, mentioning that there was work to be done both within the police department as well as within communities to help build better relationships and open discussion across all channels.

“We are painfully aware that police in cities around the country are facing unprecedented challenges in their relationships with the communities they serve — Baltimore, Chicago, New York, Cincinnati, Cleveland and so many of our great cities are faced with conflict, distrust and division over incidents in which citizens have died as the result of police interactions,” said Ginther. “Columbus has averted the fate of these other cities. But because we have been fortunate, does not mean we are immune. It would be naïve for us to believe that we do not have African-Americans and other residents in our city who fear being targeted or fear for their lives in their interaction with police.”

As promised last year, Columbus police officers will begin to see the rollout of body cameras in 2016.

“Instituting body-worn cameras will not cure all police-community conflicts,” said Ginther. “However, I expect that this new law enforcement tool blended with ongoing training and support resources will promote more positive interactions, enhance public safety and strengthen Columbus’ neighborhoods.”

Ginther also outlined a plan for early childhood development through the expansion of preschool education programs throughout the city.

Only one third of children who live in the Linden community have access to early childhood education opportunities before kindergarten — that leaves two thirds who aren’t afforded an equal opportunity to succeed,” stated Ginther. “Columbus City Schools is planning to repurpose the Linden Park Elementary School on Myrtle Avenue, and we will partner with the district to open a first-of-its-kind quality early childhood education facility with 14 classrooms for more than 200 students, when it reaches full capacity.”

Ginther said that this new model for a pre-K center is the first of its kind in the US, and expects that it will serve as a model that can be rolled out to other neighborhoods in the coming years.

“A child with a quality education should grow into an adult with an opportunity for a good job,” he added.

Additional highlighted quotes from the 2016 State of the City Address include:

“Our goal by 2020 and one of the most aggressive in the country: to reduce infant mortality by 40 percent and to cut the health disparity gap in half.”

“We will strengthen practical job skills opportunities through programs like apprenticeships, recognizing that a college degree is not the only road to the middle class. There are many different paths to success.”

“I am proud to announce that Columbus is committed to becoming a Kiva City – a partnership of local community groups and microfinance organizations working together to connect lenders with entrepreneurs. Kiva provides a first rung on the credit ladder by providing crowd-funded zero-percent interest microloans.”

“We’re creating a new Department of Neighborhoods, which will consolidate constituent services that have in the past been located around various city agencies. Neighborhood Pride, the Community Relations Commission, our neighborhood liaisons, and our 311 call center will be under one roof – and more accessible to the public in one of our central city neighborhoods.”

“When we extend opportunity to extraordinary people in an extraordinary city, we are all elevated to new heights. We are, after all, America’s Opportunity City.”

To read the full text of the 2016 State of the City Address, CLICK HERE.

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