Ohio Mayors Discuss Opportunities and Challenges
The theme of this year’s CEOs for Cities national meeting is “The Opportunity City” — a mantra oft repeated by Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther when describing both the aspirations and accomplishments of his city. As Ginther took the stage during the opening remarks of the three day conference, the theme quickly broadened to talk not only about opportunities, but also the opportunity gap.
“Not every neighborhood has shared in our successes,” stated Ginther, who provided statistical examples of how the Linden neighborhood has levels of infant mortality, high school diploma attainment and incarceration that are three to four times worse than the county-wide average.
Four other Ohio mayors joined Ginther on stage for a panel discussion, including Paula Hicks-Hudson from Toledo, Nan Whaley from Dayton, John Cranley from Cincinnati and Dan Horrigan from Akron. Each took turns talking about their city’s opportunities and issues, which revealed a lot of common threads.
“One of our major health care providers is moving to Downtown Toledo, and that has created a renaissance,” explained Mayor Hicks-Hudson. “Several neighborhoods in the Downtown area are able to lead that and be a part of this renaissance.”
Mayor Whaley of Dayton echoed those remarks, pointing out that while Millennials are leaving the State of Ohio as a whole, the ones who stay are flocking to the large cities.
“Young people see the value of place, the value of inclusion and the value of diversity,” she explained. “Ninety-five percent of the job growth of Ohio comes from our metro areas. These mayors here today are leading the country in this type of work.”
Mayor Horrigan also focused on the millennial generation as being a key to the future of economic development in Akron.
“I don’t think any of us is really doing anything that different,” he said. “We need to have millennials at the table. If we don’t want to involve them, then we’re doing everything at our own peril.”
When it comes to issues that each Ohio city faces, police and community relations came to the forefront immediately. Mayor Ginther mentioned the recent shooting death of 13 year-old Tyre King and what that indecent means for the city as a whole.
“What I tried to do, with some success, is to have everyone in this community understand the mourning of losing a 13 year old child in Columbus,” he stated. “Although this child did not look like me, I was as responsible for his well-being as my own. Community policing is no longer an option. Transcending and doing everything we can to bridge the police and the communities they serve is a priority.”
Ginther also mentioned the events that occurred last night at City Hall.
“We had our City Council meeting shut down by protestors,” he stated. “So we adjourned to give them the forum and opportunity to protest peacefully. Frustration and anger is at an all time high, so we need to be talking and hearing one another — even if some of us are screaming.”
Cincinnati famously dealt with major community issues and civil unrest during the city’s race riots of 2001.
“You might not recognize Downtown Cincinnati or Over-The-Rhine because the renaissance has been spectacular,” explained Mayor Cranley. “It’s incredible, but it’s important to make note of the tough times we had to go through. We hit our low point in 2001 when we had the first race riots since Rodney King, but we’ve put together a collaborative agreement for police-community relations, which has become a model for the county.”
Beyond police relations and safety, the Mayors were asked about immigration, economic development and education.
“We recognized that we were the largest city without a community college presence,” said Mayor Horrigan of Akron. “We knew that we had to become a partner in workforce development, and now Stark State will be opening a campus on East Market Street in our Downtown. The University of Akron and The Ohio States University will continue to train atom splitters and lawyers, but community colleges help your work force get ready for jobs.”
Mayor Whaley touted Dayton’s focus on immigration that dated back to a program in 2011, welcoming new citizens to the city and immediately involving them in opportunities to better increate economic vitality in the city.
“At Dayton’s core, we’re open and inclusive no matter what,” she stated.
The CEOs for Cities 2016 National Meeting continues in Columbus through Thursday with additional speakers, panels, workshops, tours and networking that involves over 450 city leaders from all across the US.
For additional information, visit www.ceosforcitiesnationalmeeting.org.