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Resource Accessibility a Top Issue for City Council Candidate Ibrahima Sow

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea Resource Accessibility a Top Issue for City Council Candidate Ibrahima SowPhoto via Ibrahima Sow.
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Ibrahima Sow came to the United States from Senegal in 1998 with his mother and two brothers. He has lived in Columbus ever since, attending Independence High School and graduating from Ohio State University. Sow is now running for Columbus City Council, endorsed by the Franklin County Republican Party, with the goal of helping people like himself.

“Being from Senegal originally I had a lot of experience with people that don’t have a lot of access to available resources in a city,” said Sow. “So being from that kind of community and that background, I know these people and I’ve grown up around them, so I’d be able to, as a City Council member… bring those resources to people that need it the most.”

Sow said the top issues he wants to focus on are resource access for new Americans and children, neighborhood investments and diversifying the Columbus Division of Police, coupled with better cultural training for police officers. Such training must be comprehensive and inexpensive, said Sow, and should take pointers from other cities that have had success with cultural training.

“I think that the Columbus police are one of the best departments in the country, but that doesn’t make them exclusive to innovation,” said Sow. “If you’re good, you have to be better. I feel like they have to be able to know the different circumstances of different people in the city, especially being of different… cultural backgrounds, they have to be able to approach people and speak to them in a way that they understand.”

One thing Sow wants to do to help new Americans is to implement programs in Columbus’ libraries, offering free workshops teaching English and financial literacy, and making sure community members know when those workshops are taking place. Sow suggested giving libraries a wider mandate to help neighborhood populations.

“A lot of those things fall under our libraries which is a community resource, and as such, if you’re not used, you’re not being a resource,” said Sow.

After graduating from OSU, Sow served as an aide for Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and later as a page in the Ohio House of Representatives. With this experience in the state government, and with his Republican affiliation, Sow hopes he can serve as a bridge between the city and the state on issues that still frustrate local officials.

“I think one issue that we already have now and that we have just been hitting the wall over and over again is the abandoned housing issue,” said Sow. “I think the most effective way is getting the state laws changed so that cities would have a lot more authority to be able to swiftly take care of that problem.”

Sow also hopes to continue the enthusiasm building in the city’s political sphere on the issue of improved public transportation.

“I think the conversation that we’ve had on light rail so far is positive,” said Sow. “We’re gonna continue that conversation and do some studies to see if it’s feasible, what year we can actually start laying groundwork for that. I mean, the city’s ten-year plan of how you’re going to develop something, that’s an outdated model of development. If you’re gonna do something, if you know it’s the right thing to do, you start fundraising for it, you start building the money for it, you start building the momentum for it.”

Sow suggested the smartest approach to constructing a light rail system would be to utilize engineers coming out of OSU and other universities in the city, rather than turning to an outside firm.

Overall, Sow said the most important lesson from his life and background he plans to bring to city council is the understanding that “availability is not accessibility.”

“Coming from Africa to here and then being on the East Side… having gone to Independence and all the other schools that don’t have the same amount of resources that other schools do, I know access means a lot to a lot of people,” said Sow. “So that’s the kind of mindset that I’m going to bring, that people should always bring people what they need at the time that they need it and that kind of thinking, really common sense… is what I would like to bring to City Council.”

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