State of the City 2014 Focuses on Quality of Life Issues
A common thread that has emerged from previous State of the City addresses is that the annual event is not a time for grand flashy announcements, but instead one where focus areas should be defined for future initiatives. Keeping with that theme, the 2014 edition of Mayor Michael B. Coleman’s State of the City made it clear that Columbus needs to improve its quality of life for residents that need the most help. The homeless, the unemployed and the undereducated were mentioned as the targets of upcoming assistance programs and efforts.
“Despite our status as one of the most affordable cities in the nation, more than a thousand of our residents are homeless every day,” said Coleman in tonight’s address. “Despite being home to some of the best colleges and universities in the nation, more than 30,000 of our children are trapped in failing schools. For all the prosperity in Columbus, not everybody is sharing in it. We will not truly fulfill our promise as a city, until we share our success with all our residents.”
To aid in those efforts, the address included announcement about the following initiatives:
- Early Start Columbus — A $5 million city investment in quality preschool education.
- FastPath — A $1.5 million city investment in career readiness, led by Columbus State.
- Blueprint Columbus — A comprehensive green infrastructure project that will create jobs, train workers, strengthen neighborhoods and protect our environment.
- A $1.1 million city investment in the Community Shelter Board to address homelessness.
- Housing Works, an effort to create access to workforce housing in and around job centers, including Downtown.
- An expansion of Restoration Academy to serve 50 rehabilitated felons per year.
“Columbus is a community of stark and sobering contrasts — some bask in the glow of our success while others struggle every day just to see the light,” said Coleman. “These are deep-seeded challenges, and they will not be solved through good intentions or high aspirations alone. They will be solved in our neighborhoods, our businesses, our homes and in the hearts and minds of every resident.”
Recent successes touted at tonight’s address include the expansion of the curbside recycling program, the efforts to attract national political conventions, the launch of new transportation services CoGo and car2Go, and the completion of over 100 miles of off-road bike trails throughout the city of Columbus.
In addition to job creation efforts for the underemployed, Coleman spent some time focusing on the economic development potential surrounding Port Columbus, and announced the development of a task force that would investigate the implementation of a rail transit line connecting Downtown to the city’s airport.
“As we continue to focus on direct flights and economic development, we must also look to the future,” said Coleman. “It is time to begin thinking of our airport as more than a place we catch a plane. I believe it is time to redefine our airport as the center of transportation for the region.”
Coleman also spoke positively of the rebirth of Downtown Columbus, which now boasts over 6,200 residential units either built or in development, but he also mentioned that there is still work to be done to make Downtown housing more affordable.
“When we began this effort, I said that Downtown is everybody’s neighborhood. But when it comes to housing, it’s not,” he explained. “If you cannot afford $2,500 rent for a two-bedroom apartment, then you cannot live Downtown.”
The new Housing Works initiative will help to address this, with the City of Columbus devoting $11 million in capital funds over the next five years to incentivize workforce housing developments in and around job centers.
“Columbus is a great city,” concluded Coleman at the end of his speech. “We become an even greater city when we seize the opportunity and share our success with all our residents.”
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