The List: The 10 Most Popular Civics Articles of 2014
Columbus was never without a good political story in 2014. This year saw the city mount a formidable campaign to attract the 2016 Democratic National Convention, the battles and scandals of a gubernatorial election and the news that the historic mayoral career of Michael Coleman will soon come to an end.
None of those stories are on this list.
Instead, these are the 10 most popular Columbus Underground civics stories of the year, ranked by pageviews. I cannot emphasize enough that the popularity of a story does not necessarily denote its impact on life, society or the universe, nor does popularity denote quality of writing. Nevertheless, these were the most important stories to you, dear reader, in 2014.
Yes, the first story on this Top 10 list is a story about a Top 7 list. In May, the Burghard Group released its list of seven “American Dream Cities,” ranked based on how much residents of those cities believe they are achieving the American Dream. Typically, it’s wise to take the information in these kinds of rankings with a grain of salt, especially when it involves something as nebulous as the much-sought-after American Dream. Even so, Dan Williamson, spokesman for Mayor Coleman, was happy to celebrate the achievement.
“The mayor has been making the case for years that Columbus is one of the best cities in the nation to live, work and raise a family,” Williamson told CU. “This is a vindication of that.”
Favorite comment (via Facebook): “Columbus is certainly one of the best cities in the country. But the American Dream is just a mirage for most proliferated by the 1%. We’re all indentured servants.”
Broken windows, damaged storefronts and passed-out drunks came to the Short North in June with the annual ComFest. Some community members think the festival’s cultural merits outweigh the occasional bad behavior, while some business owners said the yearly rowdiness is “just the reality of putting that many people…in one place, especially when substances are involved.”
Favorite comment: “The Short North has outgrown the Short North.”
The saga of the old Madison’s buildings at 72 North High Street definitely captured much of your attention this summer, as it did mine. The extent of the buildings’ decay, the frustrating process the city went through to try and find a solution and the blanket refusal of the Tonti Organization to comment on the situation to any media outlet made this a fascinating ongoing story. Now, of course, that story has a conclusion; the buildings were sold to the Day Companies in November.
Favorite comment (via Facebook): “Columbus has one of the lamest downtowns in the country. It’s just parking lots and parks. Boring.”
It’s somewhat uncommon for stories about OSU to get a lot of attention on CU, but this one about 400 resident assistants being taken on a bus tour of Columbus without being told where exactly they were going proved extremely popular. The RAs were on their way to becoming student ambassadors, seeing the sights and relaying to their residents all there is to do outside of the University District. Student readers were pleased to find an article about an event they took part in and others appreciated the cooperation between the city and the university, though some commenters questioned the validity of some of the tour’s highlights.
Favorite comment (via Facebook): “Thank god they made it to Germain Lexus of Easton…”
Wow, you all really love ballot issues. I’m certainly not complaining, ballot issues have a significant impact on how local government operates and they get next to zero love when elections roll around. Especially during a midterm election with a gubernatorial campaign sucking all the air out of the room, it’s good to know people were paying attention to the Columbus City Charter amendments that appeared on their ballots Election Day. I’m just so very proud.
Favorite comment: “There’re some really good things in the proposed changes; unfortunately, the good things are fatally tainted by some really bad things. Wake up and smell the butter.”
In June, a man named Tyrone Brandy was found shot to death in a crashed car in Italian Village. As the investigation of the killing unfolded, a series of controversial comments erupted on the Facebook page for the Short North Block Watch, leading to a debate over racism, classism and crime that was at times substantive and at other times petty. It’s a debate that can be waged on social media but can’t be finished there as Columbus enters 2015 with some divisions still very much in place.
Favorite comment: “Jesse Bethea is a hack job not a writer of any kind making something a race issue when there was none there.”
We return once again to the Madison’s building. It was at this point in the saga that I went ahead and asked the friendly voice on the other end of the Tonti Organization phone number if anyone would ever comment on anything related to this property and was told no without hesitation. In August, the Tonti Organization asked to appeal the order by the city’s Building and Zoning Services Department deeming the building “unsafe and dangerous to human life” but not an emergency hazard in need of immediate demolition. This story also included details about the buildings’ deterioration, which included the fact that “fire suppression and fire alarm systems are not active or operational,” which is particularly unfortunate because of the “exposed and damaged electrical components throughout the building.”
One has to wonder what an emergency hazard would look like.
Favorite comment (via Facebook): “Can we just paint on the glass and call it public art?”
Admit it, WarriorWatch is kind of cool. Of course, the website that lets you track the progress of city snowplows has not gotten much use in the past month or so, what with there being no snow to plow. But when the next polar vortex hits, I know I will be monitoring WarriorWatch, either planning my commute or pretending to be a weather-controlling super villain.
Favorite comment (via Facebook): “I thought the military were considered warriors not snow plow drivers just a thought!”
This was obviously a very serious story. The first ever Fashion Meets Music Festival was a huge undertaking and being a part of it was a rare and amazing opportunity for the local musicians involved. Unfortunately, many of the event’s sponsors and participants believed the festival to be soured by the inclusion of R. Kelly and his long history of sexual assault allegations and dropped out. With this article, I tried to write a detailed timeline of the controversy, which was difficult given the festival’s somewhat confusing system of PR representatives and spokespeople. Unfortunately, the day after this story was posted I realize I had made a grievous error.
Somehow, I did not use “Remix to Eviction” as the headline. I’m sorry, Columbus.
Favorite comment (via Facebook): “All I can say is that Huey Lewis and the News would fill the void.”
One thing I’ve learned while writing for CU is that whenever you write a story about vacant property and development, there will be pageviews. And angry Facebook comments. In this particular instance, a community group in Clintonville that had been opposed to the closing of the Olympic Swim Club on Indianola Avenue switched gears after the pool closed and began opposing the construction of the Olympic Apartments on the now-vacant property. The apartment developer ultimately put the construction plans on hold for the time being.
Favorite comment (via Facebook): “I think a repository for Bio-Hazard medical waste would make a nice addition to the neighborhood.”