Mayor Coleman’s State of the City Address
I want to welcome all of you here this evening to the Center Of Science and Industry. COSI is the best of its kind in the country, and it reflects where we are as a city—a city that is on the cutting edge of science, technology and education.
This is also where eleven years ago, I stood here before you to give my first State of the City Address. I will never forget it.
I could not sleep the night before. I thought of that time when as a 7-year-old in the 2nd grade Thanksgiving class play, I forgot my lines. I stood there onstage, blank, frozen, speechless before a gymnasium full of proud parents. My teacher whispering offstage, “Michael, Michael, repeat after me.” I was so nervous that I changed my shirt twice before the speech.
So here we are, 11 years later, a little older, a little grayer, a little balder, and you would think that by my 12th State of the City address I would be as cool as a cucumber on a hot summer day.
But I still hear my 2nd grade teacher offstage say, “Michael, Michael, repeat after me,” and I’ve changed my shirt twice. But I stand here with as much enthusiasm and as much anxiety as 11 years ago.
And like 11 years ago, I profoundly believe in the greatness of the City of Columbus.
The greatness of our city is derived from the greatness of our people.
We are built not from the top down, but from the bottom up.
The light that shines so brightly on Columbus is the light that emanates from the heart, the soul and spirit of our residents.
And it is the quality of our residents that separates Columbus from every other city.
We treat each other with respect, dignity and empathy. We find strength in the diversity of ideas rather than allowing ourselves to be defined by our differences.
In tough times, we meet adversity head-on, only to come out stronger and better at the other end. We never feel sorry for ourselves. We keep our promises and expect others to do the same.
Most of all, we are never satisfied with where we are, but always proud of who we are.
I am more optimistic about the future of our city than at any other point.
Because we gather here today knowing that the state of our city is strong and getting stronger every day.
We come together here at COSI on the banks of the Scioto River, where our great city was founded 199 years ago to lead this state in politics, government, education, innovation and economics.
And it is here in Franklinton where our city developed the characteristics and the values that we maintain even to this day.
Franklinton is the birthplace of our leadership, our first neighborhood.
Franklinton is the birthplace of our perseverance. After a spring flood washed this settlement away, our forefathers moved the town just a little west and started over.
Franklinton is the birthplace of our ingenuity. When the State of Ohio picked the state capital in 1812, Franklinton built the first Broad Street Bridge, charging three cents for foot passengers, four cents for a mule, and 75 cents for a wagon.
Now that’s a proposal we might have to reconsider.
And Franklinton is the birthplace of our compassion. In 1803, Lucas Sullivant and his wife found the baby of a slave left on their doorstep. They kept the child, nursed him, and raised him as their own, leading Arthur Boke Jr. to become this community’s first African-American resident.
Those characteristics of our forefathers live on in leaders like Bruce Warner, Pauline Edwards, Larry Danduran and Jim Sweeney.
Leaders like Helen Evans, who worked in a shoe factory while raising four children on her own, formed what is now the Franklinton Area Commission.
Leaders like Matt Egner who brought his family to the neighborhood after purchasing a home from our Home Again program. As a result, Matt launched a construction business here, hiring Franklinton residents.
And leaders like Carol Stewart, a Franklinton icon who has been championing this community for almost four decades. Carol is recovering from hip replacement surgery and couldn’t be here tonight, but is watching at home.
It is these characteristics of our people, of leadership, perseverance and compassion that make our city great.
And it is in Franklinton, where our forefathers put a stake in the ground 199 years ago and said, “Let us begin.”
And it is here where we must begin again 199 years later.
It is to this end that I present to you a new neighborhood molded out of our first neighborhood through our new partnership with the Franklinton Development Association, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority and a private developer called the Urban Smart Growth Company.
We will develop the foundation of an affordable live-work community tailored to the creative sector just a few yards west of here.
In doing so, we will market, incentivize and build an affordable neighborhood tailored for live-work housing, for our city’s creative sector. Our creative sector includes professions like artists, designers, performers, media, architects, engineers, techies, marketers and those in the advertising industry.
We’ve already begun. New and vastly improved access to Franklinton because of the new Main Street Bridge and the new Rich Street Bridge opens this area to new investment, new opportunities and new possibilities.
The city will make its first investment in the amount of $900,000 in a warehouse to be owned by the Franklinton Development Association as an important catalytic project for the area. The Franklinton Development Association will transform the warehouse into 42 units designed for living and working.
The four partners, along with neighborhood leaders, will establish a joint development plan, embracing this new live-work creative district.
The Urban Smart Growth Company will renovate an old abandoned factory with cheap commercial space marketed for creative business, retail and entertainment uses. They will also demolish a portion of the B&T Metals site nearby and implement a plan that embraces both living and working along McDowell Street.
This summer CMHA will relocate the residents currently located in Riverside Bradley to a new facility on W. Broad Street and demolish the entire area for a fresh, new and exciting start. CMHA will construct a mixed income neighborhood similar to New Village Homes in the Italian Village area.
This new creative live-work district will be a healthy, sustainable community connected to Downtown housing. It will be a cool, funky and, most of all, an affordable place to be.
And the market exists. The Brookings Institute says that Columbus is one of the few cities in the country where recent college graduates have chosen to live as young professionals rather than move somewhere else.
That’s good news as 115,000 college students in 26 colleges and universities live in Central Ohio. We want them to live, work, invest and raise children here in Columbus after they graduate.
It will take that same leadership and perseverance that began here in Franklinton to turn our first neighborhood into a stronger neighborhood.
It will be hard. There will be challenges along the way.
But like our forefathers 199 years ago, let us drive a stake in the ground today and say, “Let us begin.”
_ _ _
As we begin, we do so as a city recognized around the country. We stand tonight in the nation’s best science museum. We also have the best zoo, the best public library, and the best public university, the Ohio State University.
Columbus is the headquarters of 14 of the top 1,000 companies in America. Columbus has consistently been ranked as one of the top cities for African-Americans, gays and lesbians and immigrants. It’s one of the safest big cities in America, one of the top cities for volunteers, one of the most affordable cities, and one of the best cities to find a job and relocate a business.
I see my daughter in the audience, and I want her to know that Columbus is also the fourth best shopping city in America.
The Community Shelter Board’s Rebuilding Lives Program is a national model for treating and serving our most vulnerable residents, the homeless.
Columbus has also become a leader in environmental protection. And it is our people who have led the way in making Columbus one of the greenest cities in America.
People like Patricia Price, principal of Devonshire Elementary School who helped her students spearhead a movement to discontinue the use of Styrofoam plates in the Columbus City Schools district.
Work like this has helped Columbus catapult to the national scene as our city’s fleet has been recognized as one of the greenest in the nation. And this year we will dedicate the largest compressed natural gas fueling station in the Midwest.
We’re constructing green LEED-certified buildings and inspiring people and businesses to get green through our popular GreenSpot program.
Next year we will finally begin a comprehensive curbside recycling program for every single-family household in Columbus. And we have been cleaning up polluted areas with the first grants from the Green Columbus Fund.
Initatives like these make us a stronger, more sustainable city. And yet there is much more to do.
Tonight, I propose an initiative that will reform the way we do business and make us stronger and more sustainable as a region.
We follow the path blazed by great leaders like another West Side icon, Mayor M.E. Sensenbrenner, who with tremendous foresight and vision, established an annexation policy that we follow even today, more than 50 years later.
Mayor Sensenbrenner changed who we are as a city and it has paid off over the years with job growth and population growth, and his policy remains largely intact.
In other words, no water and sewer unless that property is annexed to the city. And upon annexation, you can use our services instead of trucking sewage through our neighborhoods all the way to Marysville.
While other cities shrank, Columbus grew. While other cities could not pay their bills, Columbus prospered.
We stand today at another cross in the road where we as a community must plot a course that will keep us strong for the future.
Columbus can be a greater city by leading a great region. And each of the jurisdictions surrounding Columbus must also shift to a more regional paradigm.
Individual jurisdictions can no longer expect to prosper in this new fiscal environment, unless each jurisdiction begins to share services, share expenses maybe even share revenue.
Most importantly, we must share a common vision that for Columbus and Central Ohio to thrive we must work together to grow together.
We already work together in many ways. Over the past 10 years, we have come together to merge our airports, protect the Darby, create jobs, promote homeownership, and advance environmental stewardship, all on a regional basis.
But whether we live in Dublin, New Albany, Grove City, Hilliard or Columbus, every jurisdiction in Central Ohio buys supplies, equipment and services. Every jurisdiction in Central Ohio collects trash, recycles and maintains its roads after building them.
And the costs to do so keep rising. And the ability to provide these services presents a greater challenge every year.
Costs go up. The ability to pay for them goes down. Taxpayers can reach into their pockets only so much.
At the very least, we must begin to explore what we can do better together as a region to make each of our jurisdictions stronger and better as a community.
And in addition to helping each other to provide better service and save money, we must grow our economy by attracting new investment and jobs to our region.
And we must stop poaching jobs from one another.
Too often, municipalities, including Columbus, are pitted against each other in the fight for jobs. Companies shake down communities for incentives that, frankly, are unhealthy for that city and for the region as a whole.
Too often, our communities are locked in a zero-sum game, with winners and losers, competing for existing jobs that do not grow our job base and do not increase our prosperity.
We simply compete against each other for the same jobs.
I believe this has gone too far and is holding Central Ohio hostage at the very time that we must advance as a region in this new economy.
So I am launching an effort to explore two things: No. 1, which services can be combined across jurisdictional lines, and No. 2, how can we grow our economy by working together rather than working against each other.
This new effort will take a year or longer. I invite the Chamber of Commerce, the Columbus Partnership and the jurisdictions of the region to work with us to get this done.
_ _ _
Although Columbus has been hit hard, we have not been knocked out by this national recession. Too many of our residents are without jobs, but we have weathered this severe economic downturn better than other cities.
Since the approval of the tax increase, we’ve announced more than 9,600 new jobs. And the Associated General Contractors of America says that we added 2,700 construction jobs in the last year, more than any other city in the country.
We are able to do this because of our high quality of life, our diverse economy, and our people—creating homegrown businesses.
Joe Spinelli strengthened our economic base by opening a new Downtown location to his Spinelli’s Deli last year. He also stepped up by offering healthier food choices on his menu.
Mark Ballard and Tom Finney turned their passion for brownies into a successful business, Sugardaddy’s at Polaris and Downtown. Sugardaddy’s has been named by the Food Network as the Best of the Best.
Curt Moody formed Moody-Nolan Architects in 1982. His firm is widely considered the No. 1 minority-owned architectural firm in America—170 employees, seven locations and projects all over the world.
Then there’s Nancy Kramer, the CEO and founder of Resource Interactive, a digital and interactive marketing firm also founded in the early 1980s. When I met her, Resource had about 30 employees. Today this female-owned company has 350 employees, now ranked No. 4 on the top advertising agencies in America—with a long list of impressive clients.
I want to thank Council President Andy Ginther for his leadership on the issue of job creation.
In the next two years we will see more job growth.
We will see new jobs at the new Hilton Convention Hotel currently under construction Downtown.
We will see new jobs derived from the thousands of new visitors at the Scioto Mile Park to open in July, and at Columbus Commons, a gathering place and epicenter of new Downtown retail, residential and office space.
We’re also partnering with our business community on the Columbus 2020 Initiative to position Columbus as the jobs leader in the country.
Job growth for the next economy will be fueled by new, clean energy sources. New energy sources will affect the cars we drive, the homes we live in, the products we buy.
And Columbus is poised to become the national center for new sources of energy.
In 2010, Columbus was chosen as the location for the Ohio Hub of Innovation for Advanced Energy.
Businesses like CODA Automotive, PlugSmart, Venturi and others are locating right here in Columbus to research, manufacture and globally distribute products such as electric vehicles, charging stations and energy storage systems.
Thousands of these jobs can flourish here in Columbus. If CODA Automotive receives a federal loan of $500 million, these possibilities become realities.
Congressman Tiberi and I have established a bipartisan task force to get that loan here. The task force includes Senators Brown, Portman, Congressman Stivers and Governor Kasich, and I thank all of them for their partnership on this important effort.
CODA Automotive’s electric car and Plugsmart’s charging station are in the lobby downstairs. I hope you check them out.
Henry Ford’s assembly line revolutionized how we produce cars. CODA Automotive’s electric vehicle technology could be just as transformative while creating thousands of jobs in the process.
This next economy is ours to own.
And I want to thank Councilwoman Eileen Paley for her leadership on the issue of green technology.
We have a good story to tell about Columbus. The more we tell our story the better the economic benefit to our residents.
Because as we tell our story we are marketing who we are and what we have to offer to businesses looking for a place to land, to tourists looking for a place to visit, to conventions looking for a place to meet.
The travel industry alone generates nearly 50 million visitors a year spending more than $7 billion annually in our community.
So we must tell our story—every chance we get.
This city’s Bicentennial is one year away.
Our Bicentennial will celebrate our past, launch us into the future and fill each of us with civic pride.
But most importantly, the Bicentennial presents to us a great opportunity to promote economic prosperity by telling our story.
_ _ _
In order to continue our job growth, we need to continue our record of strong fiscal management. After all, what company would want to locate in a city that can’t pay its bills?
Columbus is the only major city in the country that has the highest credit rating among all three major rating agencies. We’re constantly tightening our belts, spending less than budgeted. And we’re restoring our Rainy Day Fund.
We enacted reforms on pension and health care costs projected to save our taxpayers $115 million. And by the way, we achieved these savings through the collective bargaining process by working with our unions, not busting them.
We’ve lived through tough times and we still have more to go—but our record of fiscal management is unmatched by any major city in the country.
Councilman Troy Miller has been a partner in this effort, and I thank him. And I also thank Hugh Dorrian—the greatest auditor of all time, the Muhammad Ali of municipal auditors—for his leadership on keeping our city strong and sound.
Think about it: the world is in chaos, the state is financially unstable, but the City of Columbus is a city that works. And it is our people that make it work.
Thanks to voter support for both our capital and operating funds—by voting to raise their own income taxes—we are now able to fulfill the promise of neighborhood investments.
Neighborhoods are the lifeblood of our city, and these investments will make our city stronger.
While we are not perfect, we do a good job of picking up the trash, providing safe neighborhoods, providing clean water, keeping our streets clean, and, yes, our snow warriors have done a great job this winter plowing and clearing the streets from snow and ice.
And today I am proud to announce that we will invest $30 million in resurfacing streets and alleys in Columbus. This represents the largest single-year investment in street and alley resurfacing in the history of our city. More than 225 lane miles and approximately 60 miles of alleys in neighborhoods all over the city.
I want to thank Councilwoman Priscilla Tyson for her leadership on these and other capital improvement investments.
We will also be investing another $4 million in accessible sidewalks so our kids don’t have to walk in the streets on their way to school. Since we started this effort a decade ago, we’ve built 63 miles of sidewalks, which if laid end-to-end would take us halfway to Cleveland.
Finally, we will be investing almost $3.5 million to build bikeways and bike paths so we can make Columbus “Bike City USA.” By our Bicentennial, Columbus will have more than 110 miles of bikeways and bike paths, which if laid end to end would take us three quarters of the way to Cleveland.
At this rate, if we keep building sidewalks and bike paths, we will be able to walk, or ride our bikes all the way to Cleveland—since we won’t be able to ride a train.
I want to recognize Councilman Hearcel Craig for his leadership on this effort.
_ _ _
Strong neighborhoods mean safe neighborhoods. That is why we invest more than 70 percent of our General Fund budget in Public Safety.
But even with this significant investment in safety, we had an unacceptable spike in homicides last summer. We responded by sending out police Community Response Teams which immediately reduced violence in our neighborhoods.
We formed the Coalition for a Nonviolent Columbus to reach out into the grass roots to address violence and crime at the street level.
We’re installing approximately 115 cameras this year in five neighborhoods to deter crime and detect criminals.
And we’re hiring 154 new police officers and 145 new firefighters.
It is these approaches that keep Columbus the safest big city in Ohio. And according to Underwriters Laboratories, we are now the second safest city in America for families with young children.
I want to thank Councilwoman Michelle Mills for her leadership in keeping our neighborhoods safe.
True safety derives from citizen leadership, citizens like Pat Wood who started the Sharon Woods Block Watch, which now has almost 100 members and is one of the most effective and aggressive in the city.
But with every major step we take to make our city safer, state gun laws put our citizens at greater risk.
Last year, the Columbus Division of Police confiscated more than 2,600 guns.
Last year illegal guns were used in more than 74 percent of the homicides in Columbus. That’s 78 people in Columbus killed by a gun.
A plain and simple fact: There are too many guns on the streets of Columbus. They are taking the lives of too many of our young people.
Every day, 34 Americans are murdered with guns.
On the stage with me today are 34 victims, family members and friends whose lives have been changed by gun violence.
Their pain is our pain. Their tragedy is our tragedy.
Gonnie Goins and her family are with us today. Gonnie’s son Derick was murdered with a gun in a robbery. Since then, Gonnie has founded Hearts Healing Hearts, which helps those who are grieving take a stand against violence.
Nick Bankston was shot along with four other young men at a party on the East Side of Columbus. His friend Eric Reeves lost his life at the age of 17. Thankfully, Nick survived.
While we will never prevent all gun violence, it seems to me we can and we should use common sense to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
Common sense suggests that you don’t authorize and encourage a toxic mix of concealed weapons and alcohol at bars and nightclubs.
Common sense suggests you don’t allow those convicted of trafficking cocaine or selling drug paraphernalia to children to also buy and carry guns.
As farfetched and ridiculous as they may seem, these are real proposals that could be adopted as law by our state legislature.
Common sense suggests that when 30 percent of crime guns in the country pass through a loophole that allows private gun sellers at gun shows to sell guns without a background check, then that loophole needs to be closed.
In fact, an undercover investigator discovered that 83 percent of the time, gun dealers at the Westland Gun Show right here in Central Ohio knowingly sold guns to people who admitted they could not pass a background check.
C&E is the company that holds gun shows at Westland Mall. Without the proper background checks, unlicensed private gun sellers will have the ability to sell to gangsters, criminals and drug pushers at the C&E gun shows.
C&E, we are calling you out today. If you have a nickel of moral responsibility in your pocket, I ask you to spend it in Columbus. Require background checks on all private gun sales at your gun shows.
_ _ _
We must also refocus on and reconnect with our young people.
It is up to us to ensure that our youth are shooting for the stars, not shooting each other.
It is up to us to ensure that our young people are driven to excel in life, not sitting in a cell for life.
Our community can and we must save this generation of young people in Columbus.
Some have already been at work on the task of saving our youth for years.
People like Melvin Steward, a Korean War Veteran who created the Near East Side Community resource center and youth outreach program, has served as beacon of light for young people in the Mount Vernon area.
And I want to recognize Councilman Zach Klein for working to help our young people.
Last year we reopened all our rec centers, but it was not enough.
Now as our recreation center doors are held wide open, we must reach out and bring our kids in. We must intervene in their lives, meet them on their turf to keep them out of harm’s way and show them the right way.
It is to this end we present to you the APPS program. APPS stands for Applications for Purpose, Pride and Success.
Intervention means prevention. Our goal is to intervene in the lives of 14- to 18-year-olds.
Then we will engage them through their passions, whether they be music, sports, technology or arts, and we will prepare them for success.
Boys are dropping out of school at alarming rates. And when they drop out, they end up on a dead-end road.
Many of these boys don’t read at a functional level or cannot read at all.
So today I announce City Readers, a new literary initiative shaped in partnership with Columbus Board of Education member Hanifah Kambon.
City Readers will focus on developing young men first as readers, then as leaders.
_ _ _
We want to make sure our young people live in great neighborhoods.
Some of our neighborhoods have been subject to severe decline and neglect over the generations. Some neighborhoods require a holistic approach to rebuild them.
Rebuilding neighborhoods is among the most important work we do, and the most difficult work we do. True neighborhood revitalization does not take place overnight. It requires dedication, patience and a strong spirit. But when it is done successfully, we strengthen our city, bringing new hope to our residents.
Over the next couple years we will witness the transformation of neighborhoods in every part of our city.
We will witness the transformation of Weinland Park. Where the abandoned Columbus Coated Plant symbolized the blight and decay of this neighborhood, a new neighborhood will rise with 500 new houses seeded by $11 million from the City of Columbus. The first 31 homes will be constructed this May by Waggonbrenner Company.
We will witness the transformation already underway in the neighborhood around Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Our partnership with Children’s Hospital has resulted in the renovation and repair of 45 homes last year, and we expect a minimum of 100 new homes by 2013. This partnership is also tackling health issues like childhood obesity and strengthening workforce and economic development in the area.
We will witness the transformation also underway in the neighborhood around University Hospital East. We are partnering with the Ohio State University and the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority to spend millions over the next decade to improve the quality of life in that East Side neighborhood.
We will witness the transformation of the South Side where the original Schottenstein Department Store once stood. This will be the home of a new 20,000 square foot health center that will serve the South Side. We will also invest $1.2 million in 40 new housing opportunities on Innis Avenue, now littered with vacant and abandoned houses.
We will witness the transformation of American Addition, the most egregiously neglected urban neighborhood I have ever seen. A rural enclave right in the middle of a large city. A close-knit community that was the home of many solid families with solid values.
In the 1920s the wells in this neighborhood were all condemned and the mortality rate was four times higher than the rest of the city.
So, the city annexed American Addition in 1959 with promises of new investments. And while the city initially installed sewer and gas lines, it failed to deliver on most of its promises to the people of American Addition. Residents felt betrayed, and many moved away.
American Addition dwindled from approximately 200 homes at its heyday to only 52 today.
But there were those in the neighborhood who did not lose hope. Led by Marie Moreland-Short and her son, Jimmy Moreland, these folks hung on to their pride. They worked to rebuild the neighborhood, they built a community garden and fixed up properties. And they asked the city for help.
Marie is here tonight. Please stand.
I want you to know we will embrace American Addition and do what our city should’ve done generations ago: keep our promises.
Columbus Housing Partnership has led the planning to revitalize this neighborhood, and I want to thank everyone at CHP for their commitment.
While we already have set aside $1 million for infrastructure two years ago, we are now going to step it up and set aside an additional $4 million for basic things like new streets, alleys, waterlines, curbs, gutters, sidewalks and streetlights.
We will break ground next year on the construction the first 50 homes. By the time our partnership is complete, 150 new homes will be constructed. And the entire neighborhood, including the infrastructure, will be rebuilt to a green, sustainable standard.
In the years to come it will be all-American to live in American Addition.
_ _ _
When I think about the people whose daily unselfish contributions make Columbus great, people who just stepped up because the job needed to get done, it’s difficult not to think of a dear friend we lost last year, Mary Teresa Funk.
She was a passionate advocate for the Harrison West neighborhood, where she lived for 37 years, before it was even called Harrison West, fighting tooth and nail for her community.
I learned her voice before I knew her name, and learned her name before I ever saw her face. Mary Teresa would call me every week when I was an aide to Councilman Ben Espy and give me hell standing up for her neighborhood.
When I became mayor I needed a hellraiser, so I hired her for our Action Center and 311 Call Center.
It was the perfect hire because Mary Teresa was a walking action center. No residents’ complaint was too trivial to merit her attention. No resident’s need was too great. Nobody worked harder, and nobody impacted the lives of our constituents more directly than she did.
We lost Mary Teresa in November, and we continue to miss her. Although we can no longer rely on her talents, we can still follow her example.
That’s why I’m proud to announce that the playground in the Harrison West Neighborhood will be officially named the Mary Teresa Funk Playground. Mary’s family is here today. Please stand.
As we look toward our city’s Bicentennial, let’s use it as our launching pad for greater things to come. Let us celebrate our people, those unsung heroes like Mary Teresa and so many others.
In reflecting upon our bicentennial, I came across an old textbook written five decades ago by a Columbus City Schools staff member named Anamae Martin. Its closing passage could be written today.
“It is hard to believe that so many changes have taken place in such a few short years…. But if Columbus founder Lucas Sullivant would be surprised with the Columbus of today… what of the Columbus of the future?”
“Yes, we can dream of the future. But, like Lucas Sullivant, we have to work hard to make it come true. As we grow with our city, new problems will face us. By being good citizens, and by helping with things that can make our city a better place in which to live, we can always say with pride, ‘I live in Columbus.’”