Ginther Delivers First State Of The City
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther delivered his first State of the City address this evening at his former high school, Whetstone.
Mike Foley reports on the mayor’s priorities.
Mayor Ginther spoke often of opportunity, acknowledging a lack of it in some Columbus neighborhoods where families struggle with limited education options, high unemployment and disproportionate amounts of crime. Ginther’s goal – that every Columbus child receives a high-quality early childhood education.
“A big step toward this goal will be the Linden Park Neighborhood Pre-K Center, which will open this fall. Only one third of children who live in the Linden community have access to early childhood education opportunities before kindergarten. That leaves two thirds who aren’t afforded an equal opportunity to succeed. Columbus City Schools is planning to repurpose the Linden Park Elementary School on Myrtle Avenue, and we will partner with the district to open a first-of-its-kind quality early childhood education facility with 14 classrooms for more than 200 students, when it reaches full capacity. We believe this will be the first pre-K center in the nation in which the school district and community providers work together under one roof, pooling their resources to provide pre-K and additional services for children and families, and professional development for educators and providers. As we expand pre-K throughout Columbus in the coming years, the Linden project will serve as a model, not only for our community, but for the entire nation.”
Ginther pointed to research conclusions that children with a good early education experience begin school with a better chance to succeed in the classroom and in life. The success of and opportunities for small businesses in Columbus will also be a top priority for Ginther.
“Despite all our progress, barriers still exist for start-ups looking to break through. Often, the amount of money a small business needs is too small, the business is too young, its plan is too innovative, or its credit history is too short in order to get the access to capital it needs. That’s why I am proud to announce that Columbus is committed to becoming a Kiva City – a partnership of local community groups and microfinance organizations working together to connect lenders with entrepreneurs. Kiva provides a first rung on the credit ladder by providing crowd-funded zero-percent interest microloans. We’ve raised $65,000 so far in private loans from Access Ventures. The City of Columbus, Greater Columbus Arts Council, The Columbus Foundation and United Way of Central Ohio all are committed to kicking in another $25,000 each, bringing our total to $165,000.”
Upon reaching $225,000 in grant support, Ginther stated that amount will be leveraged into $1 million in interest-free micro-loans to 200 new, underserved local entrepreneurs over a three-year period. Opportunities for women will also be on Ginther’s agenda as his wife Shannon will lead the Columbus Women’s Commission, which will set objectives and make recommendations on how to empower the city’s women and girls. Ginther also pledged that every resident should have the opportunity to be heard by their public officials. A 2014 Dispatch investigation found the city had ignored hundreds of calls to its 311 line. Ginther met with six neighborhoods last month seeking more input from residents about city government.
“What I heard is that you expect a government that is more accountable and accessible. You expect a government that reflects you. That’s why we’re creating our new Department of Neighborhoods, which will consolidate constituent services that have in the past been located around various city agencies. Neighborhood Pride, the Community Relations Commission, our neighborhood liaisons, and our 311 call center will be under one roof – and more accessible to the public in one of our central city neighborhoods. Now your gateway to government will be in a one-stop shop focused on service, openness, transparency and accountability. All of our residents, kids and adults, civilians and police, deserve the opportunity for a harmonious community built upon mutual respect, security and trust, not fear."
The Department of Public Safety will begin equipping Columbus officers with body cameras by the end of this year. Ginther expects the devices to enhance public safety and the city to come up with a policy that strikes a balance between the goals of transparency and protecting civil rights along with the privacy interests of residents.