MAYOR Kristen Brown’s Advance Columbus program received well-deserved praise at her State of the City address last week. Her vision for the city’s future was outlined in a 45-minute address at The Commons before a crowd of more than 250.
The mayor and a widespread group of working committees have created an agenda that is formidable but essential to the city’s future.
The areas targeted for attention have been well chosen. While not necessarily as aesthetically appealing as past initiatives, such as the revitalization of the downtown, the city’s housing issues need to be addressed and should be given top priority. It is obvious from the names and affiliations in each of these working groups that this coalition is both deep and broad-based.
While their rosters contain many familiar individuals and groups, there also is a significant nontraditional representation. One important addition was that of Mark Stewart, executive director of the United Way of Bartholomew County, who can be counted upon to provide fresh perspectives on particular areas, such as low-income housing.
Collaboration will be essential to the success of Advance Columbus. The partnership of the public and private sectors that has been so essential in previous visionary programs, such as Focus 2000 and Vision 2020, is echoed in Advance Columbus, but it must be sustained and nurtured through the implementation phase.
While the Brown administration has a major role to play as these proposals move forward, the Columbus City Council also should be considered an important partner, especially in the public funding of some of these programs.
Both the mayor and members of the council should reach out to each other in finding common ground on which achievable and measurable results can be attained. Some steps already have been taken in the implementation of Advance Columbus goals.
City officials have adopted an aggressive attitude in cleaning up substandard housing conditions around the city. Most recently, the city’s Board of Works approved the issuance of 15 weed-control letters that required property owners to mow their properties or face having the city do it at a significant cost to the owner.
Much bigger steps will be needed to address other community needs, such as housing. This has become a widespread problem touching on several aspects of community life. The lack of adequate housing both in numbers and quality has certainly become an economic development problem. Cummins Inc., for instance, has been using buses to bring workers to Columbus from Franklin, Greenwood and other communities.
A shortage in housing for low-income residents has been a problem in the city for several decades. It is an issue that calls for creative and collaborative approaches.The Advance Columbus program put forth last week is still in its infancy. While it is ambitious, it also is off to a good start. For that progress to be sustained, the spirit of collaboration that has marked its early development must be ongoing.