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Letter: Financial, infrastructure issues run deep for city


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From: Noel Taylor

Columbus

I’ve always wondered how the city budget works, but a recent opportunity to learn more about the condition of the city of Columbus has given me more information than I bargained for.

The picture I had gained from a local media focus — without adequate context — on two specific grant requests led me to think that I had a fundamental problem with city budget choices simply because I didn’t want to see our community become the more violent and less caring place it would be with arbitrary cuts in fine arts and Mill Race Center. That picture was wrong. Examples:

1. Street repairs are — quite literally — a much deeper need than I had believed. Deferred repairs had put us way behind in resurfacing, but beneath those streets are failing sewer and water pipes that have to be replaced just to prevent collapses of street surfaces that would otherwise be occurring within months instead of decades.

 

2. Funding challenges are far worse than I realized. What I didn’t see was that the new administration inherited a debt level that was already the maximum permitted by law. Simple questions such as, “How do we pay to fix this leaky roof?” have no easy answers under those conditions.

The city is forced to choose between supporting arts and community activities, providing essential transportation services or keeping the parks from rotting away without upkeep.

3. Cooperative support between the mayor’s office and City Council is at an all-time low. Administrations succeed when each person brings his best solutions to the table to work together for the common good. Administrations fail when that support is absent. It’s easy to blame the current mayor.

Unfortunately, it’s even easier to create an environment where one person’s limitations are exploited by others for personal political gain. The City Council exists to assist each administration, a detail that the current one seems to have forgotten.

It’s also no secret that two members of the current council intend to be our next mayor. I can’t help but suspect that the city and its citizens would be far better off if those people demonstrated cooperative leadership.

So, citizens of Columbus, do you have specific creative and constructive solutions that would allow Columbus to avoid slow and sometimes not-so-slow collapse of vital infrastructure while still supporting the excellent initiatives it has already taken in law enforcement and community renewal, and the ones it hopes to take in public transportation and community services?

Can you offer an effective way to focus all of our leaders on accountability needs instead of imagined slights within the budget process?

If so, I beg you to share those solutions with all of your elected city leaders, with the stated expectation that they will work together to get the job done. Both before and after you do, be sure to pray for those leaders, as the job they face is bigger than any of them can handle.

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