State of the City Celebrates The Legacy of Columbus’s Longest-Running Mayor

“The State of Our City is strong.” Those were the words that Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said in the State of the City Celebration when asked about the state of Columbus in 2015.

From the format of the State of the City, it hardly seemed like the normal address. It felt more like a celebration of the achievements and accomplishments of an administration, and the work that needs to continue to keep Columbus shining in the spotlight long after Mayor Coleman’s run as Mayor wraps up at the end of this year.

“I think we’re in a renaissance,” Mayor Michael B. Coleman (Democrat) said in the interview-style State of the City Celebration at the Palace Theatre on Thursday in Downtown Columbus. Coleman cited the creation of 40,000 new jobs to the city, and the $ 7 Billion invested into the city.

The program, which started 26 minutes late, began with a moment of silence in remembrance of former Columbus Mayor Dana G. “Buck” Rinehart (Republican), who died on Wednesday, just days shy of his 69th birthday. Rinehart was Mayor of Columbus from 1984 to 1991, and like Coleman, helped develop the city’s growth with City Center Mall, the Short North Arts District, and a development that would later be Easton.

Following the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance, The Harmony Project singing the Phil Collins song “Take Me Home”, with a video playing on the screens overhead of neighborhoods throughout the city, to set the tone for what was ahead during the program.

Columbus is the hometown that has gone from “Cow Town” to competing with the likes of Philadelphia and Brooklyn for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Columbus is the top city for Young Professionals.

Columbus was the top-ranked “Opportunity City” in Forbes Magazine. Columbus was ranked the top city for African-Americans in Ebony Magazine. Columbus received a score of 100 in the Human Rights Campaign Index. Columbus, in the 15 years that Coleman has been Mayor, has grown and made strides.

Coleman cited three things that were part of his success as Mayor — stronger neighborhoods, partnerships with the private sector, and inclusion with various communities (the LGBT, Faith, and New Americans).

27 organizations were founded and organized under Mayor Coleman’s leadership that helped improve the quality of life in the city. The biggest one that was organized was Restoration Academy in 2012. Restoration Academy is a six-month boot camp for convicted felons and ex-offenders to find employment in the private sector after they are released from prison.

“Everywhere I went, I had convicted felons come to me and say, ‘Brother, I need a job,’” Coleman said, about why he founded Restoration Academy. The goals of Restoration Academy, according to Coleman, are to help convicted felons get on their feet, while helping them gain confidence and life skills, while making them the best employees possible.

The Coleman administration had its highs with the developments of Scioto Mile and Columbus Commons in 2011, the Bicentennial in 2012, and the revitalization of neighborhoods such as Franklinton, the King-Lincoln District, and American Addition. The Coleman administration has also had its lows with two recessions – one in 2001, and the other in 2008, and the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.

In his response to the Great Recession, Coleman called it a turning point for the city. “Nobody realizes how close we were to a catastrophe. The 2008 crisis impacted every single industry. We had to cut $ 1 Million in 30 days, and more (money) in the course of the year. I was going to cut police officers and firefighters. I had no choice.” That is when Coleman said that he decided to put an Income Tax Relief on the ballot, which passed in 2009, helping spur the city’s growth and success.

Coleman also talked about the housing situation in Downtown Columbus, and he is continuing the initiative that was brought up at last year’s State of the City Address, where Coleman launched “Housing Works”, an effort to get affordable housing in Downtown Columbus.

While Columbus was not successful in getting the bid to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Mayor Coleman is optimistic about the future. Coleman hoped to see one million people living in Columbus by 2020. “We’re well positioned for the future,” said Mike Reese, Mayor Coleman’s Chief of Staff during an introduction of the Mayor.

Coleman closed the Celebration by saying, “I am grateful for the opportunity to have served you as Mayor in the best city in the country to live, to work, and to raise a family.”

As the future holds, Columbus is well-positioned to take a front and center role. Last month, Columbus hosted the NHL All-Star Game. Columbus has hosted the NCAA Men’s Tournament three times, and will host it a fourth time next month. The NCAA Women’s Final Four will be held in Columbus in 2018. The President’s Cup was held in Dublin in 2013, with the opening ceremonies held at Columbus Commons. “We did change the world, and that world is the City of Columbus,” said Coleman in his closing remarks. “If we do not try to reach our hardest, we will not get there.”

In other highlights from the State of the City Celebration, Mayor Coleman announced that Accra, Ghana is the newest Sister City to Columbus. Accra is the top destination to Africa from Columbus. Coleman also cited Accra for its stability and democracy. “We need to build on that relationship with Africa,” Coleman said.

Mayor Coleman also announced that there will be new direct flights out of Southwest Airlines from Port Columbus to the Bay Area, where Coleman calls the area, which is the home of the famed Silicon Valley, a “pipeline of investment and opportunity”.

Rogue Fitness, the largest cross-fit supplier in the United States is consolidating their operations to the former Timken site at the intersection of Cleveland and Fifth Avenues, in the Milo-Grogan neighborhood in North Columbus.

The Scioto Greenways Project is underway, which will shorten the width of the Scioto River in the Riverfront, and create green park spaces along the Downtown Riverfront.

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