Faustina and William
2020 STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS
I’m starting tonight’s State of the City in a very non-traditional way – a way that might make some people uncomfortable, but it’s a conversation we must have . . . one we are having in the mayor’s office, and one we need to have more intentionally across our community.
Black people and communities of color are angry, frustrated, tired and even fearful about many things happening around the country and in the city of Columbus.
And as your mayor, it’s my job to lead us to solutions.
Racism is real.
Discrimination is real.
And they impact the lives of many of our residents daily . . . sometimes even multiple times a day.
So, what I am sharing tonight is my Equity Agenda -- an agenda that calls out racism and discrimination where it exists and my plans to address it as your mayor.
Now, we’ll start with time-honored traditions that remind us of the greatness of our country . . . and we’ll hear from the young people in this neighborhood . . . people who will be most impacted in the future by decisions we make today.
I am honored to be here tonight, embarking on a new year and a second term as your mayor. You re-elected me to continue to move this city forward with shared prosperity and equity . . . and that is exactly what we will do.
It would not be possible to make the vision for an equitable city a reality without my outstanding cabinet and staff, especially my chief of staff, Ken Paul.
I would also like to thank my wife, Shannon, and our daughter. Leading this city is a family commitment . . . one that impacts our lives every day. I am grateful to you for sharing this journey with me.
I also want to thank all of our elected partners:
• Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin
• Council President Pro Tem Liz Brown
• Councilmembers Mitch Brown, Rob Dorans, Shayla Favor, Emmanuel Remy and Priscilla Tyson
• City Attorney Zach Klein
• City Auditor Megan Kilgore
• Franklin County Commissioners: President John O’Grady, Kevin Boyce and
• Congresswoman Joyce Beatty
• A couple of people from the State: Lydia Mihalik, Director of Development and Jack Marchbanks, Director of the Department of Transportation
And could I ask all of the other elected officials here tonight to please stand to be recognized?
A few more thank yous for those who started us off this evening:
• The West High School ROTC Cowboy Battalion for presenting colors
• Katty Acosta, Elijah Mills and Airiana Weaver from Highland Elementary School for leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance
• West High School’s Urban Harmonix for singing the national anthem
• Our Columbus Board of Education President Jennifer Adair for the welcome to West High School
• And to my mentee Makayla Rock for the introduction
I’d like to thank our Public Safety Corps who served as ushers tonight. And also our Public Safety Cadets, who are part of a pipeline to get young people interested in joining our police and fire ranks.
And my thanks to Principal Greg Costello here at West High School. Thank you for welcoming us to your house tonight!
Equity is the cornerstone of my administration.
Tonight, I will lay out what we are doing this year and in the next four years to continue to grow this city . . . and also to assure that we stop racism and discrimination wherever we see it.
The state of our city is strong, but for Columbus to reach its full potential as America’s Opportunity City, we must grow dynamically and inclusively.
Let’s be clear: I am not giving you a list of 10 things tonight that we can easily check off at this time next year.
The challenges I have chosen to tackle are not simple nor easy. They will not be solved overnight nor in the next year. The work will be messy. It will be frustrating at times.
But I’m up for the challenge because as the old Jewish saying goes: If not us, who? And if not now, when?
From day one, my administration has viewed its work through the lens of equity.
And we have made progress.
Last year, Michel’le Miller came to Healthy Beginnings at Home – a program led by CelebrateOne – when she was pregnant and leaving an abusive relationship. She received assistance for housing, as well as diapers, wipes, clothes and car seats.
Four months later, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy who will celebrate his first birthday this year.
We know stable housing is one of the key indicators of infant mortality – pregnant women experience less stress after finding homes and are able to prepare strong environments which create a positive foundation for their infants. Babies in safe, loving homes can develop healthy habits and live successful lives.
Michel’le represents the positive impact of Healthy Beginnings at Home, and Michel’le, -- we are so glad you are here with us tonight.
Since 2011, we have seen a 28% decrease in infant mortality in Franklin County. The Infant Mortality Rate in CelebrateOne zip codes – our opportunity neighborhoods -- has decreased by 20%.
Sleep-related deaths – one of the greatest causes of infant mortality – has decreased greatly through the use of education, training and the distribution of cribs.
Unfortunately the racial disparity remains relatively unchanged – Black babies are 2 times more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies in Celebrate One ZIP codes . . . and 2.5 times more likely to die in Franklin County as a whole. And 65% of all sleep-related infant deaths are black babies.
We are laser-focused on cutting this disparity by focusing our CelebrateOne efforts on the health of women before they become pregnant and decreasing premature births in our community.
Our goal is to make sure babies reach their first birthday and thrive in the years that follow, ensuring they are prepared for kindergarten.
Kindergarten readiness doesn’t begin with pre-K – it starts with prenatal care on to infancy after healthy, full-term pregnancies. The infant and toddler years represent the time of greatest development in a child’s life . . . from motor skills . . . to language . . . to emotional well being.
FutureReady under the direction of Jane Leach is developing a strategic plan to assure that all of our young people are ready for kindergarten -- because we know that kindergarten readiness plays a huge role in determining the opportunities that will be available to students both in and out of school.
We have seen great success in our pre-K efforts at the Linden Park Early Childhood Center that just this school year was able to work near full capacity, with 182 children enrolled. We want to replicate that success with some of our youngest residents in the Hilltop.
I am happy to report that the Hilltop Early Childhood Center has moved beyond the planning phase. Design will be completed by the end of this month . . . we will be sending out the bid for construction this summer . . . and plan to break ground in October.
This center will provide 240 children with the opportunity to attend high-quality pre-K. In addition, the center will have a pediatric medical suite that will provide primary care, immunizations and well-child check-ups.
When I took office 4 years ago, my first action was to form the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. In those four years, we have completed a Disparity Study looking at the data from 2012 to 2015. We are developing and implementing policies and procedures to address the documented prime contract and subcontract disparities.
I want to thank interim Director Damita Brown and all of my department directors for their dedication and diligence in this work.
We did not wait for the results of the Disparity Study to begin the much needed work. Since 2016, we have increased city spending with minority- and women-owned businesses by 47%.
We included an aggressive minority participation clause in the agreement to keep the Crew in Columbus. In the last quarter of 2019, 28% of the work being done was contracted to minority- and female-owned businesses such as Smoot Construction . . . Columbus Steel Erectors . . . and McDaniels Construction. It’s a great start – and I am confident we will reach our minimum goal of 30% minority participation.
Tonight, it is my pleasure to introduce our new Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Beverly Stallings-Johnson, who will continue the great progress.
I am proud of the work of the Columbus Women’s Commission that we formed in 2017, under the direction of First Lady Shannon Ginther.
In Columbus, women make an average of 81 cents for every dollar a man makes. The disparity is even greater for women of color.
The Women’s Commission launched The Columbus Commitment in 2018 to engage businesses and organizations on gender and pay equity.
To date, more than 250 employers have signed on – 60% being private companies. They are exploring the data in their own organizations and sharing ideas for assuring pay equity in the workplace.
Some companies have already achieved this success, like Nationwide under the direction of Executive Vice President Gale King and Geben Communications under the guidance of Founder and President Heather Whaling.
Big or small, every company and organization can benefit from signing The Columbus Commitment because the truth is this: Gender and pay equity are not just moral decisions. They are the right business decision.
I also want to commend the Columbus Women’s Commission for their work on the toll of evictions on family stability. Franklin County has a staggering rate of evictions – significantly higher per capita than the state average. And these evictions disproportionately impact women, especially women of color.
The Commission was key in the Franklin County Municipal Court’s recent decision that allows people with evictions to have them removed from their records after three years – that’s more than 400,000 records -- an instrumental step in assisting thousands of families to move forward in finding stable, affordable, safe housing.
I would like to thank Franklin County Municipal Judges Ted Barrows and Mark Hummer as well as Clerk of Courts Lori Tyack and the magistrates for their dedication in improving our eviction policies in Franklin County.
Diversity and inclusion expands beyond race and gender. We are adding language to our Human Services Grant contracts to address discrimination and cultural competency for the LGBTQ community.
Now in order to receive these funds, organizations must agree to provide services without regard to gender identity and expression or sexual orientation . . . and agree to maintain a commitment to the cultural competence of the staff and organization.
We are holding those to whom we grant funds to the same standards we require of ourselves.
We are also working hard to promote a complete count for Census 2020. The response to the Census will determine how many representatives we have in Washington to fight for the needs of our city.
The count will also decide how much we receive in federal funds for critical programs including:
• Medicaid and Medicare
• School lunches
• SNAP, or food stamps
• And publicly-funded child care.
Those who are most likely to be missed in the count are those who most need their voices heard. I encourage each of you to fill out your census starting next month and help us reach out to all residents in our community.
In my second term, I will remain steadfast in my commitment to serve all of our neighborhoods.
A little over a year ago, we released the One Linden plan -- a resident-driven effort designed to establish a vision for shared prosperity and growth based on the concerns, needs and aspirations of the community.
We are making progress that residents can see:
• Fire Station 16 on Oakland Park is under construction.
• Hudson Avenue – a road that once divided Linden into North and South -- is being completely redesigned into a unified thoroughfare. It represents a $20 million city investment, and we will break ground in November.
• Habitat for Humanity recently opened new single family homes along Myrtle Avenue, with more to come.
• And Next Gen Corp has selected Homeport as its developer to support creating “Downtown Linden” by building 100 units of senior housing and commercial space at Cleveland and Myrtle Avenues.
There was a huge void left in the Linden community when Kroger closed its Northern Lights store. This November, a store will open at Cleveland and Chittenden, providing residents access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
This market is modeled after Fresh Food 4 All People on the South Side and will include free groceries in a dignified shopping experience in addition to free prescriptions and health screenings by Charitable Pharmacy of Central Ohio.
The city was proud to invest $1.5 million and Nationwide Children’s Hospital is raising operating dollars. I want to thank Nationwide Children’s for being a great partner in this effort!
We broke ground in July for the new 55,000 square foot Linden Community Center with a teaching kitchen, music studio and gymnastics room as well as a 20-acre park with a spray ground and walking paths. It will be central to community life in Linden.
The center is being completed under a Community Benefits Agreement, or CBA, that guarantees a percentage of construction is done by local residents. The CBA has opened doors into the construction trade for many – including Wayne Cobb.
Wayne is an excellent example that there are many career paths that lead to a good quality of life. My thanks to Elford, the unions, resident leaders, the NAACP and many others for their commitment to diversity in their workforce.
Building up our communities is more than just investing in the place – it’s about investing in people.
Jeff Edwards, CEO of Installed Building Products, is standing up to offer financial literacy to residents in an effort to build community wealth.
Momentum On Up is currently being offered to 33 low-income families in Linden through Sisters of Empowerment. After completing the course, residents are encouraged to build up a savings of $600 – and when they do, Jeff matches it.
His goal is to grow this program through non-profits around the city.
Imagine thousands of neighbors who live paycheck to paycheck having savings to help them navigate life’s curveballs.
I thank Jeff for his bold action that we hope will serve as a model to other businesses and leaders in the community.
I want to replicate our successes in Linden throughout all of our neighborhoods. We chose to have the State of the City here at West High School for a reason.
Since I took office, I have come to West High School every Thursday to mentor. You met my current mentee a little earlier in this program. Makayla Rock really is a rock star with graduation in her sites and plans to attend Columbus State Community College.
When we rolled out the Envision Hilltop community-driven plan last month, we detailed the investments the city has already made on the
Tonight, I am making new city commitments:
First, we will build a new police substation for the Sullivant Avenue corridor. The new substation will double as a neighborhood pride center with plots for a community garden and basketball court.
And we are exploring making this new substation home to a Real-Time Crime Center where crime analysts will be able to crunch data and get the information back to officers on the street.
Second, the City’s Division of Code Enforcement has assigned a dedicated code officer in the Sullivant Avenue corridor. I would like you to meet Maggie Lafferty.
Maggie will handle all code violations within the corridor which includes a combination of responding to complaints as well as a proactive presence in the area. By allowing her to focus on the Sullivant Avenue corridor, she can truly embed herself in the community . . . partner with other Departments and community organizations . . . apply enforcement to the parcels that need it . . . and ensure that our residents’ concerns are being addressed in a timely and expedited fashion.
Next, our Department of Public Service, is launching a $10 million comprehensive streetscape improvement plan along the Sullivant Avenue corridor that will include:
• Replacing existing sidewalks where necessary to make them ADA compliant
• Sealing pavement cracks and replacing old striping on roads
• Replacing deteriorated curbs and damaged signs
• Replacing traffic signals and upgrading streetlights
• Adding bumpouts to slow traffic in certain locations – and adding flower pots to the bumpouts to beautify the neighborhood
This year the City will begin a partnership with Mid-Ohio Food Collective to transform a 7-acre site into an innovative center for healthy and affordable food access.
The Wheatland Farm will include a large area for food production including high tunnels and vertical crops for year-round growing . . . a community area with space for classrooms, community garden plots, test kitchen and kid’s play area . . . and a Mid-Ohio Market to provide fresh and affordable food to the Hilltop community.
And tonight, we are committing resources to battle human trafficking along Sullivant Ave. We are:
• Increasing education to students, parents, teachers and counselors.
• Creating partnerships with non-profit organizations to deliver services and provide support to victims.
• Supporting outreach opportunities that engage potential victims and offenders prior to arrest to receive treatment and resources.
• And we are investing in a 24-hour, 7-day a week drop-in center known as Sanctuary Night – to feed and counsel those being trafficked.
Thanks to Judge Paul Herbert for his work on this issue.
I remain excited about the great things happening in Columbus, but we cannot talk about vibrant, inclusive neighborhoods without talking about affordable housing in our Equity Agenda.
I believe that housing is one of the greatest challenges facing the city and the region. How we address it now will greatly impact our city’s growth for the next generation.
The number one contributor to affordability is density. We will begin a thorough evaluation of our zoning regulations to be able to include infrastructure necessary to support growth.
Friends, we cannot say that as a community we support affordable housing if we are not willing to make every neighborhood available to all.
It is important to create mixed income neighborhoods – market rate housing in Linden and Hilltop . . . housing residents can afford in Clintonville and Downtown.
Starting in 2020 through 2022 the City, working with community partners, will be investing over $33 million that will result in more than 1,300 new or renovated housing units for families of four who make less than $75,000 a year.
Last year Columbus residents provided voted bond authority of up to $50 million to tackle the affordable housing issues facing our community. Tonight I pledge to use this community investment to more than double the number of new and renovated affordable housing units to a total of 5,000 by 2025 – also for families who make less than $75,000 a year.