Some Ohio State student leaders said they support several of Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman’s newly announced initiatives for the city, including a plan to improve the education system and draw in a national political convention.
Coleman addressed the importance of improving Columbus City Schools among other initiatives aimed at “sharing success” in his State of the City address Wednesday evening.
“The greatest threat to the success of Columbus is our failure to prepare our children for the future,” Coleman said.
Coleman said to address the 34 percent of Columbus City School children that enter kindergarten unprepared, the government is launching a program called “Early Start Columbus.”
The city is set to invest $5 million in Early Start Columbus to develop long term pre-kindergarten plans for 4-year-olds to better prepare them for kindergarten and reduce the number of children being held back, Coleman said.
Undergraduate Student Government President Taylor Stepp said after the address he was pleased with the announcement of the initiative.
“It was interesting to hear the direction Coleman is going with education. I was involved with … a number of initiatives for Columbus City Schools and it’s great to see education is still a priority,” Stepp said.
The most expensive initiative announced by Coleman was a $2.5 billion, 30-year program called “Blueprint Columbus.” The program aims to use innovation and sustainability to build parks and green space in Columbus while dealing with sewer issues.
“Blueprint will keep storm water from entering sewers in the first place,” Coleman said. “We will convert the eyesore, blighted, vacant and abandoned land into new parks and neighborhoods all across the city of Columbus.”
Coleman also announced other initiatives, including one to help solve the problem of filling jobs, not creating them, in Columbus.
The City of Columbus is slated to invest $1.5 million in FastPath, a Columbus State Community College program aimed at educating the unemployed in job-related skills and “putting people back to work,” Coleman said.
Coleman also said the city government is initiating a new case management system for customized individual care in shelters in order to address the approximately 1,350 homeless people in Columbus.
“The city will invest $1.1 million to move the homeless from homeless to homeward bound,” Coleman said.
That money is set to go toward helping homeless people find jobs and places to live, secure benefits and address mental health and substance abuse issues, Coleman said.
Housing Works is another new effort by the City of Columbus to help workers live near their jobs, Coleman said.
“Everyone working downtown should be able to live there too, not just CEOs,” Coleman said.
Coleman said the city of Columbus hopes to host a national political convention in 2016.
“The national convention would create an infusion of jobs and recognition and command the eyes of the world on Columbus in a way no other event could. By committing a competitive bid, we’re sending a message to the rest of the nation and the rest of the world that Columbus is ready for prime time,” Coleman said.
Miranda Onnen, vice chair of OSU College Republicans, said she would be excited if Columbus brought in the 2016 Republican National Convention.
“I think it would be a great opportunity for the city to have such a national event held within our borders. The tourism and national exposure would be a fantastic thing for this city to have (and the fact that a lot of well-known Republicans would be flocking to Columbus wouldn’t hurt),” Onnen, a third-year in political science and economics, said in an email. “I, just like Mayor Coleman, have a lot of hope for the future of the city and hope to see it grow in the future.”
An OSU College Democrats representative did not provide comment on Coleman’s address.
Stepp said he’s happy Columbus is pursuing a convention.
“The fact that we’re bidding for a major political convention is exciting for the city,” Stepp said.
Coleman also said Port Columbus International Airport needs to become “not just our local airport, but Ohio’s airport.”
“It is time to redefine our airport as a center of transportation for the region,” Coleman said.
Coleman said he hopes to create direct flights to the San Francisco Bay Area in order to open a “valuable gateway to Asia, while bringing in thousands of visitors and their money to Columbus.”
Coleman said the most important thing is that Columbus works toward sharing its wealth.
“We won’t truly fulfill the promise of our city until we share success with all residents,” Coleman said.