COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – In West High School where he mentors weekly, Mayor Andrew Ginther gave his 5th State of the City address. He started by saying racism and discrimination are real issues that need to be discussed and addressed.
“To assure that we stop racism and discrimination wherever we see it,” he said to the crowd in the auditorium.
It’s part of the motivation for what he’s calling is Equity Agenda which he rolled out Thursday night.
“In 2020 we will also explore the impacts of racism on health equality,” Mayor Ginther said. “We know that crime, infant mortality and poverty often come from racial disparity, sometimes from policies such as redlining put in place long ago.”
It was his fifth State of the City address. He introduced Dr. Beverly Stallings-Johnson as the city’s new Chief Diversity Officer and asked Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheila Roberts to look into racism as a public health crisis in Columbus and bring recommendations by the end of the year.
Towards the beginning of the speech protesters interrupted saying names of people who have been killed by Columbus Police in officer involved shootings. The mayor addressed them and said he is looking forward to meeting with them. He paused, left the stage, the protesters were removed, the mayor then came back out and continued his address.
“We are scheduling some time with them to sit down face to face in the coming weeks,” Mayor Ginther told NBC4 after his address. “I look forward to hearing from them and others in their group to address their concerns and make sure they’re heard and included.”
Mayor Ginther also talked about affordable housing, saying it is one of the greatest challenges facing the city and region. He pledged up to $50 million in voter approved money to bring he total number of new and renovated affordable housing unites to five thousand by 2025.
“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,” he said.
He also touched on several other topics including Chief Thomas Quinlan being named Police Chief, his plan for the city to address climate change, work being done in the Linden Area and on Sullivan Avenue and the opioid epidemic. You can read his full State of the City below:
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 Marilyn Brown
• 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 the 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.
To meet this goal the City’s Department of Development will be hiring a new housing executive focused exclusively on our policies and practices to increase the number of affordable and market rate units built in our City.
In 2019, the City and County created the Central Ohio Community Land Trust, an innovative approach to homeownership intended to fight gentrification.
The Community Land Trust is a shared equity form of ownership, where a family that makes between $65,000 and $95,000 a year can buy a new house, but the land underneath is kept permanently in a non-profit Trust.
When the house is resold, the Trust ensures it is sold at an affordable price– not only benefiting the current family, but future families for generations to come.
So far, the Community Land Trust has constructed its first 8 houses, all of which are sold or have buyers identified.
Right now, the Community Land Trust is working with 5 partners to construct 46 additional Trust homes in the Southside, Near East and Franklinton and will have additional houses available in March.
In 2020, the Community Land Trust will expand into other Columbus neighborhoods including Weinland Park and Milo-Grogan.
By the end of 2020, the Community Land Trust will be the largest in Ohio and will be an innovative example of how Land Banks can address affordable housing.
As I have often said, the city cannot solve our housing shortage alone. We need private support as well.
And we have it with the $100 million Housing Action Fund — committed capital from businesses and non-profits to be used to develop affordable housing in Columbus.
I want to offer my thanks to Steve Steinour and the team at Huntington Bank for leading the effort, and to commend all of the businesses who have contributed.
Can we get a round of applause for these companies?
This revolving loan fund will offer below-market loans to for-profit and non-profit developers to build and preserve affordable and mixed-income rental housing.
Three projects in neighborhoods on the north, east and south sides of our city are already in the works and will yield more than 300 new units of affordable housing for families earning between $25,000 and $40,000 a year.
And for the first time, the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation has committed to building 100 affordable housing units downtown — this year – with more than half for families making under $46,000.
The growth of our city and the gap in available housing is leading to another challenge – increased homelessness.
There are many reasons for homelessness. But for the first time ever, it is market forces that are creating a lack of housing stock at all price points.
Over the years, we have allocated millions of dollars from our general operating fund to the Community Shelter Board to help provide assistance.
But increasing shelter space is not the answer. Tonight, I am committing an additional $1 million to help prevent families from becoming homeless in the first place . . . but if they do, this investment will also help reduce their shelter stay by moving families back into stable housing more rapidly.
I am calling our suburban neighbors to do the same. Family stability affects the region, and I challenge all of our regional partners to work together on this crucial issue.
Safety remains top of mind for all of our residents in all of our neighborhoods, and we are continuing efforts to eliminate barriers between police officers and our community.
Last year, we went through an extensive search for our next Police Chief that included unprecedented community engagement throughout the search process.
I selected Chief Tom Quinlan. Many of you in this room already know Chief Quinlan because he has worked extensively to build community-police relations.
He accepted the findings of the Matrix Consulting firm that documented racism and discrimination that both residents and officers of color experience. He has begun implementing the recommendations.
He worked closely with the Columbus Community Safety Advisory Commission and also accepted their recommendations that were released last month.
Chief Quinlan will hold officers accountable. I will hold Chief Quinlan accountable, and you can hold me accountable.
My expectations for the chief are clear:
• Increase cultural competency and diversity of officers.
• Mentor police officers coming up through the ranks – especially women, people of color and LGBTQ.
• Explore the formation of a civilian review board that works for Columbus.
Chief Quinlan is a champion for building community police relations. He disbanded the Vice Unit and created PACT which stands for Police and Community Together. PACT is focusing on three areas:
• liquor complaints
• abatement issues directly impacting quality of life in neighborhoods
• and human trafficking.
Instead of simply arresting people involved in human trafficking, PACT is connecting them with resources for mental health care and addiction…
…options to help them get off the street.
And we are getting to the root cause by prosecuting those who traffic them in the first place.
Chief Quinlan knows . . . I know . . . and many of you know . . . that there is much work to be done to rebuild trust within the community – especially our black community.
We can and we must do better. And we will.
Our country continues to face an opioid addiction crisis, and the Columbus community has been particularly hard hit with an average of two people dying each day from overdose.
The word “crisis” is not an exaggeration, and the solution is not simple.The latest challenges include a significant increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, which are highly toxic and often mixed with street drugs.
We recently unveiled an updated Columbus and Franklin County Addiction Plan to focus our efforts of addiction on the stability of families. It takes a comprehensive community approach to attack this problem.
We will increase naloxone training and the number of naloxone doses distributed to our first responders and clinics to increase the number of overdose reversals.
We will collect more syringes for safe disposal and increase testing for hepatitis C.
We will increase prevention education through schools and community centers . . . ensure equity of access to treatment . . . and reduce the stigma surrounding substance abuse.
And tonight I am pleased to announce that we are exploring a mobile suboxone unit to treat those addicted to opioids with a medication proven to help with recovery.
In conjunction with our RREACT team and area hospitals, this unit will meet those suffering from addiction where they are – in our neighborhoods – and help them on the path to recovery.
In 2020, we will also explore the impacts of racism on health equity. We know that crime, infant mortality and poverty often come from racial disparity – sometimes from policies such as redlining put in place long ago.
But it is not enough to say we passed legislation in 1990 that outlaws discrimination in employment and housing. It is time to study the long-term effects of racism and how to correct it going forward.
Tonight, I am asking our Health Commissioner, Dr. Mysheika Roberts, to explore racism as a public health crisis in Columbus and to bring me recommendations by the end of the year.
As I said earlier, Columbus is in a strong position for increased population growth because of our relatively low cost of living and access to employment.
Small businesses make up 80% of all businesses in Columbus. Harnessing the power of entrepreneurship and helping create an equitable ecosystem requires not just venture capital dollars . . . but experience, like that of Falon Donahue.
Thank you, Falon, for your work in supporting startups in Columbus and throughout the state.
Our Smart Columbus initiative brought jobs and outcomes to the city with transformative money from the U.S. Department of Transportation and Paul G. Allen Philanthropies:
• A pilot program that helps individuals with cognitive disabilities navigate transit with greater independence, while staying connected to their caregivers.
• A new app called Pivot that helps residents plan convenient, affordable trips around town using the many mobility services Columbus has to offer. This year we will roll out a payment system within the app that will engage our unbanked residents to pay for rides with cash—granting them access to systems they previously couldn’t access without a debit or credit card.
• And we launched a self-driving shuttle in Linden just last week, which is helping connect residents to the resources at St. Stephen’s Community House, Douglas Recreation Center, the Rosewind Resident Council and the Linden Transit Center.
Columbus has the fastest growing economy in the Midwest. Since 2016, we have:
• Created almost 10,000 new jobs from economic development projects
• Created payroll of almost $600 million from these jobs that creates income taxes that pay for core city services in all of our neighborhoods
Our Return on Investment for private funding over four years has been $27 for every $1 of city money – that is an investment strategy that works.
But we know small businesses are a cornerstone not only of growth, but dynamic and inclusive growth.
We partnered with Next Street to assess the small business ecosystem in Columbus, and it revealed some gaps including disproportionate challenges in accessing capital for people of color and women . . . and a disconnect between service providers and entrepreneurs who live and operate in under-resourced neighborhoods.
In moving forward with our Small Business Assessment program, we will:
• Expand awareness of resources by identifying liaisons for community partnerships.
• Conduct focus groups among entrepreneur support organizations to identify collective training needs and capability gaps.
• Develop a capital readiness assessment process to prepare small business owners to take advantage of capital options.
• And engage anchor institutions to adopt “buy local” thinking.
Finally, tonight, I would like to talk about sustainability which is key to our equity agenda.
The impact of climate change isn’t just happening on far away shores. It effects our most vulnerable residents right here, right now in Columbus.
Extreme temperatures can lead to higher energy bills and increased home repairs. Heavy rains can cause flooding in basements.
That is not merely inconvenient but can be life threatening for a senior on the South Side on a fixed income . . . or a single mother in Milo-Grogan working two jobs just to get by.
More 90 plus degree days equates to air quality concerns for children fighting asthma across the city, and potential for heat stroke and other health concerns for those without access to cooling.
Cities in general are hotter than rural areas and our opportunity neighborhoods already feel that directly with higher incidences of asthma.
That’s why I have embedded sustainability into the fabric of our work here at the City through our Sustainable Columbus initiative — because it is imperative that we promote cleaner and more prosperous neighborhoods with plenty of green space . . . air that’s easier to breathe . . . and water that’s safe to drink.
This past year Sustainable Columbus had many successes.
My administration set a goal of having 30,000 home energy audits done in the City by the end of 2020 as a way to support our climate and energy work. To date, 20,000 audits have been completed, showing homeowners different improvements they can make to increase the energy efficiency of their properties.
As we look ahead to this year and beyond, I am setting a commitment for the City of Columbus to be carbon neutral by 2050. Over the next year, my administration will be working on a framework to implement climate change policies that will put the city on track to meet this goal.
As a community and region, I am calling on each of us to think more boldly . . . to innovate . . . and to invest in systemic change around climate and sustainability.
One bold program I intend to put on the ballot in November is community-choice aggregation, which will allow our community to provide power from 100% renewable energy sources.
Residents still receive service “through the wires” from their existing utility provider, but it allows us to guarantee that 100% of the power used in our homes will come from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2022.
Not only will this help our climate goals and commitments, but it will drive workforce development and job creation in the clean energy sector for our City and region.
And by aggregating demand, our community can use bulk buying power to negotiate competitive rates with suppliers.
We will make the case that renewable energy is best for Columbus and our region, and that our residents should have the ability to choose.
Neighbors, America is more divided than ever – and we continue to live more segregated lives.
I know there are divisions right here in Columbus. People who feel left behind . . . families that are struggling to make ends meet . . . residents who see the accolades the city receives and wonder if that’s the same city they live in.
But, as a city, we have the ability to unify, to close this divide.
These are changes for a generation – to create a better and brighter future for everyone.
And I need every one of you to help make it happen. We have the opportunity right now to go on a very different journey than the nation as a whole is taking.
While other cities have grown quickly, we have a chance to grow dynamically and inclusively . . . a chance for shared prosperity and equity.
Everything I laid out tonight is ultimately about equity: birth-to-five . . . diversity . . . neighborhoods . . . public safety and health . . . affordable housing . . . innovation . . . and sustainability.
Our journey will not be easy . . . it will not happen quickly. But we need to show up . . . learn from all voices . . . and be willing to learn and change and lead in a new, bold direction.
I know that our best days are still ahead of us, Columbus. And I know we will get there together.
God bless you and God bless the City of Columbus.