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Our view: Columbus 2014, Restoring optimism should be Job 1 for city leaders




Earlier this month, the Columbus City Council, after a two-day tour of the city's six wards, met in a retreat in an effort to identify goals for the city, both short-term and long-term. 


We applaud this effort because we have for some time felt the city desperately needed a vision for the future, something that can be articulated in such a way that all citizens understand. 


At a time when economic growth in the Golden Triangle has rarely been more promising, we face the troubling reality that the city of Columbus is struggling. Ours is a fragmented community with battle lines drawn around not only race but socio-economics and politics. At a time when optimism abounds in our region, we fear Columbus will find itself ill-equipped to fully exploit the opportunities that lie just beyond the horizon. 


Faced with these sobering realities, we find a community that seems to have lost faith in the ability of the city government to lead. A general feeling of apathy prevails. Faced with the "fight or flight" reality of our city, too many good people have chosen flight. Ambivalence seems to be the prevailing mood. 


Of all the serious issues that face us, it is this loss of collective will and human capital that most threatens the city's capacity to achieve a brighter future. 


So we fervently hope something tangible, practical and meaningful will result from the council's retreat and the city officials will actively engage the public and inspire citizens to fight for the city's survival. 


We simply do not have the luxury to be divided. The future growth and prosperity of Columbus cannot be achieved through the efforts of one group. We must be a unified community, which can only be achieved by laying aside our differences and devoting ourselves to the difficult task of finding common ground in addressing the very real challenges our city faces. 


Whether it's under-performing schools, blight, deteriorating infrastructure, failing property values, flight to the county or the selfish ambition that manifests itself in petty politics, we must chart a new course for Columbus. 


While citizens must be engaged, our city leaders bear responsibility for setting the agenda. They must also do the hard work of inspiring the community to join their efforts. Citizens will respond. They will rally around the city. But they will only do these things if their leaders, through their conduct, assure the people of Columbus their voices matter and they will be heard. 


In many respects, 2014 is a pivotal year. By this time next year, the city will have moved in one direction or the other. 


It's up to us, Columbus. In our hands rests the power to change the city, for the better or for the worse. If we continue in our apathy, we will achieve the latter. If we actively participate in rebuilding our city by attending public meetings, sharing our ideas with city leaders, rallying behind our schools and children, we will be well on our way to achieving a more promising future for all of us. 


That's worth fighting for, isn't it?



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