April 2, 2014 10:49:52 AM
Last night, the Columbus City Council considered plans for development of the portion of an area called "The Island" that lies adjacent to the Columbus Riverwalk and Columbus Soccer Complex, two county/city joint efforts that have proven to be welcomed additions to the city.
While we applaud the intentions of our elected officials in the city and county, we also caution them to understand the role they play in the area of development.
There has been much discussion of late about the city's needs to grow, develop and, in some cases, redevelop areas of the city. The influx of industry has not produced a corresponding surge in the city's housing market. In fact, building permits for homes are a pretty rare occurrence and there hasn't been a major housing development started in the city in years.
Our elected officials are correct in recognizing the need to make the city more attractive to new residents and should do everything in their power address the problem.
Yet of equal importance is to understand the proper role government should play in this area and focus its energy on fulfilling that role.
In February, a group of elected officials and community leaders traveled to Chattanooga to learn how that city transformed itself. The story of Chattanooga, as is the case with most cities who have enjoyed a renaissance, is that it is the private sector that must be the driving force, the innovator, the planner and the visionary.
The role of government, on the other hand, is to facilitate, to promote and encourage and to smooth the path toward those projects.
Elected officials are equipped to perform those tasks.
But we fear that, for lack of private sector participation, our elected officials have stepped beyond that role into an area for which they have no expertise. It is no insult to point out that our government leaders are not developers or investors. Their duties do not require that sort of background.
Instead of taking on the whole task of development, our elected officials should concentrate on making our city an attractive place for developers and investors to do business.
That means concentrating on things like improving our schools, infrastructure and public safety, all of which are critically important issues for private sector investment.
We do not question our elected officials motives; they are honorable. But we do question their strategy.