Mayor Ginther sheds light on the Hilltop


By Noell Wolfgram Evans
Staff Writer

City of Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther is pictured here with members of the Greater Hilltop Area Commission.

On March 7, for a moment, the Westgate Community Center did its best impression of the Horseshoe on a Saturday. That’s because there was an eruption of shouts and applause at the Greater Hilltop Area Commission meeting when Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced that the traffic signal at the intersection of Sullivant and Westgate would be turned back on.

“If it’s not on by tomorrow morning, someone call me and I’ll come down and turn the thing on myself,” the mayor proclaimed to an appreciative crowd.

It was exactly the type of thing that commissioners and those members of the public in attendance had hoped to hear from the mayor who was attending as a special presenter.

The monthly commission meeting had changed venues to accommodate for an expected larger than usual crowd, and abbreviated its standard agenda, in order to give the mayor ample time to talk and answer questions. Ginther came with a list of what he referred to as “block and tackle-type” infrastructure updates and then followed those with his Blue Sky list.

He led with the announcement concerning the traffic signal, citing the work of the commission and the persistence of residents in helping City Hall understand the importance of this signal. That type of a partnership was a common theme for the night.

“The success of our city depends on vibrant, cohesive and engaged neighborhoods,” Ginther said when discussing how needed improvements can go from idea to implementation.

One of these improvement projects is Project Blueprint. The $5 million dollar area improvement will see refurbishments of sewer pipes and the construction of green infrastructure as a way to help re-route rainwater. The project will not just benefit homeowners, but businesses as well.

“This will help local neighborhood folks learn how to install green infrastructure.” said the mayor as he indicated that local businesses would be involved.

The top item on the mayor’s Blue Sky list was the completion of a Community Design Plan for the Greater Hilltop. The plan, to be created by the city in partnership with the Neighborhood Design Center and The Ohio State University, is expected to be started this year, but not completed until 2018. The goal will be a holistic plan forward that would touch every aspect of life in the Hilltop.

When a resident asked how this plan would be different than any of the others that have come and gone in years past, Ginther said that this plan would only succeed with “robust community involvement.”

“I didn’t run for mayor to put together plans,” GInther said. “I have to trust that you’ll tell me what needs to be done and then it’s my job to put together the partnerships to get those things done.”

The mayor reiterated his focus on the youngest Westside residents with two programs. Celebrate 1 is focused on decreasing infant mortality through awareness and access to community resources such as Community Health Connectors. A second initiative, just getting under way, will attempt to double the number of enrollees in available high quality pre-k education programs. Currently the Hilltop has the lowest enrollment of any neighborhood in the city in these types of classes.

These two programs in particular are an example of how the mayor drives his planning.

“Family stability makes for strong neighborhoods and with strong neighborhoods, that’s how you get a great city,” said Ginther.


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