Make Columbus Great Again

We love Columbus. You love Columbus.

But when rent is starting to hit many’s personal economic ceiling and your city is still named after an increasingly despised tyrant, you’ve still got a ways to go. So, in honor of election season—your civic opinions are still valid after the Nov. 8 showdown, ya know—we’re giving you, the reader your own soapbox in our pages—this month. This is our 2016 version of the good old-fashioned mailbag, with good old-fashioned Midwestern feedback.

Behold, the populace’s initial round of suggestions—and our two cents on their take(s)—on how to take this city up a notch:

Mikey Thomas

Columbus would benefit from having more gathering spaces that encourage interaction. The water features at Scioto Mile are an example. The city parks and bicycle trails are great, as well, but Columbus lacks urban spaces where impromptu gathering and hanging out can take place. Currently, urban interactions require purchasing a ticket to a sports event, or walking in a commercial zone to spend money (think Short North district). These are not bad things, but there are far less options for non-sport fans and those who don’t need to shop to exist. Imagine a city where major companies and organizations challenge themselves to make spaces, inside and out, where the public is encouraged to gather (to read, skateboard, exercise, perform, and celebrate) rather than spaces where people are chased away for hanging around. My recommendations: LARGE scale public sculptures with viewing atriums, (urban) skateboard parks, mini-performance venues for impromptu performing, protest, and speaking.

Agreed. The popularity of the Open Streets events shows that people love to gather, just to “play.” Let’s close the streets more often and allow for more neighborly hanging out. And, please, let’s stop being afraid of groups of young people hanging out and enjoying the vibe of the city.

Jan Bell

More dialogue between the community and law enforcement in developing a plan that benefits both sides. Too many young lives are being lost.

“Sides” is an unfortunate word choice, as it creates a binary of mistrust. This is, though, the narrative of the world as we know it today. We wish the sentence read “More dialogue between the community and law enforcement in developing a plan that benefits everyone.”

Hannah Stephenson

Better public transit, especially from elsewhere into downtown and vice versa! If only we had a rail system/option. Also, a shift in perspective around many of the universities in town. They do host fantastic events, many of them free, but I’m always surprised that more folks from the community don’t know about them. I know that students pay for the privilege of attending the schools, but the schools are also a huge resource and draw for this city.

All the schools in and around central Ohio—from The Ohio State University to CCAD to OWU to Capital University—consistently offer a feast of events, everything from dance concerts to lectures from top-notch thinkers and creatives (who don’t have to rely on TED), but we agree that getting the word out does not seem to be anyone’s forté—except the Wexner Center, who are masters of social media. The colleges and universities would do better to consider themselves part of the flow of the city, not islands on their own.

Heather Munn

Better/more/less-expensive-per-trip public transportation so that all persons in the city have access to all urban and suburban opportunities without it taking two transfers and two hours of your life to take a one-way trip that can then be reversed at the end of the day.

Y’all want a light rail, y’all gotta vote for a light rail, ya dig?

Janine Dunmyre

We need more affordable spaces to live in the city. All of the growth is in luxury condos or luxury apartments. Hey, remember when a bunch of waiters and bartenders could rent a space and walk to work? I am not even talking about low-income housing. I want to see building and developing geared towards young workers.

Right? Everytime we see a new building going up, being rehabbed, or an entire new neighborhood created (see: Neighborhood Launch on Gay street), there is a part of us that has a catch of hope in our hearts that there will be affordable housing so we can live in the heart of the city we love so much but, alas, it is rarely the case. It’s sad that the city’s biggest cheerleaders—often those who work in the service industry (you ask your bartender for the best meals in town, not your tax attorney)—are the ones who have to leave the area to find a place to live. Still, a larger question remains: how does Columbus wish for and is granted all the development that comes with an up-and-coming city, and not expect rent to move on the upward scale accordingly? What we must make sure of is that that’s a question the right people even care about.

Lydia Lucas

We need a northern version of 670.

We think technically that is supposed to be 161, but technically 670 is also supposed to function as a quick way to get across the city, and not a terrible maze of cars merging in every direction before eventually turning into a parking lot for 2 hours every afternoon.

Blake Compton

We all talk about public transportation, but let’s start first with bettering the existing public transportation that is sorely failing our fair city. Sidewalks! We need a comprehensive sidewalk repair and replacement plan that puts our neighborhoods to work building better sidewalks for easier walking. That’s public transit that the city will see an immediate ROI on. It will make neighborhoods feel better, safer, and if done right, put locals to work making their community better.

We’d be the first to admit that we weren’t even thinking this micro. Good-old fashioned two-foot transit would seem to increase human density, thus creating an uptick in urban mass transit riders.

Steven Santino

Columbus metro has the same fatal philosophical flaw as any other major metropolitan area across the country. Take your pick of a foundation or development organization or even philanthropic movement, and you’ll find people that are predominantly consumed with leading and few are willing to follow. We’re gonna be the next “fill-in-the-blank” city…or this space or neighborhood or employer will be “what puts us on the map” talk. F*ck that noise. That’s exactly the kind of lazy, silver-bullet thinking that results in either unsustainable overreach or bogs down any kind of modestly reaching progress before it has a chance to even start. They’re all making the same mistakes as any collective group of progressive politicians.

Columbus’s modern identity crisis seems to be that the city can’t agree on whether we have an identity crisis or not. A decade ago, it’s easy to see the slight desperation in putting us “on the map,” but now that we are—in so many sectors—we agree it’s time for the overall vision to get a little more far-sighted.

Nils Root

I feel like one of the more “wow, our grandkids are going to cringe that we did it that way” policies we have is how we restrict kids in poverty to shitty schools. Why does a kid in Upper Arlington get an awesome education and a kid on the East or South Side not? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? I understand high performing districts (Bexley, UA, Grandview) don’t want to be the only positive alternative for thousands of Columbus kids, but what if Columbus had the willpower to somehow agree, collectively, to let in a certain amount of CCS kids who wish to attend those districts? Note: questions in the first paragraph are rhetorical. I/we know why this segregation is the way it is.

Astute observation. However, funding for public schools in all of Ohio, not just Columbus, is based on the income level of each particular district as well as certain state and federal monies. So districts like Upper Arlington, with its concentration of wealth, will have “better” resources than a district like Columbus—or Groveport-Madison or Southwestern City Schools. This is common throughout the country. Other states have attempted to create “Gold Towns” which in turn, give part of their school funding proceeds to towns with a lesser income base. Not surprisingly, this causes resentment among residents of said “Gold Towns.” In a sense, this is how capitalism works—certain communities enjoy greater fruits from the economic tree. The inherent disparity that the Ohio system creates was the subject of the 1997 DeRolph v. State case that accused the state of Ohio and its school funding equation of not creating equal schooling options for all of its residents. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed and on March 24th, 1997, found the funding system unconstitutional. Sadly, little to nothing has changed so our best advice to get on your local lawmakers to FINALLY remedy the situation. Or maybe, volunteer at your neighborhood CCS school—tutor after school, donate books. On a side note, students can’t just “hop” districts, it’s considered fraud and is therefore, illegal.

Kelly Abrams

We need more programs like The Harmony Project that connect different people from different parts of the city. More approachable opportunities for affluent community members to have direct interaction with those who are struggling.

Hear, hear! And thank god it doesn’t rely on a tax base to provide their service.

Amy Tannenbaum

Being landlocked…anything you can do about that?

Nope, but we’d be happy to flood your yard. Or, maybe if other readers in this section get their way with the riverfront, we can apply for a grant to get self-sailing boats?

Aiko Yonamine

How about cultivating a richer international vibe? If you go past the University District, it becomes pretty homogeneous. Take a great look. What kind of restaurants do you see? Food choices are too limited. I often have to drive out to the ’burbs to get really good mom and pop food. I am tired of all the so-called “high-end” restaurants that just seem to be all the same. Food really shows how segregated this city is.

Homogeneity is the ghost of Columbus’s past, to be certain, and we’d argue that campus is actually the place most currently haunted by it. But, your approach through food is novel one: maybe a giant, global food festival that pulls all the unsung heroes from the corners of 270 into one central feast? Maybe a ban on burgers? GASP.   

Justin McIntosh


There’s a new, exciting change coming to the Columbus horizon this spring. It says Ikea on it. Plus, don’t you remember that guy who tried to build a mountain? How’d that go?

Brian Simakis-Lawson

A venue for music acts that’s bigger than Ace of Cups, but smaller than Newport (like 500 capacity); an enema.

We’re for all of this, as long as that last part is a Batman quote, and not a real strategy.

Zach Henkel

A new city flag.

Dude. Totally. There’s roughly 101 reasons—and 14 low-scoring Crew SC games—that justify kicking the yellow, blue, and gold to the curb.

Pat Deering

There’s no denying that income inequality in Columbus is particularly high – I would like to see more conversation (and way more leadership from the city itself) on raising the incomes of our service-industry peers. Additionally, Franklin County in general is crap at addressing homelessness and has little to no concern about preserving centralized housing to the infirm/elderly/disabled in our area (the redevelopment of Bollinger Tower is a prime evidence of such).

Maybe we can take a page out of Seattle’s book, and make a citywide minimum wage that doesn’t require the whole state to pass a new law?

Alexa Conner

Columbus does a bad job making public spaces where people actually go. It is the thing that breaks my heart the most about living here. In part, it’s because there’s no real “center” — there’s not much to attract folks downtown. The closest thing we have to a promenade is just to walk through the Short North. But I’ve seen so many cities that do it, somehow. Small towns often have gathering spaces near the center of town, large lawns that can be seen by people otherwise passing by. Carrboro, NC has this, given weight by Weaver Street Market, which sells everyone their groceries, but also serves as a coffee shop, and can also sell single bottles of alcohol for consumption on premises—making it a place where people from all walks of life cross paths. Big cities have decent sidewalk cultures, where people can go out to be a part of the city. Even Cincinnati has the riverwalk—why can’t we do that? Why does our riverfront have to be so stark, without art, without shops, without food, without pull? Bilbao has one of the loveliest urban cultures I’ve ever experienced, despite being an incredibly rainy place: a great knot of small bars and restaurants where people stroll and get small bites before moving to the next place. The result is a city where people actually get to know each other. That’s what I want. Public spaces, with pull.

Agreed! We need more great places to get grub on the river! As a bicycle tour guide working right near the riverfront, I have pretty much one option to send people to for a bite after our tours. Other than that, it’s up and away from the river to nosh. And bathrooms.. We really, really need bathrooms.

Jeff Tobin

Tax-abated properties…developers build high-end condos and the city allows buyers to have the property tax-free for 10-15 years. It’s a great strategy to rejuvenate an area (like Franklinton), but I know of properties downtown currently selling for $700,000+ that are tax abated. Meanwhile, there’s a new ballot this election to raise our property taxes because Cbus schools need the money. Surely, if you can afford a $700,000 condo, you can afford to pay taxes like everyone else.

Here, here!

Philip Kim

Change the name.

We’re down for just calling it like it is — Better Dayton.

Victoria Pfeifer

Promote LAWN REFORM! It’s time to evolve from the food-free, bee-free, oil consumptive, butterfly-free, wildflower-free, wasteful, noisy, runoff-y, pollute-y, and basically pointless lawn system.

You’re going to find a much bigger fight to this out in the ’burbs, where it seems manicured lawns get you some sort of reduction on your property taxes, but in the urban core, most people’s yards don’t even look lovely anyway! Can we incentivize this with a team of public employed gardeners? That’s way more green that putting your old plastic bottles at the edge of your lawn.

Chris Lucas

Develop solar materials that can be used on roads and sidewalks so no more plowing—then on our roofs so we’d have no more if these ridiculous electric bills.

While this sounds like a utopian future we won’t see in our lifetime, the way Hillary is talking about clean energy, this could be a potential advancement that happens before the end of her second term. For now, let’s just try to fix the grid so that half of Clintonville doesn’t lose power when a chipmunk twerks.

Brian Lucey

I sense lot of excitement over being recognized nationally. All well and good. Natural. And so the next step is to take that in stride and not get caught up in it OR be salty about it.

Agreed. We definitely don’t wanna go full Kanye.

Stacie Osborne

I have lived here my whole life and have watched SO MANY shopping centers be built on land that wasn’t bothering anyone by being an open field or woods. Then, within 10 years, it’s empty and they build a new one across the street. Sawmill road, for instance. The center with the movie theater is a graveyard, then they built a new one across the street on a WETLAND. It’s this, over and over, that makes me sick. STOP.

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, Stacie. Over the last several years, the city has seen the dismantling of two low head dams on the rivers, creating a return to a natural habitat through the city corridor. The health of the rivers and the life they support have been on the mend since then. The Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Research Park in Clintonville is known as “the kidneys of the Olentangy”, performing the filtering function that any urban river so desperately needs. At The Scioto Audobon Metro Park, a boardwalk meanders over the South side wetlands. The city has seen a recent trend in protecting green spaces for public use. A rising interest in water sports and riverfront events will ensure that more city resources are allocated for these valuable habitats. If you love your river, get your feet wet.

Massie Lawson-Simakis

More late night food choices that deliver past midnight.

Maybe we could start by one night a year, just the same way national retail does. Turn it into a holiday! How about the night before Thanksgiving? It’s the biggest bar ringer anyway. Call it Fat Wednesday….

Ed Plunkett

The level of food criticism in this city needs to improve. Local food writers are often cheerleaders and not critics. When was the last time you read a bad review of a restaurant from any of the magazine, message boards or bloggers? When everything is written up as being the best, or great, that lowers the bar with no real challenge for improvement. Hyperbole and excessive praise for local dining establishments and breweries needs to end. A lot of mediocre food and beer is being championed as being higher quality than it really is. The writers are in a comfort zone, and have to do better.


Anita Rhynes

We have got to stop being so obsessed with OSU sports, football in particular. It makes us seem like a little backwoods hick town, which we are not. Columbus has a lot more going for it than a college football team.

Yes, Columbus does have a lot more going for it than college football—we agree with you there. But we’re not sure how our love of OSU makes us seem like a little backwoods hick town? Also, does that mean we’ll be seeing you next in your season seats at the Crew stadium, Anita?

Matthew George

Speed bumps … speed bumps everywhere.

Wait—are you suggesting that Columbus has way too many speed bumps or not enough? Because that just depends on where you live. If you’re looking for more speed bumps, head over to the Polaris area.

Geoff Ales

Columbus sucks at being courteous to each other in traffic.

We see it more like we excel in being total assholes to each other on the road. Glass half full. But seriously, WHY CAN’T WE DRIVE? It’s uncanny. Is that the real reason we can’t have light rail? Because the person driving it would somehow be terrible?

Seth WattSun

I’ve been to too many concerts in Columbus where the people should be really moving and dancing, but they’re not.

The best way to address this is to tweet at every artist coming to town, and tell them to tell us to get off our asses. Otherwise, we’re back to our old method of just turning to everyone around us and yelling DANCE! at them.

Eric Hamen

Surfing. We need a more developed coastline.

Gotta wait for the 50 year storm, dude.

Faith Pierce

Columbus Sucks Because You Suck. That used to be a DIY calendar of events and maybe it still is, but I’m too old to know. My point is that Columbus needs to stop worrying about this shit and just do us. Stop creating weird ads for millennials in other cities. Stop paying websites to put us in listicles. It feels contrived because it is. Columbus is awesome and we need to remember that when we visit our friends out of town. Word of mouth, organic, evangelism is what we need if we want to change our image.

Who will preach the gospel of the capital city? We must send missionaries to trendy ass Brooklyn and Denver. Bring us your startups, your R&D, your mass transit riders, yearning to skip their commute.

Have more complaints, constructive criticism, calls to action you want to add to this list? Send your letter and suggestions to