Coleman puts neighborhoods first during state of the city speech

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Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman announced his plans for the city over the next five years last night during his state of the city address. Part of his comprehensive plan will reinvigorate blighted areas of Columbus by the city’s bicentennial celebration.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said he wants to make the city’s neighborhoods his first priority. And he wants to do that with what he calls a Bicentennial Bond Package.

“The Bicentennial Bond Package will be the largest in the city’s history,” Coleman said.

Coleman said there is not a set dollar amount at this time for the bond package. But he says it could be upwards of $900 million.

Fifty percent of the money would be used for sewer and water projects. The remaining dollars would go to various projects like fixing up blighted neighborhoods and industrial sites.

“The worst of the worst right now is Woodland Meadows. It is the very definition of blight in America and it must be demolished,” Coleman said.

Coleman said the city will begin demolition on the abandoned apartment complex this spring. The mayor wants to fix up the Techneglass Plant on the city’s south side and the Columbus Coated Fabrics plant in Weinland Park.

Coleman also wants to use part of the proposed bond package to build recreation centers around the city.

“I’m proposing a new kind of recreation facility that will be called Family Centers’. Family Centers will contain pools, tennis courts, community rooms and workout facilities,” he said.

Coleman would not say if the rec centers will be free to the public once they are built.

The mayor has set the city’s bicentennial year, 2012, as the deadline for these and other projects, including what to do with the failing City Center.

“While I can not at this time announce a specific plan, one is developing. City Center must be solved and we will solve it either with a capable cooperative and well-financed, private developer, or we will do it ourselves,” Coleman said.

Coleman spoke briefly about the city’s new airline, Skybus, one of his big announcements during last year’s state of the city. He said he expects the first flights to be sometime this spring or summer. One thing Coleman did not bring up was the streetcars he proposed last year. He said that’s because the finances are still be discussed.

“This next step is getting away from the menu and really focusing in on very specific ways to finance the streetcar. If we’re not satisfied with it, it will not be built,” Coleman said.

As far as the proposed Bicentennial Bond Package, Coleman said the money to pay back the bonds would come from funds the city has earned from its income tax.

“You issue bonds. You get the authority to borrow off of that authority and you use the set aside to pay off the bonds over time. And so one of the things we’ve always promised and successfully is never to increase taxes to pay for the pay off of these bonds,” Coleman said. Coleman said he will need to get voter approval for the proposed bond package, which is set to go on the 2008 ballot. Almost 1,000 people turned out for Coleman’s state of the city speech last night, the largest during his during his seven years as mayor.

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