Thousands Turn Out for Columbus “Citizen Summit.”

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Columbus citizens showed up by the thousands last night to take place in Mayor Michael Coleman’s 2012 bicentennial citizen summit. The summit was an opportunity for people to tell the mayor what they think the city needs. It was the largest community-wide planning event in the history of Columbus.

The town hall-like meeting took place at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Participants filled two hundred tables and used the power of digital technology to answer questions about the community. Coordinator of the summit, Linda LaCloche says the questions fall into one of 13 categories. Those categories are based on over ten thousand ideas citizens sent in over the summer.

We have downtown revitalization, we have green community we have moving people we have arts and culture. So it ranges, we have 13 different categories and the audience will see and be able to vote using their keypad technology on those issues.

The city is working with Columbus based ACP Vision and Planning to create an agenda that includes voices from leadership and grassroots. The agenda will be part of Coleman’s one billion dollar-plus bond package. Jamie Greene, spokesperson for ACP says the company has helped other metropolitan areas before but he has never seen a community response as large as the one Columbus has put forth.

We are going to have about 2000 people here tonight. In Houston we worked a lot harder to get the word out and barely got over a thousand people to come out in that community. Here I think we just really tapped something here that is really significant in the community about wanting to be involved in the future of the city.

Debbie Maddox lives on the West side of Columbus. She came to the meeting tonight because she is concerned about the future of her neighborhood. She says she wants to make sure some of the money the mayor is asking for will go to her community.

We would like to revitalize west broad street bring in some businesses just help owners clean up their properties if they need it.

Maddox says she has faith that the city will listen to what the audience says tonight and make each individual’s goal a goal of the city.

Jen Adrian belongs to local arts group and is concerned about the longevity of Columbus’s arts scene.

I’m an artist and local business owner and I am really concerned about funding for the arts. Part of our concern is that there’s not going to be a large art space, outdoor exhibitions, public art. There has been a good foundation laid here in Columbus for that sort of thing but continuing on with that development would be great.

Before the voting began, James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds, explained the importance of this type of event. In his book, Surowiecki argues that groups can be effective in problem solving, potentially even smarter then so-called experts. He says groups are better at solving problems fostering innovation coming to wise decision and even predicting the future.

If you can get the conditions right, groups of people can be incredible smart and they can often times be smarter then the smartest person in them.

Surowiecki says a summit like this one is the best way to figure out how to deal with problems facing a city.

The opinions expressed by the audience will be given to a 220 person commission made up of local citizens. The commission will sort through the ideas and present a blueprint in May for the 2012 bicentennial.

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