(COLUMBUS, GA) WTVM Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson outlined the city's accomplishments, challenges, and remaining possibilities during the State of the City address on Tuesday.
As the 69th Mayor of the Fountain City and the first to be re-elected during a contested race since consolidation, Tomlinson said her faith in miracles was reaffirmed in 2015.
"It wasn't just one, it was several [miracles] and the evidence teaches us anew that great things are possible and insurmountable problems can be overcome," Tomlinson said.
The first miracle happened when thousands of women came together to save Sweetbriar College from closing—the mayor's undergraduate alma mater.
"We raised $28.5 million in 110 days. We converted $14 million into cash in 70 days and reached a settlement that required the college to stay open," said Tomlinson.
The mayor said she recounted the measure because if thousands of women disconnected by geography can pull off such a feat, what can the Columbus, GA community do if they come together to tackle the improbable?
One of those feats is cure homelessness.
"Do not laugh or roll your eyes, because we already have in part," added Tomlinson.
Another miracle unfolded several years ago when city leaders launched a 10-year plan to stomp out homelessness.
Back then, philanthropic leaders and City Council invested in the plan. The United Way agreed to house "Home for Good," a sphere heading organization and a board and stakeholders became engaged and devoted their time and efforts to the plan.
"Columbus then became one of several 70 cities chosen nationwide to participate in the transformative Zero 2016 plan to end homelessness to permanently house those that experience homelessness and provide support to them," Tomlinson said. "I think that would be shocking it you had told us five years ago, that today we'd be at functional zero for curing homelessness for veterans."
Tomlinson said Columbus has permanently housed 86 veterans.
"We are on our way to being at functional zero for chronically homelessness now we've got a ways to go so far we've only permanently housed 55 chronically homeless," Tomlinson said.
But one of her biggest challenges has been getting the city onboard with the controversial property tax freeze.
"Advisers will tell you do not adopt a freeze because it will affect your job growth and it will affect your population influx. Young people, workforce talent will not move to your community because you have to live in a house 14 years before you get to the favorable side of the freeze," explained Tomlinson.
Tomlinson believes the property tax freeze is why Columbus has seen net zero job growth in 30 years.