2017 Columbus State of the City: Mayor highlights declining crime rate, future projects

2017 Columbus State of the City: Mayor highlights declining crime rate, future projects
(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)
(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)
(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)
(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - In her seventh State of the City Address, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson declared the city and the community remain strong, but there is still room for improvement.

City government officials, representatives from Columbus Police and Fire departments, as well as Superior Court justices, packed the ballroom inside the Cunningham Center on Columbus State University's campus Friday to hear the mayor's address.

Throughout the address, she called on community leaders to offer, in her own words, "big, bold, and audacious" ideas that will move Columbus forward.

"Set your own civic ethos to 'Can Do' and require the same of others with whom you work and speak," she said on stage. "Then, we will be able to say that the state of our Columbus Consolidated Government - our community - is stronger yet."

Tomlinson highlighted several policy points over the course of her administration in a nearly half-hour-long speech, and those points reflected her desire to adhere to the afternoon's motto of "big, bold and audacious."

Among those points: the recent progress made after receiving a federal approval to assess the environmental impact of a high-speed passenger rail from Columbus Metropolitan Airport to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Next, the plan to repave and re-stripe Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, as part of what she called the revitalization of neighborhoods along Cusseta and South Lumpkin roads.

Perhaps most important for her, as the city's top public safety official, Tomlinson mentioned the decline in certain crimes since she first assumed office; more specifically, the drop in property crimes, down 34 percent since 2009, and a 17 percent decrease in violent crimes since 2008.

"We've reduced crime - 2,500 crimes a year - on average since 2011," she said, then turning to answer critics and citizens' concerns about continued crime.

"I think when we talk about our concern for crime, that's legitimate. We can say that 'Yes, we do have instances of horrific crime. Yes, we do have crime in Columbus.' But, my goodness, we have much less crime than we used to just back in 2008, 2009," Tomlinson said.

On a less positive note, Tomlinson addressed what she called a shortcoming on the controversial "Thaw the Freeze" vote held in November 2016. Tomlinson strongly supported lifting the property tax freeze, but that measure failed - 60 percent of voters decided to keep it.

She added, however,  she will look to bring this topic back on her administrative agenda - when she did not specify.

Tomlinson also brought up the recent announcement of new jobs coming to Pratt and Whitney in Columbus, as well as 500 new troops moving to Fort Benning.

Brian Anderson, president, and CEO of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, which hosted this year's State of the City, said the business community looks forward to improving job growth, with the help of the Mayor's office.

"We talked about things we got to work harder on, but also boldly talked about the things we see as positive movements," Anderson said. "So I say the state of the city is strong, but it's also building momentum for even future successes."

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