April's DMO of the Month Transforms his Communities
American cities face critical challenges on a daily basis. People expect their local elected officials to solve those issues, regardless of their scope or severity. April’s DMO of the month takes a unique approach to the problems confronting his city. Meet Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, a DMO for whom every challenge presents an opportunity. This month we take a look at three of his initiatives, all of which take potential hazards and transform them into powerful city institutions.
Blueprint Columbus is a revolutionary infrastructure project, which takes blighted properties and turns them into community assets. DMO was lucky enough to attend NLC’s Big Ideas for Cities event to hear Mayor Coleman discuss it in person. Many communities experience difficulty with floodwater, especially when that water overloads sewer systems. Blueprint Columbus seeks to intercept excess water before it becomes a problem. Through rain gardens and other landscape features, Blueprint Columbus diverts, stores, and manages water above ground. Empty lots and unused properties have been targeted for the first of these developments, transforming under-utilized land into locations that create neighborhood value and take pressure off sewer infrastructure. Mayor Coleman confronts a problem as unattractive as sewage overflow while simultaneously beautifying Columbus' public spaces.
Get Green Columbus features initiatives that turn local focus towards green buildings, recycling, renewable energy, and conservation. One such program restores Brownfield land, taking abandoned or contaminated industrial sites and developing them into community landmarks. Out of this initiative comes the Scioto Audubon, 120 acres of Columbus that now hosts wetlands, endemic birds and wildlife, outdoor recreation, and a free climbing wall. Under Mayor Coleman, multiple recycling programs have found success. Natural gas from trash is collected and turned into cheap energy, and drinking water is delivered while generating hydroelectric power. Taking existing resources and using them to create additional benefits is part of Mayor Coleman’s impressive plan for Columbus.
One of the highlights of Mayor Coleman’s tenure is the Capital Kids program. Four Columbus community centers offer a variety of services to children after school and during the summer. These facilities have benefited thousands of children since the program’s inception in 2000. The centers offer academic assistance with homework, literacy, and computer training. Capital Kids also seeks to enrich children through cooking, the arts, and field trips. Preventative programs provide assistance for anger, substance abuse, and dealing with violence. Most importantly, the Capital Kids program encourages strong parental participation through special family nights, conferences, and newsletters. Results have seen lower rates of absenteeism in school, and higher scores in reading and math. Capital Kids provides a safe haven for children, while working to improve their performance in school and deal with daily troubles.
Our cities face a variety of challenges, including infrastructure, the environment, and the future of our children. Michael Coleman takes these challenges and makes them work for his city. Potential floodwater is diverted before it can enter underground pipes, instead feeding rain gardens. Hazardous properties are transformed to exhibit the natural beauty of Columbus. The time between school and dinner is occupied by Capital Kids, fostering youth education and personal development. Mayor Coleman is our DMO of the Month for April because he faces these issues and turns them into features that benefit Columbus. DMO looks forward to his future work, and seeing more of Mayor Coleman’s big ideas.
Michael Coleman is Columbus’ longest serving mayor. First elected to the city council in 1992, he acceded to the mayor’s office in 2000. Under his watch, Columbus has spent $54 million less than budgeted, and cut an additional $190 million from continuation budgets. Columbus regularly scores in the top ten cities for young professionals, stable housing markets, affordability, and safety. Mayor Coleman was recently recognized by Government Technology Magazine as one of the top 25 Doers, Dreamers, & Drivers. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati and the University of Dayton, and is a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.