| JM RAYBURN
WHAT IF A CITY DREAMED of becoming something other than what history had intended? What if a city aspired to something greater? Columbus is the embodiment of that belief. At its very core, Columbus has always been a city of the imagination. It was not founded on economic forces or for territorial defense. Rather, Columbus was an imagined city that served as a compromise in the face of political gridlock on where to locate the capital city of the newly formed State of Ohio. On February 14, 1812, the dream of a city became a reality.
For nearly two centuries, Columbus grew at a modest pace in the shadows of Ohio’s industrial titans, Cleveland and Cincinnati. Economic circumstances have changed in the 21st century. Columbus has resisted Ohio’s relative decline. By the early 1990s, Columbus had grown to become Ohio’s largest city in both land area and in population. The Columbus metropolitan area will become the state’s largest by the end of this decade. If it were not for Columbus, Ohio would be off the map for both business and tourists.
That wasn’t always the case. After humble beginnings, the city went into a decline with post-WWII suburbanization. Aggressive annexation policies in the latter half of the 20th century skewed the loss of urbanism. We lost a Union Station and a streetcar system only to replace them with highways and urban renewal projects, all of which sliced through the urban fabric.
Then things turned around again. It was probably in part the gravitational pull of a great city reasserting itself. Growth drew in outsiders who had arrived in ever-growing numbers, bringing money (sometimes), skills (often) and a willingness to work harder than the natives (usually). Today some come for jobs, some for sanctuary, some for fun. Columbus has a creative buzz that makes it feel more like an affordable hybrid of San Francisco and Boston than a Cleveland or Cincinnati.
We must accept that Columbus’ prosperity is built on its ability to attract the rich, the clever and the hardworking from all over Ohio, the United States and the world. We must never abandon the principles that formed the foundation of our aspiring city: Columbus was conceived at the intersection of human imagination and collective compromise with the hopes of building a better tomorrow. As such, it is no place to dream small.
We will give the people of Ohio and beyond an ideal to strive toward. There will be those who race to join us and those who will want to write us off. But in time, they will understand that Columbus fights above its weight class. In time, we will demonstrate that we can accomplish wonders.
We just have to decide what kind of city we want to grow to be during this century. Will we lead by example as a smart and open city?
Will Columbus be a world-class city with a world-class transportation system? Whatever that city is, it’s going to change the world. Columbus has grown stronger today than any of the citizens before us could’ve imagined. The only way to know how strong is to keep testing our limits.