Tim Fulton 00:12
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. We are a weekly Columbus centric podcast focusing on the civics, lifestyle, entertainment, and people of our city. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. This week. As a growing city, we have growing city problems. No one knows that better than Columbus City Council President Shannon Hart. With the influx of new residents and new jobs, President Hardin discusses transit as an equity issue, the importance of continuing conversations around race and policing. Why we have to do big things now. And the big changes coming to how City Council will be elected starting next year. You can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast.com. Also, the confluence cast is on Patreon. Find out how to support this podcast on our website, the confluence cast.com Or at patreon.com/confluence. The confluence cast is sponsored this week by the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission or MORP. See, featuring stories about local and regional partners that envision and embrace innovative directions in economic prosperity, transportation, sustainability, and an inclusive Central Ohio. More police transformative programming, innovative services and public policy initiatives are designed to promote and support the vitality and growth in the region. For more information, please visit more si.org Enjoy the interview. Sitting down here virtually with Columbus City Council President Shane and harden. President Hardin How are you sir?
Shannon Hardin 02:01
I’m good, my friend. How are you? Thank you for having me.
Tim Fulton 02:04
Absolutely, absolutely. And my apologies if I fade back and forth between President Arden and Shannon, if that’s okay with you. I
Shannon Hardin 02:13
do it every day I fade back and forth between the two.
Tim Fulton 02:16
Please know that the difference is certainly there. So for those that aren’t familiar with you give us sort of your backstory grew up in Columbus. And then how’d you get to counsel?
Shannon Hardin 02:30
Sure. So I was born and raised here in the city of Columbus. I claim this outside of Columbus. Southfield, really where I spent most of the start
Tim Fulton 02:41
around most of your days. Yeah.
Shannon Hardin 02:44
Know, that’s for I probably set the most impactful times of my life from say 10 through going to high or going to college. My mom still lives in Southfield. And so I’m still down there. I do do the caveat that when I was first born, my mom and dad we owned a horse farm in Delaware, Ohio. And so that’s where I really got started. And my dad raised American quarter horses in after my parents got divorced in Maysville, Kentucky. So I had this really crazy upbringing where I would be in the country during the weekends, and I’d be in urban city during the week. And so it’s given me a great perspective but grew up on the south side of Columbus. I went to Columbus City Schools first a fair with elementary then to Columbus Afrocentric. School, and then went to Columbus alternative high school named
Tim Fulton 03:41
Shannon Hardin 03:43
Yes, yes, yeah, that’s why we get along. So well. We are cosmic scholars. So yeah, I I graduated from college in 2005. And it was that cause though that I started my, I’m sure when you were there. Certainly when I was there, we had an internship requirement. And every Wednesday we had to pick a location, a place for the year where we would intern and I chose the mayor’s Action Center. Now in choosing the mayor’s Action Center was certainly not foreign to me in the mayor’s office. City Hall was not foreign to me. My mother was the front desk clerk at Columbia City Council when I was born, and worked her entire career here in this building at City Hall until she retired for 30 years or so, in 2014. And so I was certainly aware and around this building all through growing up. That certainly had an impact. I often say that you can’t be what you don’t see in the proximity that my mom provided even though she was a clerk. She answered the phones at City Hall. She worked really hard and brought us to work every Take Your Child to Work Day and I kind of took to it and so Hmm, I in high school, I started interning in the mayor’s Action Center, which is the precursor to 311 Call Center. And I really say that that is like my hook. It’s the thing that got me and keeps me in, in public service today, especially on the local level. And everyone knows now that 311 Call Center you call in with your issues back in the day, it was just a couple of ladies ran by this little white lady from Harrison, what’s her name was Mary funk, still the very best community engagement community, Ambassador arms Budman that I’ve ever met, she is the pinnacle, in my opinion, of public service and the type of public servant that I wouldn’t want to be and aspire to be. So she was a great mentor to me for many years as a as a just a community person working at City Hall. But I you know, the thing that I love so much about the job and the internship was that somebody will call in, they would have an issue, maybe the snow plowed and come through their street, or maybe even the refuse department skipped their house and didn’t pick up their trash. And you will get this call from somebody who will call you pretty pissed about this issue. It’s in some people’s view, a mundane issue to some folks, it’s certainly the person that’s making the call, it’s a big deal. It’s an interruption. And to be able to answer the phone to take the complaint to then click over call the department and say Hey, could you send another truck out there we messed up, we the city messed up this resident needs, you send this out there and fix this issue, to be able to then click back over tell the resident hey, if your home in the next, you know, three hours, we will have somebody out there and in a small but in a very significant way, really shake their how this person these individuals saw their government because what I learned in that internship was that a lot of folks were making that call not really expecting government to respond quickly or expecting to be taken seriously or expecting their trash to matter. But in the span of five minutes, and making that connection, was able to reaffirm in some small way but again in a big way, folks belief in their government, that this was for them and that it was a service that they were owed, and that we could provide to them. That has been the thing that has kept me gave me the hook that I love about public service, specifically local government. I always say I would never run for office outside of local government. Because it’s that proximity those are our neighbors calling. So I did that for several years all through high school. During college, I came back I went to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Very significant to me as a historically black college and university where Dr. King and many others came out of but coming back during the summer I interned in in different departments around the city. I worked in the Public Utilities department and was a fiscal agent working on a lot of different projects coming through and again, just that that learning and understanding city government, the impacts that it has big and small that job I never got to talk to residents much and no one ever saw me but I knew that I was part of a bigger thing. And so the Mayor Coleman, former Mayor Coleman had heard about me, obviously seen me growing up in City Hall coming to take your child to work day Nullah the internships that I had within the city and so when I was in college at Morehouse, he offered me a job. He said when you come out of college, come back up and I will hire you. I thought he was talking shit. I thought he was just being a politician. But true to his word. He offered me a job in his office in the mayor’s office, upon graduation in 2000. So I started I graduated in the fall of 2009 and started working for the city of Columbus in 2010. Full time for Mayor Coleman did that for four years. Love the job rose to a Community Affairs Coordinator and manager of the mayor’s external community affairs. We first met Tim, when I was in that role. And I remember I one of the roles that I had as working for the mayor was his liaison to the US Conference of Mayors which meant we flew around the country going to these conferences and I own a flight home. And one time he said, you know it’s time for you to step up your public service. And I was just like, you know, I would love to but you know, there’s so many reasons why it’s not right for me one thing I’m young and he’s like Shannon, I know you’re young, like Well, I’m young, and I’m black. And he was really perplexed. He’s like Brian, definitely no, you’re you’re black. So yeah.
Tim Fulton 09:35
And I’m like Mayor will ignore the younger folks. It’s important to note that Coleman is also a black man,
Shannon Hardin 09:40
he’s a black guy, he’s blind, you know, me and most of my life and so, you know, so when I got to young black, he’s like, bro, what the hell are you talking about? Because what I was also saying, I think I was using a code where I was saying I’m too liberal. And I was just I was being liberal for the city. I’m too I’m black. I’m too liberal for the city. I’m young and he’s Shannon, what are you talking about? I’m like, Mayor, I can’t do this right now I can’t do this job. I’m young, I’m black, and I’m gay. And on this flight, he told me, you know, he said, Shannon, you know, first of all, that’s only an issue. If you think it’s an issue, he’s like, for me, I think that’s the exact reason why you have to do this and why you have to do it in our city is growing, it’s changing is becoming more diverse. And I city must see themselves in, in its representatives. And so that’s why you should, you should go. And that’s really when a switch flipped in my mind. That took me from behind the scenes or a policy person, which I still my favorite job I loved, it absolutely loved it a little bit more to be in the app more out there in terms of my leadership as the elected official. So I went for Columbus City Council that fall in 2014. And back in the day, the thing was, you know, there was a lot of appointments going on, you apply to show people that you’re interested, you don’t get it, but it just shows folks that you’re interested. And then you apply, you know, the next time it comes open, and it may be you’re considered, I accidentally got it the first time. So I was appointed, I was a pretty young guy. And I’ve been serving ever since. So I’ve been on council now for eight years is in my eighth year. So the last four years, I have served as its council president, and I’ve been very grateful to lead this body and be a part of leadership in this amazing city.
Tim Fulton 11:22
Great, fantastic. Can you talk through such a high level, some of the the policy areas that you tend to focus on?
Shannon Hardin 11:31
Yeah, so I say that everything that anybody, not just policymakers and leaders of our city, but all of us who are at all moving in our community right now should be focused on can only cannot escape his growth. All the good stuff that is happening, and truthfully, a lot of the bad stuff is all wrapped up in that growth that is happening in our city, we all know that we’re going to add 500,000 to a million more people over the next 20 years. And that kind of change without real planning without real process and without real intentionality, especially around equity, and making sure that the growth is really meant for and experienced by and supported and lifting up and is correcting issues of our past. And that kind of growth can be really bad if not really thought through. And so everything that I do, all the work that I am focused on is really around the growth of our city and how we can do that in a equitable and inclusive way that lifts all boats. Because I think that for the last decade, I think that we have we’ve been doing well for a long time in Columbus for at least a decade, probably two decades, two decades. But, you know, it hasn’t been felt by everybody. And as the city is growing, and we’re getting more dense, you have the folks that you know, we have the two thirds of our community who are not doing what are doing well. And yet they’re they’re not in there. They’re literally looking at stuff, they’re hearing about the celebrations, we saved the crew, and we build up downtown and build up this waterfront, you know, the river. And those are amazing things that we have done in many, many more, but how the hell is this impacting me in a good way. And so as we grow more, that kind of thing will happen. Those things will happen and good for us, we will continue to do those those big things. But it has to be for everybody. It has to be for everybody, or else we will lose one thing that is most special about our city, the thing that completely separates us and makes us better than any big city in the country is that a kid on the southside of Columbus is still somehow connected to a person in Clintonville. Or, you know, the old lady who lives in linen is still a part of the concern of somebody on the west side, we still we were so unique in this as a city our size, that we are still connected, we still care, we still love our neighbor. And we still feel like you know, it’s not great over there. But it’s part of my problem. And I want to be a part of fixing it. And if we don’t start to do things and really lean into things that are demonstrably for everybody that I think that we will start to say start pitting each other against each other saying we’ll screw German village because I’m not doing well over here or screw the south side or why are you investing so much in Linden when we you know, we need a street paper over here. We right now still have this real opportunity to to build this boat and make it float where we are lifted together. And I think that’s like the most special thing. And so there’s growth conversation. You can we can go in a million different ways of how we’re leaning into it. Obviously affordable housing and in our housing issue. We went from a housing problem four or five years ago to a full fledged crises and we have to lean into it. We have to to build more housing, we don’t have enough we don’t physically have we have a supply demand issue in our city that is crippling us. And we’ll make it hardly impossible for folks who work in our city to be able to live and raise their family in our city, we cannot, we cannot make the mistakes of these other communities. So housing is a huge focus of mine. Transit is a huge, huge focus of mine, we cannot be the largest city in the country with advanced without advanced transit, we cannot physically add a million more people and not terribly change your quality of life. If you are a Columbus resident, and we do not do a transit system, then your quality of life will be diminished. And if you want a sneak peek into what this looks like, it looks like the Short North pre COVID were for all of us, Columbus, folks, we, the parking sucked. And because we, because of the neighborhood grew faster than our plans for transportation and how we get people in and out of it. If you don’t, if you did not love that, then we got to focus on transit. Because if not, it’s coming to a neighborhood near you all throughout our community, not not just downtown core, because of the growth that we’re coming up upon the transit issues and transportation, is it everybody issue and we all have to be on it. And we can go deep into that because there are equity issues in there, we have to be you know, have a quality, we have to respect the time and the dignity of our workers who need to take transit even. And you know, it’s important for me to get home to my 11 month old baby at night. And I can do that in because I have an option to get home quickly. But for some folks who are taking transit there, you lose dignity and having to take two, a two hour trip home every evening whose dignity and time and precious time with our loved ones. And so this is an equity issue too. So we got to talk about transit. But then we also got to talk about the workforce development component. We also have Intel in this thing about Intel, Intel didn’t change anything, but maybe this pace in which we were going in the direction we didn’t divert. It didn’t. We didn’t say, Oh, we got Intel. Look at now look at us. Now we’re going into right where we were already in this going in this direction. It just sped it up. And the issue is, is that we don’t have enough credentialed folks ready to take the jobs of the future. I believe that that workforce development, human development is the new economic development for a community, big companies don’t go to go to choose a city based off with just physical infrastructure, and even to surprise surprise off of an abatement or whatever it is that a government would have to give. They choose it off of who has a workforce that is primed, educated and ready to take jobs. We have an issue there. It’s why we created the Columbus promise I would love to talk more about the Columbus promise it is a guarantee that any kid coming out of Columbus City Schools will be able to go to college for free, tuition free. And they will have the wraparound services to keep them in school too. So we’ll get $1,000 each year to stay in school. Right now. It’s a it’s the Phase One is direct to Columbus State. We are working already on Phase Two that hopefully will bring in a four year partner and a historically black college and university. And I think the last area, again, all of these things are connected to growth and safety. As a growing city, we have growing city problems. We again we have more and more folks who are teetering on the edge. And then we had a whole bunch people that were teetering on the edge, that pandemic came and they got wiped swapped up over the side. We lost the ability to engage with and we lost the ability to have our social service organizations work with them. We lost the ability for teachers in the school district to have their hands on these kids. We lost the ability for churches to work and just do the social gathering stuff that keeps mentally folks together. So we had these people that were teetering on the edge already you bring a pandemic that takes away all of these social constructs social support. I always say that during the pandemic. I never had to worry about a roof over my head. My husband and I are fine. We never had to worry about food on our table. How we were gonna get the kids, you know the school and we didn’t have laptops, and I almost went crazy. Literally almost lost my mind. I’m gonna say the F word. I don’t know how to let you know.
Tim Fulton 19:24
You’re fine. Yeah, I’ll mark it explicit. The first episode. Yeah, you have
Shannon Hardin 19:29
to put this listed on there. Oh, man. So I almost lost my mind. And we had all these things. So what the hell do we expect for our population that was teetering on the edge that got squat wiped over the edge with this pandemic. It was going to have an impact on folks and we’re seeing in the violent crimes that are happening in our community. We are making the right investments we are are leaning in to reform because we can’t just whitewash over 2020 and think that the conversations we had around race are not important. No, we’re not real, or we’re not correct, we have to have a criminal justice system that is good for everybody, not just for some, so we’re gonna have to support policing support traditional safety, but also to reforms like alternative crisis, alternative crisis responses, that are all things that are important to a growing community. All that to say is that growth is the key for all of us, we anything that you would bring up anybody that I think you bring on this podcast, if they’re not somehow connecting what they’re talking about to grow, they’re off point for the community that we’re in. We have amazing opportunities. But we also have amazing challenges. And I believe that we are in this 510 year period where we have to do the big thing. Now. We have to do those big things. Because if we don’t, we will fall terribly behind the story is written, we can you can you our growth is the Goldilocks growth. And I thank God for it. We’re growing at just the right pace that it gives us that, that insight to see where we’re going. And it gives us just enough time to do the things to prepare for it. Some cities didn’t have that opportunity, they grew way too fast. And now that you can’t drive around now you have crazy equity issues. Now your housing issue will not be solved if somebody says we can do it right here if we do the big things now.
Tim Fulton 21:22
So that was fantastic. I mean, I want to circle back on a couple of the things that you talked about, you talked about, first of all, the sort of collective pride that thankfully the city has, and how we don’t demean or have a feeling of less equity towards others in other neighborhoods. I do think, however, that throughout and this is not a criticism of how or why. But I think that there are certain sectors of the city that say, why is this foreigners getting so much attention? Yeah. Why did downtown get so much attention? I think without the larger narrative of what kind of neighborhood it was in the past, the investment and the explosive growth happening in Franklinton, could be looked at as a pet project to some. And I want to point to the reforms, the the citizen led charter commission made recommendations, I think, in 2017, and then was passed in 18. That specifically pointed to the need for neighborhood Commission’s to be around to represent every single member of the city. So yeah, I don’t know that. I have a question there.
Shannon Hardin 22:41
I think you’re you’re hitting on something I think this is the thing is that I’m very grateful for the city. I am grateful. For one, I’m proud of the leadership that we’ve had over the last 10, two decades even. Yeah, and I say often, the city that we live in is less about the eight years that I’ve been on council. It’s more about the 2025 years of folks before us who did things specifically, that put us in a place to be in the city where we are right now, there were decisions made specifically by former Coleman in those early years, late years on council and early 90s and the early 20 2000s that say that downtown was not going to be a ghost town that it was gonna be a place where people live, work and play. We you know, folks that are younger are looking at the city and like, Oh, why are they doing all these things I grew up downtown. Well, because we didn’t have an economic engine before. We did not have a downtown we had a flight or a place where people came in nine to five in the left. There was nothing downtown and we could not have been competitive. We could not be competitive today. If we didn’t make real investments and bringing housing downtown bringing life entertainment downtown, all of those things. Again, I get it. Because it’s growing. For me even growing up in Southfield the drive from Southfield up South High Street to downtown was a hell of a drive because you at you could just you drove through what felt like you started in the Forgotten Woods far south and you drive three, you start to get cute around Greenlawn. You look to your right, and there’s some beautiful little houses the German village and pop you in downtown. It’s like, oh, it’s a whole new world. I get that. But the truth is there is connectivity there. That economic development that happened downtown in those early years allow for us to build the reefs in or on the south side that serves our most needy, those are the economic development dollars that we needed to do those things. So I get that. But what I also get and why so time and time again. I think in 2014, there was almost a ballot initiative. I certainly in 2016, there was a ballot initiative to change how city government work because folks say well, I don’t feel represented. I mean, we have this at large system where, you know, I don’t like I have my own representative who’s advocating for me. I think that that is a I think it’s a pure intent and that that argument and that need and the necessity to have somebody that’s just for me. But I think that we have to be careful in terms of how one does that. And so I was never supportive of a full word system, where we broke up the city in quadrants, and you had one person only thinking about this side of town. I think that that was the that is the quickest way to erase everything I’ve talked about the very beginning where we’re all in this together. I think that that is very dangerous. You look around the country, those cities that have most of these have full reward systems or quasi, it is not that it’s not even, we’re, they’re less competitive, because they’re not able to do the big things because no one is having the global view of what’s good for all of us. So not able to provide for their residents, they’re able to make them feel good, because you can turn on your TV and see your representative, you know, talk and match it downtown. But you’re not able to bring anything home because they’re just that one vote. And so we spent, we understood that the reality the truth in that argument that wait a minute, we’re all at large, we’re growing city was that all seven council members, even today, we are 220 Square Miles City, we have 915,000 people, all seven of my council members, we could live in the same apartment building right now and say that we represent Columbus. That isn’t that’s not right. We know that that doesn’t seem right doesn’t feel right. And so after those failed attempts to change the system, one of the ones was what would have added 25, council members to Columbus escalating up to 25, council members and districts. I fought hard against that. But we did that we needed a commission to look at this because there was some real credence to these arguments. And what they came up with was a quasi system, one that says that we are all in this together. We’re all in this this thing Columbus together. So we should all be able to pick the representatives that represent all of us, we should all be represented by all the same people. However, we need to have geographic diversity on council meaning that what I believe people meant when they said they wanted a district representative was they want to know that somebody is driving down their street once in a while that somebody saw that corner store that had been there for 20 years that no longer is there and feels a pain because of it. Because they know that store, they want to they want some proximity to their representative. And so what the commission came up with was a quasi system where council members, folks who want to run for council will have to live in specific districts. But however, they have to live there, but they will be they will have to run and be elected by the entire city. So now we will have geographic geographic diversity on council. But we’ll still have that large model. But we also notice all is that council had not not changed its structure and not changed its size in in over 100 years since 100. And since 1903. And so we are have are adding two new council members. So we will go from seven members, all that large to nine members in districts that are voted on at large.
Tim Fulton 28:25
So the map has been approved, the map has been released as of right now. And I full disclosure, I brought this up before I started recording. So I sort of know the answer. Currently, you and two other of the current seven members all are in the same district. Yeah. And all of you have to be well excuse me, those that decide to run again, are all being reelected or elected in 2320 23. How does that shake out? And like we’re, you know,
Shannon Hardin 29:01
so one thing that I hope our both our voters our constituents are proud of is that, you know, we had a districting process that was led by citizens and residents, they drew these districts. We as council members did not. You can look at the state house and see what happens currently, when you have politicians drawing districts and their drawing districts for themselves versus having residents lead a process that is more democratic and good for the better good. Our process was was community led. We support it with the commission put forward. Three of us do live in a district we like we do in all things because we will figure it out. We will do what is best for our residents and we you know, we still have options. There are districts that don’t have a current councilmember in it, maybe we you know, folks can move or our will we will see what will happen. But regardless, 2023 will be a huge year for the City of Columbus. And not only will these new nine counts, new nine council members be running, or maybe more than that I’m sure that we primaries and such. But you’ll have these nine seats open. You will also have open the city attorney, the auditor and the mayor. So the entire electorate, the entire governing body, the entire governance of our city will be on the ballot in 23. And so get ready TV time. Promotional suck, y’all know. But a lot, so
Tim Fulton 30:32
put on your political hat for a second. Yeah, we haven’t had. When was the last time we had even a Republican on council? It was I mean, it had to be the 90s. Right.
Shannon Hardin 30:46
Early 2000s. We had Jeanette Bradley, it was the last Republican to be on council. Okay.
Tim Fulton 30:51
Yeah. And last time we had a Republican mayor was
Shannon Hardin 30:57
like, Yeah, sure.
Tim Fulton 31:00
So for lack of a better term, this district system, not a ward system, but a district system where like, they don’t just get to pull from, who was active who’s been helping with fundraising, who’s been an activist in the space. And I think a criticism of counsel, frankly, has been that appointment process in the past, yeah, hate where somebody knows that they’re likely not going to run again. And rather than let it just be an open seat, they were they resigned shortly before or before the election, in order to allow that person to be not necessarily reelected, but to be an incumbent. Because it’s easy to easy to hold on to the seat, right. And that’s a demonstration of party power more than anything else. Do you have any theory about like, is this truly just gonna be feel a little bit more like a free for all? I imagine there will be an indoor slate, I will get a real big pool. Yeah,
Shannon Hardin 31:59
yeah. No, I tend to i So good question, Tim. It’s what keeps me up at night. I’m a process guy anyways, and one of the leader of this body and a leader of the city, I don’t want chaos next year, I don’t want chaos for the next 1416 months. And so I will be thinking a lot and working with my colleagues working with the party working with community leaders about a process so that we can have some order in this, that being said, shits gonna be crazy. It’s gonna be it’s gonna be insane. One, I’m not gonna there’s no push back on the appointment points that you were making. I have never been a fan of the appointment process. I don’t think that I have any grand wisdom that says Like I in five or six other folks, it should pick a person. When we went through the charter changes, we I pushed very hard to change the appointment process. But I was convinced this is how people feel seats, that you This is how you do it. I mean, the the only other alternative for us to do this, because people leave at all times is this to trigger a special election? Well, for us to trigger a special election in a city our size. And so again, we’re all at large, that’s like $7 million each time. And you know, and that’s just not a good use of our time. That’s not a good use of our taxpayer dollars to feel. So they are they are temporary appointments the person has to run. That being said, since I’ve been Council President, we’ve made fewer appointments in any other time. We councilmember Liz Brown did not run as an elected she was an outsider and, and one hurt see as well as councilmember Cynthiana, as well as the last few council members that ran with me last year. We just had folks do what you just explained opposite. We had to retire in council. And it’s because we have made that decision that it is better if we can plan to help people run without without that. So we we’ve been moving in that direction anyways, for this next cycle, I think that you will have a lot of people coming out and wanting to engage. And I think that that’s a good thing. I think it’s healthy. I’ve never been offended by anybody running against me. And most of the people that have run against me, Turn end up being good, great partners in getting great friends. Not the last person I ran against but everybody else.
Tim Fulton 34:21
Well, but And to your point there hopefully anybody who’s running for council or any other elected office in the city is doing it for the sake of the city. Yeah, right. And so that’s where some camaraderie can vary Columbus,
Shannon Hardin 34:37
for them to blow me up on issues and trust me, there’s enough stuff that I mean, we have to make hard decisions every day where the answer there is not a like honest and obvious. Yes. When I, you know, obvious, no. So there are definitely places where yeah, we’re open. I’m open to criticism, and I take that, as part of being a leader. I have to make a decision on hard stuff. If it wasn’t hard, somebody below us would make the decision and So that’s for me. And most of the folks who engage in public service, Republican, Democrat, Independent, or anything in between, usually are doing it for the right reasons and have been additive to the conversation. So I think that we will have a very engaged dialogue next year, on every level of government.
Tim Fulton 35:19
Yeah. The last thing from the issue area list that you sort of went through, is we’re at a focal point, we’ve got to invest money in transit, we’ve got to focus on reform, there are things that we have to do now, that argument doesn’t sound dissimilar from climate change argument. And whereas there, people can point to, hey, we’ve got 10 years left, we’ve gotten 10 years or 15. So I guess my question is, like, you know, you look at a city like Austin, where, arguably, it was too late. And they had to basically retrofit. Yes, they are, there’s their city around their situation. Right. Do you have a timeline? Do you think? And I want to add an addendum to that, in that is should we be a feared that this upcoming election delays that? Because large change, large initiatives are difficult to do right before an election?
Shannon Hardin 36:28
Tim Fulton 36:30
or am I thinking of this maybe a little bit too much in a here’s how Congress works. But yeah, saralee work that way.
Shannon Hardin 36:39
I think a couple of things. One, I’m not a futurist. I listened to one of your podcasts we had on I believe so? Yeah, I don’t, I did not even really understand that there are folks that are that specific in terms of what will happen. But what I do know is that there are forces that are changing our community, it is happening, it will happen over the next 20 years, maybe I can we can maybe we should use the well invested in studies and data that we have that says that in 20, by 2050, we’ll have a million more people. That’s enough information already to say, to start to back into this thing, if we have a million more people. And that’s what we’re preparing for. And we need to say build a transit system, we’re talking about a multi multi billion dollar effort to build it. So one, you had to build the information, the engagement with the community to get us all there that we want something, then you have to figure out what it is that we want. And then you got to go to the public and say, Hey, this is what we want. This is what we all believe that we need, when we Ante up some money for it. We have done the first two steps of that we have talked to the community, we gotten everybody saying we need transit, we have come up with a plan. Now we’re at the next step whereby we need to go to the public. And I think we will in very short order to talk to the public about how they would how we can support transit, not just next year, not just code as we know it, but a transformative system that will that will move our city forward. And I think that we have to have that conversation this year or next. I guess it’s that soon that we have to have that. Because we know that once we make the decision, it takes 10 years to build the thing. And so now we’re not now we’re into 2035, you know, and now and what we’re talking about building is, is is the skeletal system that will do amazing things. But we know that we’ll need to do more, because by that time in 10 more years, we’ll have 250 300,000 more people. And so we came back into this about when is that timeframe of when we have to do stuff. And I really do think that we’re in that sweet spot. I think that it’s not just transit, though, I think that we have to, again, be much bolder on housing, and really leaning into a land use conversation. Because if we keep building the way we are, which is not nearly enough, but it’s sporadic and and not It’s not focused, then we will take all the available land and it will just jack up costs without a real strategy to bring real density and really be able to bring these folks in. So we have to we have to do that now because that that stuff. I mean, people are coming into, you know, every year last couple years, the city the community has created 15,000 jobs like that is Gangbuster That’s so dope like yeah, we created jobs. But we built built less than 5000 units. So like literally we are successes ourselves into failure. We are creating more jobs bring more people in and not housing them. Which is
Tim Fulton 39:42
like yeah, it’s not. It’s crazy. And I I do think that some people may say like, Hey, this kind of sounds like a Chicken Little situation. The sun is shining, everything is great. Whereas it’s like no, the sky might start falling in on us even though it’s
Shannon Hardin 39:59
totally Now it’s falling out today, we announced $90 million for human service agencies. Last week I was with service providers that do. Shelter emergency shelter. I heard stories about from folks who lost their limbs a month ago, in January, a couple months ago, in January when the temperature was 19 degrees. And there were, our filters were full. Our short shelters are full because another gentleman last week told me that he has a housing voucher, a housing voucher money to to get a house, but there is not a house to be rented. And renters will not take the vouchers because they have so they they can pick the best person with the best credit every day now. Because there’s that much need. So the house is but the sky is falling for a lot of our residents. The issue is it’ll get closer and closer to you, and your issues and your concerns if we don’t do something about it now.
Tim Fulton 40:58
One final question. And then I want to get to that same question I asked everybody, which I’m very interested to hear, what is the best way for the citizenry to engage you and council at large, in order to, first of all have their issues be heard. And second of all, to help to better the city. This is just voting.
Shannon Hardin 41:23
Yeah, a couple of ways. We talked about civic, civic associations and era commissions. Those are that is the place where so much. So many things are decided. Because we are still at large. And because we don’t just have that district representation. Those air Commission’s are Council’s eyes and ears. And there’s the first line of information that we get from elected leaders about what a neighborhood wants and what they see is happening on the ground. But too often, I mean, they are run by folks, great folks, amazing, folks, but they’ve been there for 20 years, they’re tired they are they’ve given so much and you don’t get paid for it. It is just gritty work. And people come and beat up on you. And you don’t even get to do like the press conferences that I get to do like you just get your ask me all the time. But what you’re doing is you’re building your neighborhood, you’re fighting and advocating for your neighborhood. And you are the conduit, up through the system to make sure that your neighborhood concerns are heard, we need more good people, we need more young people joining those air conditions and civic associations, there is real power there, there is real influence there. And the only way that we solve our housing issue is through our area commissions and having the people that have the understanding the foresight to really think about our city to date, but really where we’re going as well. So that’s a great, huge opportunity, a huge ask that I would have. Second, I would say that council was the most accessible Council, our elected officials of any city our size. And I can say that almost empirically, because I serve on the executive board of the National League of Cities, I represent 19,000 elected officials around the country, there is no city our eyes, that that their council members are still taking direct meetings, phone calls, like you can call me like, you know, there are direct ways to engage and get on our email list. You can come to our community meetings, we do bus tours of the of the city, in different neighborhoods. You can follow us on social media, you can DM us and get a response from ourselves or our staff, you can ask for anything. And within it might flirt with the actual member, it might take three weeks, but you can be with our staff this week if you if you really have a question or concern you want to talk to. So that’s another way direct contact with us. But then the third way is if you see a problem, and you don’t see anybody working on it, that doesn’t mean that it’s not a problem. It just means that you need to step up and be the be the person because I promise you if you step up on the issue, other folks will be like, oh, yeah, I was looking for that place. I was looking for that group of folks who were working on this housing in particular is one we need strong housing advocates. We need strong folks that really would will do the work and understand housing policy. Look around the country, look around the world look around what progressive communities have done and or what communities have that have not done. And what that means it’s so easy for folks to be like, you know, I want affordable housing, but I just don’t want it over here near me. And it’s happening. So I mean, it is ubiquitous it is that is the norm now. It is so hard to build anything because great people good people, people I love, love affordable housing, love housing, love more housing, love the idea of bringing more people, they just don’t want it anywhere near them. And that is a problem when we all think that way.
Tim Fulton 44:40
And so from an actionable standpoint, what when you say strong housing, housing advocates, you want people to speak on behalf of Aliette and more.
Shannon Hardin 44:51
Yeah, I mean, zoning meetings are boring until we have an housing project come forward and you only hear one side If you only hear one side, and the issue is and I’ve said that, so I’m in my office right now, I have a 1936 right here, I keep on my desk in 1936 redlining map of the city of Columbus. And I keep it there as a reminder, not just to the people that meet with me, but to myself that these policies are intentional. They’re neighborhoods that we have created, that have legacy issues were created and boxed in by policy. So we have to have a policy remedy for all of these things. They’re the forefront of that. That fight is in zoning meetings. And we’re losing every dime, we’re losing. And because there’s nobody there, having this conversation, there’s nobody there educating the rest of our community about density, what it really means and how it really impacts their lives. And I get it because we this is a new word problem for us. We have had land and we’ve had land in Colombia. So it’s not been a issue like other cities. Well, we’re there now we are running, we will run out of land. And we will densify. And we can do it the right way or the wrong way. But it’s coming. And we need and we need housing advocates, there are a couple of groups that are standing themselves up that I think are good, but they need energy. They need people of color, they need people of different education, backgrounds, different backgrounds to lean in and get their voices heard, because this will impact you. It will definitely affect. And we’re and we need those advocates out there. But that’s just one example. You could do that for a lot of different issues. I would encourage folks to just to get started to research and step out there.
Tim Fulton 46:32
Yeah, I want to wrap up today. By asking the same thing. I asked everybody. And hopefully you can go a little bit outside of the box, because we talked a lot about like, what are the great things about Columbus? What are the things that we are or we’ll be challenged by? I want to hear from you what you think Columbus does really well. And then what does Columbus not do so well?
Shannon Hardin 46:57
Well, I also think we’re the thing that I think we do well is is sounds corny, it sounds crazy. And there’s a lot of people who rightfully can put some holes in it. But collaboration is easier here than any other city of our size. Like for and I you might be salty. If somebody’s listening because your thing didn’t get done, or you didn’t go to another city and try it, I promise you, I promise you, it is easier to get something done to get another person to collaborate with you in this city than in any other city our size. And that is so special. We have to protect it. This thing where you do where you get me with somebody and even if you can’t support it, like you usually leave the meeting with like a contact like the person be like, Oh, but you should talk to this person that is unique here. We don’t have the old silos that these other cities have. That is dope. We do that better than anybody. What do we do? Not as good. Um, that’s you know, I mean, we have we have this we have the same big issues that a lot of folks have, like, I mean, equity, we’re leaving people behind. We’re leaving people, you know, when we can be bolder, we can be more bold. We, you know, what I talked about the good thing about us collaborating, sometimes that means that we’re too nice. I like being in a meeting and really just knowing where somebody stands like, even if I disagree with them, even if I’m like that fucker. Like I at least I know where they are. And from there, I think that we need to be big and bold and and come with crazy ideas and just try shit more often try off the wall stuff. We will fail sometimes we might even fail most of the time. But a couple of times we will like knock it out of the park and like those those times will set us a sentence will lead us forward in so many ways. And I just don’t think that we’re bold enough.
Tim Fulton 48:56
I agree. President Hardin Shannon, thank you so much for your time. Thank you my friend. Thanks for listening to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. Again, you can get more information on what we’ve discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast.com Please rate subscribe, share this episode of The confluence cast with your friends, family contacts, enemy’s your favorite elected official. If you’re interested in sponsoring the confluence cast get in touch with us. We can be reached by email at info at the confluence cast.com Our theme music was composed by Benji Robinson. Our producer is Philip Cogley. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. Have a great week.