Tim Fulton  00:09

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 we ease into 2024, we’re taking a quick look back into some happenings that you may have missed as the year turned over. Columbus underground co founder and editor Walker Evans discusses a myriad of stories including the latest in transportation, climate change, local politics, and a dash of comedy here in the capital city. You can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast.com. Enjoy the interview. Sitting down here with Walker Evans, the editor and co founder of Columbus underground. Walker, how are you?

Walker Evans  01:02

Great, how are you, Tim? I’m good, happy New Year,

Tim Fulton  01:04

Happy New Year, hey, there was a lot happening with the holidays and everything there was we, first of all in the interest of making sure that we keep this thing weekly. And additionally, a lot of stories that we think some folks may have missed with all the family stuff and everything else that was going on in the city. So thankfully, you wrote me a little punch list here. Yeah, to go through the stories. First up, the Hyperloop is dead. Yeah.

Walker Evans  01:32

There were some rumors that started floating around that the company is winding down and laying off staff and selling assets. And so once that kind of got out into the larger ecosystem, everyone kind of latched on to it pretty quickly and saying like, yeah, we kind of knew this wasn’t going anywhere from the beginning. And

Tim Fulton  01:49

they did acknowledge it, or I’d have to go back and check.

Walker Evans  01:52

December 23 was when I saw the report from Bloomberg. Okay. And so I reached out to folks at the city who their responses were kind of like, yeah, okay, it’s gone. Okay. Yeah. But the, the silver lining, I think that everyone was trying to paint. And I don’t know if this is like, in retrospect, or this is the way it was kind of seen all along, was, we got federal funding to study this, but we studied it as like, what would it look like? If it was Hyperloop? What would it look like if it was high speed rail? Hmm. So the study was kind of done knowing that the Hyperloop thing might not pan out. So at least leveraging the money to put in the study. And so some of that funding and study is going to be used for Amtrak,

Tim Fulton  02:33

so always good to have contingency the money is not fully wasted. Yeah. City has a win on their belt. Yeah. Yeah. So also in transportation, news, bird scooters, they’re out of the market? Well,

Walker Evans  02:46

they filed for Chapter 11. Oh, they filed for bankruptcy, they said out of the gate, that nothing is going to change. Right immediately. Probably, we might start to see them go away. But yeah, I mean, that’s always the disclaimer right away. Chapter 11 does not mean going away entirely. It’s a financial restructuring. So I don’t know if any of these scooter companies have ever made $1.

Tim Fulton  03:10

Right? Well, I mean, it’s a novel idea, right? And I, I work in a space where it like Amazon fulfillment, or drop shipping or anything, it was like anybody can start a scooter company. So yeah, that’s gonna happen

Walker Evans  03:27

if you get a whole bunch of venture capital upfront, so you can just burn to that cash until it’s gone. If anybody

Tim Fulton  03:31

wants to start an AI company, let me know. Yeah. Trees, and I will be honest, I don’t know what this story is about. So

Walker Evans  03:39

the city of Columbus in December, sorry, I should say the city city council voted on December 11, to change the public tree code. So there’s an urban forestry master plan, really plant more trees preserved more trees, the more trees the better, okay. But they actually took a step toward some of those protections, basically, making it more difficult for people to just cut down whatever they want on their properties and that sort of thing.

Tim Fulton  04:07

Okay, good. I’m basically and the big thing here is cut down a tree, you either have to replace it or you’re paying a fee. Pretty much.

Walker Evans  04:15

Yeah, yeah. But before that, I think it said that the code had not been updated. And since 91, okay, so multiple decades, you know, but kind of bringing it into compliance with where they want to head in terms of sustainability. Great. Yeah.

Tim Fulton  04:30

Next food trucks.

Walker Evans  04:32

Yeah. So this This was news announced today. We heard about it a couple of weeks ago. Off the rack. Yeah. embargoed. Yeah, yeah. Chaz Kaplan and Mike G. They’ve been doing the food truck festival for I think like 13 years, this might be the 13th year. Originally, it was downtown at Columbus Commons. It was one of the first big festivals at Columbus Commons when that Park was finished. Did it there for a couple years moved it around. It’s been out at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Hilliard for the past three or four years. exclusively, they are bringing it back downtown over to the riverfront like the side of the peninsula area. Oh, okay. And they’re doing too. So they will be doing that and the Hilliard version in 2024. So kind of exciting news. They’re pumped to bring it back downtown.

Tim Fulton  05:14

Any backstory there about like, why back and why staying in Hilliard? Is it just because there’s multiple audiences? Right? There’s a municipality, there’s a food truck, and there’s the people that come and eat food. Yeah. So are we trying to butter all sides of our cubic bread? Maybe? Sure. I’m not trying to be the naysayer all the time. Well, I

Walker Evans  05:38

think it was one of the if anybody went to the very early food truck festivals, it was sort of like a victim of its own success. It was way more popular than they knew it would be. The lines for every truck were super long. It was sort of like they didn’t know so it ended up not being the best location because Columbus Commons is only six acres. Yep, the park. So it’s kind of small. So moving into the riverfront, there’s more parking, there’s more room to spread out. There’s more. They’ve kind of like learned over the past decade how to run it more effectively out there. But I think they also have good partnerships, Hilliard with the county fairgrounds. They didn’t want to just abandon them. So

Tim Fulton  06:12

there you go. Yeah. Climate change.

Walker Evans  06:15

Yeah, we’re the best. We’re the third best, where’s the third best? Yeah. And take this with a grain of salt. Because this comes from a platform that they do these kinds of studies. And it sounds like they do their due diligence, and they have methodologies and peer review and stuff. Right. But it is a company that sells insurance. Okay, like homeowners insurance. Yeah.

Tim Fulton  06:33

That, frankly, that is the type of content that they put out there like yeah, this is the most flood prone.

Walker Evans  06:40

Exactly. Yeah. So they looked at the top 50 cities in the US, the website is policy genius, I should say, oh, and all these articles on Columbus underground, the top 50 cities, they gave us the top 10 And the bottom 10. Columbus was third best. Okay, a lot of it obviously has to do if we’re far away from fault lines. We’re far away from coasts, okay. But it’s not really good news to be late. It’s, you know, you’re you’re not winning a real award by being the third least impacted by climate change. Well,

Tim Fulton  07:09

and I enjoyed your cover photo, which I don’t know if you created this picture the City of Columbus with like, it almost looks like a heat. Yeah. Filter over Yeah. Third best, so gonna be hot.

Walker Evans  07:23

That was a fun little photoshop job that I did. But yeah, it said that our extreme heat days will rise from two on average per day to 20 per year. Per I’m sorry, yes, per year. 20 on average per year in the summer, and I can’t remember off the top of my head what exactly extreme heat is if that’s like 110, or if that’s like a heat index level or whatever, but it’s real bad day. It’s not good news. But okay, we could be Florida yet. Yeah. I think like five of the 10 worst cities. We’re all in Florida. It’s like Tampa, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville. Like, yes, Miami will be underwater.

Tim Fulton  08:02

There is a reason to like staying here. Yeah. And

Walker Evans  08:06

I think, you know, to some degree, just to piggyback on this, and I didn’t really go into this in the article, but I think folks like Mopsy are studying like, Will Columbus be a climate refugee city? If people are going to need to escape from places like Phoenix that could become less and less habitable? Where are they going?

Tim Fulton  08:24

Well, and it only leads into my theory that we are actually headed towards Ready Player One, the film, where Columbus is basically the center of at least the United States, right? Because we got our intel plant, start stacking those trailers. Yes. And now that the new Apple headset devices coming out, that’s how we’re all just gonna work every day. I’m excited. Yeah, it’s so bad. It’s still real bad. But

Walker Evans  08:50

well, just we’ll be playing fortnight instead of the actual game. Yes. Yeah. Yeah.

Tim Fulton  08:55

Up next on the list. We are saying goodbye to the van der rally room.

Walker Evans  08:59

Yes. Yeah, we just did. The final couple of events were in December. Had a great nine year run. AJ van der la really, you know, became sort of an anchor. Yeah. In the community with the Artspace. Not all bad news. You know, she’ll she’ll probably be doing something else. You know, there’s still a lot of cool things going on in Franklinton. But it was nice to give it like a very, you know, good send off, I think a December.

Tim Fulton  09:22

Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. We have seated a new city council. Yes.

Walker Evans  09:29

So their first meeting of the year was on the second January 2.

Tim Fulton  09:35

Yep. They grabbed ping pong balls.

Walker Evans  09:39

They did. Yeah. Which was interesting, because that was a part of the charter. And I wasn’t sure they said they were going to draw a lot. Right. And I ran into one of the city council members like a week ago and said, is that flipping a coin? Is that drawing straws? Yeah, they’re like, I don’t know. We didn’t

Tim Fulton  09:52

know. Yeah. So they didn’t know when I interviewed them. I was like, so how does that work? Yeah, like and but the one joke sorry. did not get ahead of you was Nick Bankston was appointed I had to run the following year yeah and then had to run the year after that sorry two years after that because of this new restructuring joke to him. I was like he’s gonna get to get another two year term do ya? automatically gonna happen? But no, he got four he got four. Yeah Appalachian snake. Yeah.

Walker Evans  10:20

Shannon Hardin Nancy de Algeier Nick Bankston Melissa green and Lourdes butter yo Barroso de by the got the four year yes, those five got the four the other the other four got the two? Yes, yeah. But they do ping pong balls or orange and white ping pong balls out of a bag. Okay,

Tim Fulton  10:40

that’s one way to do it.

Walker Evans  10:42

I watched on YouTube. Ly was excited. Okay.

Tim Fulton  10:47

The minimum wage has gone up.

Walker Evans  10:48

Yes. So it went up 35 cents at the start of the year. Hurray for an extra 35 cents is the state, the state minimum wage and it’s non tipped so that the tipped wage went up a little bit as well. But it’s still a lower, lower number. The other thing that went into effect at the beginning of year was the flavored vape and flavored tobacco ban when you Yeah, you seem sad?

Tim Fulton  11:13

I’m not. I don’t have a comment on that. Yeah, no,

Walker Evans  11:17

you’re dead skull you can’t get

Tim Fulton  11:21

I am friends with the folks who helped get that passed. And am in theory in favor of it. Sure. But in my but I do believe and more so than I thought how much it would affect local businesses. Yeah. Especially sort of independent folks, maybe from Venezuela who own a convenience store? who serve as the minority community. Yeah. And like while yes, they are serving excuse me, they are selling a police on the harmful poisonous substance. It is a cultural harmful, poisonous substance. Sure extent. Yeah. And, yeah, that’s

Walker Evans  12:05

I think it’s just interesting, because in the past, we’ve seen these sorts of things where Columbus goes first. You know, other communities follow. Sometimes there’s a set like Bexley will sometimes band things before,

Tim Fulton  12:17

like selling cigarettes. 18 year olds, like we were like, that’s crazy. Or sorry, smoking inside bar.

Walker Evans  12:23

Yeah. The smoking ban was in Columbus first before it went statewide. So I think within the next couple of years, we might see it become a statewide thing.

Tim Fulton  12:30

Yeah, I will say going back to smoking in bars, like that was a to the detriment of a lot of bars that, you know, certainly were maybe on the periphery of the city. And if you’re going to make a choice between, oh, this place in, I don’t know, Powell and this place in sorry, a place in Worthington and a place in City of Columbus proper, like, and you’re a smoker, which I’ll be honest, at the time, I was a full on smoker like that’s a choice. You’re gonna make sure or go to vote place was a tip jar that pays there. Yeah, there. And

Walker Evans  13:07

I mean, you still could see that on like, border. I mean, like Cincinnati, Kentucky, you know, people might cross to spend more time and money in suburban Kentucky Community if they don’t have a statewide ban through? Yeah, I will say the the other unintended consequence, and I’m not going to name names, okay, of the smoking ban back in the day was that you’d go into a place that just always smelled like cigarette smoke. And then once the ban was in place, you found out what the place really smelled like, and you kind of wanted it to smell like cigarette smoke. Yep. It was covering up the worst smells. Yeah. Camouflage.

Tim Fulton  13:40

Indeed. Next up on our list is the trans veto by Governor Mike DeWine. of House Bill 68. If you want to talk through that,

Walker Evans  13:49

sure. Yeah. So that that was approved and went on his desk and sat for, you know, he let it sit on his desk for quite a while. So a lot of people were debating, you know, is he gonna sign it? Is he gonna just let the time run out? Is he gonna? He’s gonna veto it. And to everyone’s surprise, he vetoed the bill. Yeah, it sounds like he listened to a lot of caretakers, parents, doctors, medical community and kind of went with what they said versus sort of the political rhetoric which

Tim Fulton  14:15

Yeah, yeah. And I don’t think it’s a secret what my politics are here. I think your secrets or your politics are probably not a secret here either. But it he did have the ability to line item veto. That’s something we can do in the state of Ohio, which can’t do in every state. And to be clear there, that’s him going into a law and taking out a part of it right, and chose to just go ahead and defer the whole thing, even with a supermajority that could override him. Yeah.

Walker Evans  14:47

Yeah, because this would have denied both gender affirming care but also banned

Tim Fulton  14:51

for sports. Yeah, yeah. I think a much more like what people are like, of course, I don’t want a young man competing with my daughter which also That’s not what’s happening. But yeah, whatever the most pressing issue, the most pressing issue of our day is anyway, it’s a big news story right at the end of the year. I was surprised. I was pleased. But yeah, interesting how it went down. Of course. Yeah. Up next on our list, the surprise closing of Clintonville main say Raghu. Rama. Yeah,

Walker Evans  15:24

it had been in business for over 20 years. Suddenly, it was very abrupt. When I read. There’s some discussion on the Columbus Reddit about employees saying, What do I do? Because this happened out of the blue, I don’t even have paperwork saying I’ve been fired or laid off or anything like how do I even file for unemployment?

Tim Fulton  15:43

And I don’t know, what sort of journalistic integrity on like, I saw this on Reddit, like, just sort of the maneuvering that seemed to be happening. And of like, even having what I would refer to as tenured employees, like helping to pack boxes up. Yeah, answering questions about what was happening. Yeah. And then discovering that your employee handbook has been updated to make it easier to fire you,

Walker Evans  16:06

right. Yeah, I mean, it’s all alleged, I guess, you know, that’s, that’s yeah, we did reach out to Raghu Rama multiple times and haven’t gotten an answer on anything. Okay. So got it. At the end of the day, it’s closed.

Tim Fulton  16:21

It is closed. Yeah, you can’t. I was gonna make a joke. There’s a joke to really make. Speaking of jokes, yeah, Columbus Comedy Awards happened. Yeah. How’d that work out?

Walker Evans  16:34

Great. Yeah. So Brock Lesnar and Neff Johnson threw together I think pretty fast like that. I think they threw this whole event together in a span of about a month. Okay. I think they really just wanted to end the year in a very unified way, you know, that they, they have said, you know, and I’ve heard other people say as well that the scene is a little fractured between different groups of people, you know, like it is with any kind of creative community. Yeah, bands, artists, theaters, theater. Yeah. But they had a lot of different people there from a lot of different groups. They got a lot of different people on stage to do sort of like mini performances, there was improv there was stand up, there was storytelling. tonally, it was kind of all over the place, because you know, someone’s telling like a little bit of a personal story, almost like slam poetry. Yeah. Followed by like, stand up comedy, followed by like a heartfelt. Like, I want this award. I want to thank these people. So it was a little up and down. Okay. I’m not saying it was bad. I’m Yeah, picking nits. But I think they learned a lot. I think they’re already planning on doing it again next year. Great. But gave out a whole bunch of words. And they gave Columbus underground Award, which is unnecessary, but very kind of them. What was the name of the award? It was best media coverage of comedy in the city.

Tim Fulton  17:43

I mean, I noted it. Yeah, literally, that is true.

Walker Evans  17:47

We wrote a lot about comedy this year. It’s a cool scene. I enjoy it on a personal level. I’ve gone to a lot of shows like Apple shows this year. But just really nice to see them doing something that was very, kind of put putting their arms around the entire scene. Right at the end of the year.

Tim Fulton  18:02

There you go. Yeah. I’m not going to ask what’s good and bad. And Columbus, everything’s good. Nothing’s bad. I want to round out with what are your New Year’s resolutions? Who, personally, yeah,

Walker Evans  18:15

it’s, we’re a couple days in and I haven’t really thought about it a whole lot. I had a couple of things I wanted to do last year that I just didn’t get around to, like, on silly little event wise sort of things. Okay.

Tim Fulton  18:26

So, do you want to like do or just go to or do Yeah, okay.

Walker Evans  18:31

I want to have a video game tournament. Okay, I tell you about this. No. So you pay to enter everyone pays, you know, like an entry fee. So there’s a prize pool. Do it somewhere like big like the gateway Film Center or something like that with

Tim Fulton  18:46

the big you know, big, big open air? Oh, yeah. Okay. Yeah.

Walker Evans  18:49

So you can project

Tim Fulton  18:51

wizard going exactly. So but

Walker Evans  18:53

here’s the catch. No one knows what video games they’re playing until the controller gets put in your hand. Okay, ready? Go. And so you’re figuring it out on the fly. The games are funny, ridiculous. It might just be the person that like mash the buttons fast enough ends up winning. Yeah, hang but I think it could be like a fun, silly. I love this idea. Yeah, that’s not for hardcore gamers. It’s like no, for people just want

Tim Fulton  19:15

to what do you do? What do you do like play for five minutes? And who has ever got the highest score? Yeah,

Walker Evans  19:19

and it might vary game. Some might be like a fighting game. So there’s a definitive winner of that. Yeah, but it wouldn’t be a fighting game you’d expect

Tim Fulton  19:25

right? Yeah. Okay. Yeah.

Walker Evans  19:29

So there’s some stuff like that that I want to do this year that just didn’t get around to last year.

Tim Fulton  19:33

There you go. Yeah. Okay. Well, thanks for your time Walker. Thanks, Tim. Thank you for listening to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. Again, you get more information on what we 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, enemies, your favorite comedian. 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 producers Philip Cogley, I’m your host, Tim Fulton. Have a great week.