Voice of the people: Andrew Orr




Mayoral endorsement and the values of a 'seamless' approach to city management


The elephant in the room? Columbus has residents living in conditions and surroundings worse than other residents. I am not referring to rich versus poor. Think infrastructure and amenities.


Street lights busted, damaged roads, crime, graffiti and blight can be seen but usually only on one side of town.



I spend a quarter of my life in beautiful Columbus these days. Parts of town have always lacked the same infrastructure and businesses that other parts enjoyed (although roads are awful everywhere).


A "seam" exists between certain sides of town.


Hunt Middle School is just one example. I went to Hunt. It pains me to see the state it is in. How can we expect residents living on one side of the "seam," predominantly African American, to take pride in their community when their surroundings are squalor? When you have to walk past Hunt every day, for two years, it's difficult to feel much for the community, or for yourself, because it doesn't seem like the city gives a hoot.


What's needed is to build what someone once referred to as a "seamless city." His name is Rick Baker, and he was one of America's most successful mayors in St. Petersburg, Florida. We have seams down there too. But they are less visible today because of Baker's leadership.


Baker saw the seams.


They are the same seams as can be found in Columbus. He went to work to get rid of the seams by focusing economic and infrastructure projects that looked to transform St. Pete's "Midtown" by getting rid of the graffiti, repairing broken windows, street lights, removing trash, fixing structures, and, most importantly, economic redevelopment.


He paved roads and got a bank, a post office, a grocery store, and a Walmart to open where there were none before and mostly using private money, not government.


Baker, a tall lanky white conservative, felt residents of Midtown deserved the same amenities and infrastructure as residents on the north side enjoy.


Pride returned.


Baker received 90 percent of the African-American vote during re-election. That's just plain hard to do.


He transcended partisanship. He transcended race. He didn't ask "whose fault is this?" He asked, "what can we do about it going forward?"


I am supporting Keith Gaskin for mayor because I see in him what I saw in Rick Baker. He is caring and willing to avoid the blame game so we can move on to solutions for all sides of the "seam."


Many think a white conservative can't win in Columbus anymore. Many thought that about Rick Baker once. Baker proved them wrong and I think Gaskin can too. But only if he eliminates the seams.


Andrew Orr


St. Petersburg, Florida and Columbus



Editor's note: Without any support for or against the above endorsement, I encourage readers to listen to the Rick Baker TEDx Talk on seamless cities. It's an excellent example of how local government can work to improve opportunities for people regardless of their neighborhood.





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