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Columbus Mayor makes ninth State of the City Address

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman gave his ninth State of the City Address last night. He addressed a decades old curfew law that's never been enforced and downtown housing.

"When the clock strikes midnight, your child should be home with you," Coleman said.

With much applause from the crowd, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said he plans to enforce the city's 35-year-old curfew law. Starting June Fifth, kids ages 17 and younger who are out on the streets past midnight will be picked up and taken to the YMCA of Central Ohio. There they will stay until a parent can come get them.

"Nothing good can come when a child is out at 2 o'clock in the morning," Coleman said.

Coleman said he's going to give kids and parents two chances before possible charges are filed. On the first curfew violation, the child and parents will have to take part in a three hour workshop together. The second time the child receives community service. And if they're picked up a third time?

"The child may be charged with a curfew violation and the parent may be charged with parental neglect. Both are third degree misdemeanors," Coleman said.

Denise Painter of the Grove Port-Madison area likes the idea of enforcing the curfew. She has grandchildren ranging in ages from 13 to 17. Painter said there is no reason why a child under 17 should be out past midnight without their parents.

"If I got a call at two o'clock in the morning because my grandchildren were out. And they don't want to call me to come get them," Painter said.

Another item on the mayor's agenda was strengthening the downtown area. Coleman acknowledged the prices on many of the new condominiums are out of range for young professionals. He announced a $25 million project with Lifestyle Communities to build more than 200 new apartments and condos. They will run along Front Street between Town and Rich Streets. The apartments will rent for about $750. The condos will cost between $125,000 and $250,000.

"And let me tell you something. That's far less than what most downtown units cost," Coleman said.

Coleman also talked about changing the look and dynamic of High Street. He called High Street the "spine" of the city. Last year, the city took control of the failing City Center Mall. And now Coleman plans to in his words "open up High Street" by demolishing the City Center walkway. Also, he said he wants to fill more than 152,000 square feet of retail space along High Street. That figure excludes City Center Mall.

"We're really going to focus in on retail type incentives. There will be some grants, small grants, there will be some tax incentives focused on retail and other types of developments. We're going to try to figure out a way that we can rezone that area and create a greater demand for density in that area," Coleman said.

Another topic of the address was "getting green." That's what Michael Chow, who lives in Dublin but works in Columbus, is most concerned about.

"I think the biggest point that stood out to me was the whole green spot and the green initiative. I think that is something that Mayor Coleman has had a great vision. He's really started the green movement in Columbus and it's spreading throughout Ohio," Chow said.

Coleman has pushed the city to be environmentally friendly for years. But last night he added three new strategies to his "green" cause. Coleman plans to offer an economic incentive package for "green" businesses. Also, he said he will start "Green Works" which will train people for jobs in environmentally conscious industries. And finally the mayor said he will start "The Green Spot."

"The green spot challenges everyone in Columbus to get green and recognizes businesses, schools, organizations and even homes for greening our city. So when you see this seal, it means something, it means they've stepped up to protect the environment and make Columbus a green city," Coleman said.

The mayor also re-visited a proposal he made a couple of years ago.

"You know, we're far too reliant on the automobile," the mayor said.

Coleman said with gas prices rising to more than $3.50 a gallon, it's time to introduce a streetcar to Columbus. He said two years ago there would not be a city-wide tax to fund a streetcar, and he reiterated that again last night. Coleman did not say when a line might be built or how much one would cost. But said there would be a tall hall style meeting later this month to discus those topics.

"Streetcars will help us connect people to our stores, our restaurants, the life downtown and neighborhoods to each other. Most of all it will give the working man and woman the freedom to get to work without digging ever deeper into their pockets for gasoline money," Coleman said.

Coleman said the streetcars would run alongside cars on High Street and connect downtown with the Short North and Ohio State's Campus.

The mayor also addressed health centers, neighborhood safety and bike trails.