Something struck me as I sat munching my wedge salad and my lunch portion of banquet-fare chicken at the Columbus Metropolitan Club's weekly community conversation at The Boat House April 26. It was a thought so simple, yet so immediate, that I jotted a single word down in my notebook: smart.

Columbus is smart—maybe smarter than it's ever been. The city is chock full of people who spend significant amounts of time thinking about how to make life better here. And it's working. What made the thought so satisfying, however, was that our city's leaders aren't just the traditional handful of old men sitting around an expensive table. I remember a time when we would wonder aloud, what happens to us when Les Wexner and John Wolfe and a select few so-called Titans are no longer around to hold this city's hand and lead it into the future?

Fewer people ask that question now. Our bench is much deeper these days, and the proof was sitting right in front of me, engaged in a discussion about what Columbus needs, a conversation inspired by a feature of the same name that appeared in the May issue of Columbus Monthly.

Senior editor Dave Ghose, the author of that story, moderated the conversation at the Columbus Metropolitan Club among three panelists selected because their expertise matched the three concerns that dominated our “What Columbus Needs” community survey: transportation, education and the growing gap between the haves and have-nots in the city.

Our guest panelists were Rhonda Johnson, director of education for the city; David Brown, founder of the Harmony Project; and Elissa Schneider, chair of Transit Columbus, who also serves with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. They were brimming with passion and vision and ideas, sharing their expertise in little soliloquies, sometimes so inspiring that they drew rounds of applause from the audience. I was so engaged that I could really only find the time to write “smart” in my notebook. I wish I had the space here to include the complete transcription. Alas, I can only urge you to look it up on your own. There's a video on our website. Or simply search “What Columbus Needs” and you'll find it. I think you'll agree—Columbus is getting really smart.

Speaking of smart, when Dave Ghose and I first started thinking about this month's cover story on real estate, one of our first moves was to sit down for a cup of coffee with Jim Weiker. Jim is the real estate and housing reporter for the Columbus Dispatch. It was a great initial move on our part. Jim was instrumental in helping shape our thinking, pointing us to ideas and neighborhoods and sources that were worth exploring. He crunched data from Zillow.com and the Columbus Realtors and helped us evaluate what those numbers meant. And though his byline only appears on the charts listing home values by suburb and neighborhood, his help and input and expertise are a part of every page of the feature.