The Other Columbus: Take my advice…

Scott Woods
The Columbus skyline rises out of a smoggy haze.

I’ve always wanted to write an advice column. I’ve rarely used the advice in a newspaper column, but that has more to do with my stubbornness than with the veracity of publicly offered advice. And even though I live in a time when everyone has a public platform, the desire persists. There is something about asking a question and getting a straight answer that sings to me, especially in an age when lying is so profitable. As this is the time of year when many of us transition into a more reflective mood, I thought it would be a fine time to check “advice columnist” off of my bucket list. I’m sorry I don’t have a witty title for this. I’ll try to make up for it by changing the names of the respondents to something mildly entertaining. 

Q: If done "correctly,"could guerilla art be a welcome addition to the city's culture or would it possibly cause more harm than good?

Dear Banksy,

If you’re doing guerilla art correctly it would never be welcomed in a city like the one we’re becoming… which is totally why it should be happening. People generally don’t know what they want or need out of art until they see it, so my advice is to always do art and let the chips fall where they may.

Q: What kind of community reinvestment can an individual investor do, i.e. rehab houses in neighborhoods, open a small business, etc.? I’m talking people with money around $25-100k

Dear Trading Spaces,

You answered your own question. At this stage of the Columbus game, it’s imperative that people who don’t want to spend the rest of their lives arguing about gentrification start owning things, and that includes homes, businesses and pretty much any plot of land you can lay money on. You don’t need to flip a house in this city to make a profit anymore. Buy an empty plot of land a mile away from a gentrified area and the city will come knocking within five years, maybe less. Just look at what they did in Whitehall along Broad Street and Hamilton Road while everyone has been arguing over Crew Stadium for the past year. They’re basically building Columbus Commons on the East Side from scratch and no one said a word, despite the fact that they bought up a ton of acreage for less than $10 million. It was a steal, and it was a steal because no one is paying attention to the East Side. Well, no one WAS paying attention.   

Q: What if I don't want to #SaveTheCrew?

Dear Obvious Baseball Fan,

That’s OK. It was never in any danger.

Q: Where do you see Columbus in five years?

Dear Nostradamus,

Have you read Ready Player One? Like that, but with way more microbreweries. (Also, how do you have a Columbus in any alternate universe that doesn’t have an Ohio State University?  No Buckeyes in the future, Ernie Cline? Even for a dystopian fantasy that’s wildly far-fetched.)

Q: How does one survive living in Columbus if they hate college football?

Dear Michigan Fan,

I don’t see what the big deal is about avoiding OSU football here. Saturday during a game day is awesome! It’s like living in a ghost town. Heck, sometimes I put on a 10-gallon hat and saunter around town doing “Walking Dead” cosplay. Running errands is a breeze, since you can get in and out of all retail lines in a flash, and you don’t have to contend with a single “O-H” call-out, so long as you’re not in a restaurant. Now, if this is a comment on your living situation and you’re surrounded by Buckeyes every Saturday in your home, I can see how that could be an issue. If that’s the case, I suggest going to a board game store like The Guardtower or The Soldiery and playing a game of your own with a friend until The Game blows over. Trust me: No one in a board game store is talking about sports.

Q: How does one survive the feeling or reality of not being heard by elected local officials? What does it take to make an impression on a city councilperson (other than a significant check)?

Dear Josh Lyman,

First, an observation, then an actual piece of advice: “The West Wing” has probably done more damage to the perception of how politics works than anything since Watergate. I love the show, but no administration has ever worked that wisely, efficiently or with so deep a thirst for justice. We’re all better off acknowledging that politics is, by design, a raw deal for most people, and would be better off learning how to function under that reality instead of constantly DXing people with a passion for politics over flaws that have nothing to do with whether or not they can affect positive change in our lives.

That said, Columbus isn’t as big time as it pretends to be in the political arena. You can still have an effect on a Columbus politician by wielding the scalpel of shame that is social media. Trust me, politicians are like Candyman: If you say their name enough times, they show up. They use media metrics to predict the level of interest on everything. So one voice represents X number of potential voters. It’s why that 5,000 write-in votes against Mayor Ginther in the last election was a big deal. That number is traditionally closer to 300. When you get almost six times that number, they tend to take notice. In short, it’s 2019. People who tell you that your voice exists solely at the polls are being obtuse or slick. Your voice is the internet, and it never closes.

Q: What can the city of Columbus do to become a great example to people and other cities to combat the oncoming Climate Change emergency?

Dear Emperor of Arbor Day,

Plant more trees. There are initiatives here to do that that need way more support than they’re getting. This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that we also need to work on shrinking our environmental footprint, but honestly? We’re not going to do that. Columbus is good for eating up a grassy acre with development to put in five feet of green space and call it a win while applying for LEED certification with a straight face.

Q: How do I both support public schools and ensure my child gets a good education?

Dear PTA President,

Anyone who says they have a definitive answer to this question is a liar, incompetent or both. There is no single answer to this, and education is generally a bit of a domino layout: once you tip one over, some other ones gotta’ fall. That said, the first thing we should be doing is replacing school board members that don’t work in the interest of schools and teachers first. I wouldn’t mind seeing a really gangster school board that prioritized shutting down as many tax abatements as possible. If a casino or project was allowed to build here on the premise that it would fund schools or help children, then our school board should be in the news every other day drawing attention to the fact that the deal isn’t working. And changing the school board isn’t as hard as it might seem. You could have installed someone with this priority on the school board in the election we just had with 42,000 votes. Change here is not unattainable. I’d shoot for two seats next time just so your worker bee isn’t alone. There are more parts to that puzzle, but if you don’t start with the board, you’re just throwing good intentions — and money — into a black hole.

Q: Why is our City Council having a fire sale for developers at the cost of regular citizens and upping the price of living here?

Dear Wondering in Franklinton,


Q: How do you meet deadlines?

Dear Tommy the Comedian,

If I ever turned this column in on time you’d be reading it by noon on any given Wednesday instead of now, so I’m probably not the person you should ask. Wait, is this my editor? Andy, is this you? NOT COOL MAN.