Scott Woods: The case for more than one Columbus

Scott Woods
A man walks south on Sullivant Avenut in Franklinton, past boarded-up and abandoned buildings. There are more than 1,000 vacant houses in the three West Side police precincts that are either located on or run through Sullivant Avenue.

In a recent interview covering the wide swath of things I create in the name of interrogating life in Columbus, I was asked if I thought the city did anything right. After a longer-than-comfortable silence in which I was processing all of the professional relationships I was about to torpedo by omission, I gave a few admittedly hedged answers.

The implication of the question is that I may be someone who cannot be satisfied on the subject of Columbus. This is, of course, not true. I have the means to leave this city. I can do what I do almost anywhere. I choose to do it here. I mention this as someone featured on billboards as part of a campaign to show how hip Columbus is (an irony not lost on me or any regular reader of this column).

There is a cognitive dissonance that consumes me when I am faced with a marketing machine shouting at me from the top of the North Market telling me how awesome Columbus is as far as the eye can see, and then reading a three-day spread of stories in the paper about the horrific decline of Sullivant Avenue. Or seeing the longstanding destitution marking the Linden Corridor. Or the pitiable level of resources dedicated to the health, safety and education of lower- and mid-income residents here being touted as great strides of anything more than political cache. For a moment, I freeze up, not knowing what city they’re referring to. The one that killed Tyre King? Or the one that won a National Championship? The one that has made brewing a subculture? Or the one touting a premiere educational experience in a building with bats in the hallways?

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