Restoring two-way traffic to 10th, 11th and 12th streets in downtown Columbus emerged as an issue at Thursday night's public forum held by Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.
The quarterly forum, known as "Let's Talk with the Mayor," was held at the Columbus State University Cunningham Center and attended by well over 100 people, many of them students. Other topics raised included amending the city charter, dealing with animal abusers, industrial recruitment and the city's relationship with nonprofit organizations.
First to raise the issue of two-way streets was Ann McDuffie, headmaster at the St. Luke School. McDuffie expressed concern for the school's children, who frequently have to cross 11th Street during the day.
"Over 7,000 pedestrians cross 11th Street right there at Third Avenue, children and their teachers, every week, over 7,000 cross right there," she said. "Obviously I have a major safety concern, as well as concern about the amount of traffic that will increase in that area."
McDuffie said she, too, is excited about proposed changes to the downtown riverfront district, but her first concern is for the children at her school.
"We want to be a good neighbor and support revitalization of the downtown area," she said. "But the school has grown in the last nine years from 75 students to 588 students, plus another 230 in our early learning center. We've got a thousand kids down there every day."
Tomlinson told McDuffie that she had expressed the same concern to the urban planners who created the recently released master plan that includes the two-way changes.
"It was interesting to me that the first thing they said to me was, 'Two-way streets are safer.'" Tomlinson said.
Tomlinson said she told the designers that they were going to have to explain that and sell it to stakeholders along those streets.
Jeremy Hobbs, founder of the Chattahoochee Valley Better Way Foundation, an AIDS advocacy organization, asked if anything could be done to reduce the cost nonprofits must pay to put on fundraising events in Columbus. Hobbs said his organization must provide proof it has at least $1 million in liability insurance and then pay the city 10 percent of its proceeds to cover city costs.
Hobbs' organization promotes a 5K race as an annual fundraiser. This year's race is on Oct. 13.
"What can we do with the city to reverse this and help nonprofits so they don't have to cover so much money that helps fund the tremendous programs that we put together?" Hobbs asked.
City Manager Isaiah Hugley said the insurance requirement is to protect taxpayers from liability and it probably won't change. But the 10 percent charge, he said, is open for discussion.
"If it's a private nonprofit organization that is doing something good for the community, such as what you've mentioned, I think we ought to revisit whether there's 10 percent requirement, if you're doing something good for the whole community," Hugley said