Almost half (47 percent) of respondents to a survey conducted by the Mayor’s Commission on the New Government Center and Judicial Building think the city should keep it and maintain it, which won’t be cheap. (Thirty-nine percent are for replacing it — which also wouldn’t be cheap.)
Likewise, by a substantial 49-37 percent margin, almost half think the building is “an important icon or symbol” of the city. And almost exactly half say that a court complex — part of the present Government Center — should be a separate facility, which also wouldn’t be cheap.
Given, then, that whatever the future of Columbus Consolidated Government and judicial facilities turns out to be, it will be expensive, soliciting input from the people who will have to pay for it is the right thing to do. And this shouldn’t (and surely won’t) be the last time such input is sought.
The most interesting difference of perspective, as reported in staff writer Alva James-Johnson’s story, is the one between the survey respondents and the members of the commission itself.
That panel, which includes city and legal officials, business leaders, clergy and nonprofit administrators, flipped the survey respondents’ numbers on the Government Center: Half said it should be razed, and a full 90 percent advocated separate judicial facilities.
A possible wrinkle in that perspective (which might or might not be significant) is the fact that Historic Columbus is represented on the commission and favors preservation of the Government Center — an advocacy position it advanced by including a link to the public survey in an email to its members, and which also ran in the Ledger-Enquirer.
Whichever way this goes, it won’t go there overnight, or over the next year. Meanwhile, the public has a chance this (Wednesday) afternoon and evening, at 5:30, 6 and 6:30 p.m., to tour parts of the building that are at the center of the debate.
Just gets worse
Another aging Columbus building stays in the news, but in a far more sobering context. That building is of course the Ralston, where we now learn the severe heat that proved fatal to one resident had been reported to management on multiple occasions.
A list of 17 tenants’ complaints was delivered to the city in May and immediately forwarded to PF Holdings, the building’s New Jersey owners.
In late May, and again in mid-June, Atlanta-based advocacy nonprofit National Housing Compliance notified the Ralston’s on-site management of air conditioning problems based on calls to an NHC hotline.
And on the day the unfortunate heat victim was found dead, Columbus Inspections and Codes Director John C. Hudgison had emailed PF Holdings that residents “have complained to your management staff and are afraid of retribution including eviction of tenants that speak up about the conditions there.”
In a follow-up phone call, Hudgison said, a spokesman for the owners told him maintenance “was looking into it.”
It’s grimly obvious that this needs a lot more “looking into.” Just for starters.