Zero Experience Zach’s $10 Million palatial parking garage sparked protests and outcry from citizens.
Check out the ABC 6 story below:
BY BEN GARBAREK FRIDAY, MAY 13TH 2016
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — Protesters are upset the City of Columbus is spending millions of dollars to renovate a parking garage downtown for city employees.
They pointed to the project as an example why they feel a major shakeup is needed at City Hall.
The City will spend a total of nearly $10 million on the parking garage. It spent $3 million to buy an old parking garage on North Front Street near Long Street. It’s spending another $2.2 million to renovate it and another $4 million to upgrade it. It will also have office space, a gym and a print shop, all for city employees.
City officials said the parking garage is needed for city vehicles and employees. Nearly a quarter of the 400 spaces will be used for police cruisers.
About 20 people protested outside the parking garage Friday afternoon calling the project “wasteful spending”.
“Not only is this abuse of hard-earned taxpayer’s dollars, it’s negligent spending that hurt neighborhoods in Columbus who have real necessities,” said Whitney Smith with the group Represent Columbus, who organized the protest. “They voted to spend this $10 million when there are neighborhoods who lack basic necessities.”
The group used the garage as an example for why they want City Council to switch to a ward-based system. Currently, City Council members are voted in at-large.
“When someone on City Council spoke up and said, ‘I want to spend $10 million on a parking garage’, if we had districts, there would be someone representing the neighborhood who needed a fire department and they would say, ‘Hold on, we’re not going to spend $10 million on a parking garage when we have real needs,'” Smith said.
City Council staff said they are investing in neighborhoods like the protesters want.
“We want to take a shared prosperity approach to neighborhoods who have been left out or left behind,” said Mayor Andy Ginther in April after unveiling his $866 million capital budget focused on neighborhoods.
Much of the nearly billion dollars in the budget is slated for neighborhoods like Linden and the Hilltop.
“There’s some spending here on the West Side,” said Brian Bainbridge, with the Hilltop Business Association. “There’s just not nearly enough to support the small businesses.”
People in the Hilltop want to see it before they believe it.
“We’ve been here a long time,” said Bob Spears, a longtime business owner in the Hilltop. “We’ve seen things get passed over many, many times. We just don’t want to have it happen again.”
Represent Columbus handed in 38,000 signatures for its petition calling for wards. The City will next hand that over to the Franklin County Board of Elections. The Board will decide if there are enough valid signatures to put that on the ballot in the fall.