Editor's note: As part of our deep dives into policing and development, we produce in-depth articles and videos. But, while working on those stories, we often hear lots of news that informs our stories but doesn’t necessarily make it to the final product. As such, we wanted to create an avenue to share those smaller bits of news that keep us and you informed. That's where this digests comes in. A couple times a month, we will post round-ups like the one below of the top news for development and policy. Want to share your thoughts on it? Think we missed a story? Let us know at email@example.com.
The beginning of March saw lots of news in both development and policing. Perhaps most notable among the news is several announcement Mayor Andrew Ginther made during his annual state of the city address, including a new affordable housing bond package, increased spending on the police and a Department of Justice investigation in the Columbus Division of Police.
Here's what you need to know about policing and development for the last few weeks.
Earlier this month, news broke that there would be no criminal charges against officer Nicholas Reardon in the police killing of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant. Bryant was shot in April 2021 in southeast Columbus where she had been living with a foster family and her sister.
Because of a potential conflict of interest, special prosecutors were assigned to investigate and present findings to a Franklin County Grand Jury. The grand jury determined no charges were warranted because the use of force was justified.
“Under Ohio law the use of deadly force by a police officer is justified when there exists an immediate or imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another,” according to a press release from the special prosecutors.
Also this week, Ginther gave his annual state of the city address where he made several announcements related to policing and development.
First, he announced an allocation of $660 million to public safety for this year’s operating budget, noting that it is the largest investment in public safety in the City’s history. Those funds will include three new police recruiting classes that will graduate another 170 officers.
During the address, Ginther added that this will allow the city to “bring in more officers committed to change and reform, and further grow the diversity of our safety forces.”
Ginther also announced during the state of the city that the city is expanding an alternative response program called the Right Response Unit.
The program involves social workers and mental health professionals triaging and responding to emergency calls. The City ran a pilot of the program that they marked as a success, claiming that 60% of the calls were able to be resolved without a fire or police presence.
The expansion will include a larger staff and longer operating hours.
The Department of Justice has begun an investigation this week into Columbus police practices as part of their Community Oriented Policing Services, according to ABC6.
Ginther mentioned during the address that the DOJ would be investigating Columbus police, specifically looking at the community policing practices. He also mentioned this was at his request, which he submitted last spring.
That’s three times bigger than the affordable housing bond passed by Columbus voters in 2019 for $50 million.
In the fall of 2021, the City announced the organizations that together would receive the full $50 million. The projects are estimated to create more than 1,300 units designated for folks who make about $47,000 or less a year
The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved $33 million in tax abatements to project in central Ohio.
In Columbus alone, $28 million dollars in tax breaks were approved, with $14 million for Gravity II and $7 million for CoverMyMeds. Both of those developments are in Franklinton.
An additional $5 million was approved for renovation projects in Delaware and Newark.
The tax credits were signed into law in 2020, according to Columbus Business First, and are aimed at mixed-use developments that will spur growth.
A developer broke ground earlier this month on the Topiary Park Crossing development downtown.
The development is the first affordable housing development at its level to come from Columbus Downtown Development Corporation, the private nonprofit development group responsible for the Scioto Mile and Columbus Commons.
The project will include almost 100 units according to the development corporation.
Half of those housing units will be dedicated to folks making $55,000 a year or less, according to Columbus Business First. The other half will be equally split for folks making $45,000 or less and folks making $35,000 or less.