Monday, April 28, 2008

Our Town

Much Love to E. Gordon Gee. I know he doesn't like bloggers much, but how shall I put this... although worlds apart in several ways, many GPS units would be unable to distinguish our offices. So please take this as merely coming from one bemused resident of Bexley about a once-and-future resident...

ThisWeek published a set of testimonials about Bexley compiled by a BHS graduate working there. It was very nicely done, and a real gift to the city. Perhaps, if you read them all, you'll get a feel for why I'm doing this post...The first testimonial is from Dr. Gee:

... "Bexley is such a wonderful community," Gee said. "It has some of the warmest, most welcoming neighbors anywhere, and they are good Buckeyes to boot! I raised my daughter here and feel a deep connection with the community," he said. "I am thrilled to return."

We're thrilled we're going to eventually have him, even though he followed that up this weekend with this gem:

Gee said it would be a "huge mistake" for Columbus and its suburbs to look at themselves as separate communities. He didn't know the OSU president's home, which he occupied during his previous tour at the university, is outside city limits. He said he thought Bexley was part of Columbus.

"The city boundaries are arbitrary at best," he said.

Our School District, our Police Department, the building on Main Street called City Hall, these didn't manage to tip him off. None of his warm, welcoming neighbors ever brought it up. The fact that he never actually got to cast a vote for mayor or city council in Columbus wasn't a clue. Perhaps his deep connection with the community led him to overlook these shallow markers of civic sovereignty and believe that the residents of Bexley are fundamentally connected by something abstract and perhaps even metaphysical, which could never be reduced to anything as arbitrary as lines on some map.

All kidding aside, Vitale's article should be the starting point for some real conversation. During the municipal campaign I talked to a lot of folks about how to work cooperatively with Columbus to benefit the East Side more generally. The reactions seemed to range from mildly confused to somewhat patronizing to dismissive. On the other hand, 10% of the commission members advising Columbus Mayor Coleman are actually Bexley residents. Most, if not all of them, paying Columbus income taxes on our earnings from our jobs in the city. And in many people's minds Bexley is defined as much by what surrounds us as by the things we ourselves find important. When I was part of a panel interviewing Mayor Coleman during the campaign last fall, I was a little sheepish about not actually being a Columbus-based blogger. This article seems to indicate that that was silly. I don't usually end post this way, but...

any thoughts?


Paul said...

Gee-whiz, in my days at OSU, the President lived ON CAMPUS. If President Gee really wanted to connect with the OSU community, he'd move back. If we can spend $zillions on athletic facilities, we can spend a few on a new President's residence on campus.


bonobo said...


Off-topic - It's to your credit that you haven't spent the last couple of weeks screaming "I TOLD YOU SO!" on your blog.

As for the President's House... its purpose more often involves connecting with a community somewhat different than the 'OSU Community' ... and persuading them to part with those $zillions. The house is still undergoinig renovations AFAIK, but I expect even when it's finished I'll see much more of him on campus than his neighbors will at home.

Paul said...

Thanks. Our community is quite fractured these days, and it was unnecessary...

I remember when the President's residence was moved off campus. It was after the riots in the early 70s - when I was in school - and there was some concern that the President's residence would be a juicy target (buildings were being burned on other campuses after all).

I'd hope those days are behind us, and the President would feel secure living on campus, just like all of us parents who have kids living there.