ATLANTA (WRBL) — Wednesday was Columbus Day at the Georgia Capitol. Local business and political leaders are in Atlanta meeting with the legislative delegation and hearing from state leaders.
This Columbus Day under the Gold Dome had the feel of a business meeting.
Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson, Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerald Mitchell and Chamber Chairman Rodney Close among others were at the Capitol for a late-afternoon meeting.
They come to the Capitol as Columbus is facing a surge in violent crimes. The headlines out of the Fountain City have caught the attention of Columbus’ most powerful General Assembly member House Rules Committee Chairman Richard Smith.
Here’s what he told WRBL in an exclusive interview.
“One of the most important issues we have to address is crime in Columbus,” Smith said. “There are all kinds of things that factor into this thing.”
Smith says it is impacting the city’s economic development efforts.
“… Until we get our crime problem solved in Columbus, you can forget any major company moving into town,” he said. “You already have some high-priced positions in some of the local businesses stay in Columbus a year, year and a half, and leave. And they say the reason they are leaving is crime.”
Smith says the problem is a community problem and will take the community working for a solution.
“When you have as many murders as we do and shootings, the community has to get involved, leadership has to get involved, businesses,” he said. “So, it is not the police department’s problem itself. It is the problem of everybody who lives in Columbus.”
Henderson did not dispute what Smith said. Both me held Columbus Council seats en route to higher offices.
“Well, I think he’s spot on,” the mayor said. “I think people need to understand when we talk about the fact that we have to all come together as an entire community to impact the crime that is taking place in Columbus, Ga., right now, that means we all have to come together.”
The mayor says the impact of high crime touches every citizen.
“If a crime doesn’t happen in your neighborhood, you are still impacted,” he said. “Because it does impact our ability to attract businesses, grow jobs. And that impacts our ability to get people out of poverty, which is feeding some of these folks who are committing these crimes.”