Local organizations host first meeting for community collaborative effort, ‘The Columbus Empowerment Network’

Local organizations host first meeting for community collaborative effort, ‘The Columbus Empowerment Network’

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Local organizations host first meeting for community collaborative effort, ‘The Columbus Empowerment Network’

Representatives from Cure Violence Columbus and the Georgia Center For Opportunity are bringing what they call The Columbus Empowerment Network to the city, and they say having a collaborative like this will help the people in the community get involved and make the changes they want to see in their communities.

According to the Columbus Police Department, this year in Columbus there have been 36 murders, 25 rapes, 185 robberies, 465 aggravated assaults, 683 burglaries…..these are just a few statics from January 1st of this year through October 16th.

Columbus resident James Stokes said he saw a shooting earlier this year near Fuel Tech on Ft. Benning Road and he says it’s a normal thing…

PRESS RELEASE: New report seeks to ease spike in Columbus crime, restore community safety

PRESS RELEASE: New report seeks to ease spike in Columbus crime, restore community safety

Columbus Cityscape

PRESS RELEASE: New report seeks to ease spike in Columbus crime, restore community safety

Violent crime is on the rise in Columbus, Georgia. What are the reasons, and can anything be done to stop it? Those questions are the topic of a new report from the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) focused on Columbus’ recent spike in crime and ideas on how to mitigate it.

Titled “Reducing Crime in Columbus: Safer Communities Through Policy,” the report is authored by Josh Crawford, Director of Criminal Justice Initiatives at GCO.

Cover of the Columbus Crime Report

Access the Report:

Reducing Crime in Columbus

Our Columbus Crime Report details six practical solutions that city leaders can use to reduce crime in Columbus and restore safety, hope, and opportunity to the broader community. 

Reducing Crime in Columbus: Safer Communities through Policy

“Since 2017, crime has been on the rise in Columbus. And it’s only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Crawford said. “It’s imperative that city and community leaders come together to solve this problem. Our new report provides the groundwork.”

Quick Facts on Crime in Columbus

  • Columbus saw one of its most violent years with 59 murders in 2021.
  • The city’s population is on the decline, correlated to the rise in violent crime.
  • A decrease in Columbus police has gone hand-in-hand with the crime spike.
  • Attempted murder convicts in Columbus who were released in 2022 only served 35% of their time.

“The human cost of this violence is dramatic, cutting lives short and leaving behind grieving families and fractured communities,” Crawford said. “The toll of violent crime goes beyond the physical cost to those directly impacted and includes financial costs to victims and taxpayers, the loss of productive years, and decreased economic mobility and growth in communities afflicted with high rates of crime.”

Six Policy Recommendations to Reduce Crime

Fixing the Columbus crime problem is about focusing on the most violent offenders. By addressing gang-related violence and solving more homicide investigations, Columbus can restore community safety, improve trust with city officials and law enforcement, and expand upward mobility and opportunity for residents.

Crawford suggests:

  • Addressing disrepair in Columbus’ communities by expanding cleanup efforts, tearing down or renovating abandoned buildings, and installing adequate street lighting.
  • Building trust between community residents and law enforcement and social services, particularly through protecting the rights of victims.
  • Removing egregious offenders from communities by implementing gang-enhancement provisions such as SB44 (2023) that keep these individuals incarcerated.
  • Improving and requiring pre-entry cognitive behavioral therapy services for all juvenile offenders, no matter how non-violent their offenses.
  • Reevaluating reentry programs through an external third party, examining the impact on revocation, rearrest, and reconviction.

About The Author

Josh Crawford

Director of Criminal Justice Initiatives

Josh Crawford is a native of Massachusetts. He went to Penn State for his undergraduate degree and then finished law school in Boston. After a brief stint in Sacramento, California, working in the county district attorney’s office, Josh moved to Kentucky to help start the Pegasus Institute, a nonpartisan organization designed to promote opportunity. In addition to serving as executive director of the organization, Josh had a special focus on criminal justice policy.

“By focusing on public safety and order, we can restore hope and opportunity to rural communities.”

Are Work Requirements Good or Bad?

Are Work Requirements Good or Bad?

Man sitting with his hands folded

Are Work Requirements Good or Bad?

Key Points

  • The arguments around work requirements ignore the purpose of how our safety net services should work.
  • The public, in general, agree with the argument for work requirements because they see the system as a temporary solution.
  • We must reform the system so that we move people into opportunity and thriving.

As the federal government debates the debt ceiling and attempts to bring spending under control, one recurring topic is work requirements for adults on government benefits and safety net services. The argument is that implementing work requirements will encourage more people to leave welfare programs, which in turn would decrease spending on one of the biggest expenses in the federal budget.

However, the debate about work requirements should not, in my opinion, be connected to fiscal accountability. Instead, it should be linked to the central purpose of these services and the people needing them.


A look at work requirements

To understand these challenges we need to look at the differing opinions on work requirements. On one side you hear the argument that not requiring work for benefits like SNAP and Medicaid is a disincentive to work for those on benefits. In other words, people are staying on benefits longer than necessary because there is no benefit to getting off, and in many cases, it is more costly to get off.

On the other side, the argument requiring work is simply a way to save money which ultimately hurts the poor. The argument is people in need of food support and healthcare will not be able to work and thus will be forced off of services without work.

Both of these arguments ignore the full experience of those on safety net services. Therefore, I want to challenge us to set aside political talking points and have a real discussion on the issue. These arguments are fraught with finger-pointing and people assigning motivations to each other. The discussion around work requirements is important because it challenges us to ask, “What is the purpose of our welfare system?”


With The Alliance for Opportunity, we are crafting policies that will create a clear path to get off safety net services and into opportunity in Georgia.

With The Alliance for Opportunity, we are crafting policies that will create a clear path to get off safety net services and into opportunity in Georgia.

Work requirements aren’t a bad idea

At the Georgia Center for Opportunity, we generally agree with the idea of work requirements, but not for the reasons political pundits throw around. We are not trying to “weed out bad actors” or trying to reduce government expenditures. Those outcomes may come to pass but they cannot and should not be the intent of such measures. 

While there is a politicized debate currently raging, the idea of requiring work to continue to receive benefits is not new. FDR’s New Deal, the framework for our current safety net system, pushed for a system that helped those unable to work like children or disabled individuals. The expansion of such a system to cover the unemployed came later in the process and was designed to be a stopgap between employment.

As the system expanded even further, it became apparent the support should include systems to get people back into work—this led to job training and education programs.

That is where we are today and ultimately how we should be looking at the safety net system for those able to work. The system must be designed to ask, “How can we help you get back on your feet and be self-sustainable?” Not because you are only valuable if you work, but because you are a valuable member of society. This view of membership is probably why work requirements are very popular among the US population. We value and understand the importance of work.

The research on the value of work is expansive. It leads to positive outcomes for families, improved personal mental health, and deeper community value. It is what we should want for people. It is what we should build our services to provide people, not a paycheck but an opportunity.

The arguments against work requirements 

The issue becomes more complex when you recognize the valid arguments against work requirements. One of these is that work requirements don’t increase work rates—they simply cut people off of needed services

The argument is that these requirements add another stress level to people just trying to survive. This creates yet another hurdle for those already struggling to navigate a complex process. The result is people find a different means to survive or they simply give up. Obviously, no one wants to add to people’s burdens.

Rather than arguing against work requirements, these challenges highlight the flaws in our current system. The system is poorly designed and does not lead to the outcomes we want for people.

Work requirements are a good policy in a bad system

Policymakers are notoriously inept when it comes to policy reforms. Half-measures have resulted in a system that is not focused on outcomes. If the system were structured to reduce complexity and alleviate stress for those seeking job support, then a work requirement could be the positive encouragement it should be.

This is one reason we are working with other state think tanks on a One Door Model that would transform our safety net services and create a clear, supportive, and accessible path to work.

These types of policies are critical to ensure that we are helping those in need. They are also critical to ensure that we deliver dignity and hope as an outcome. 

About The Author

Corey Burres

VP of Communication and Marketing

Corey Burres is the director the award-winning education documentary Flunked. He served as a consultant with many state think tanks around the country to help them utilize marketing and story telling to improve public policy. He is active in the foster care community and working to help build a better community around him.

Businesses fleeing cities over crime is a warning sign we can’t ignore

Businesses fleeing cities over crime is a warning sign we can’t ignore

tent camp, homeless

Businesses fleeing cities over crime is a warning sign we can’t ignore

Key Points

  • Crime is causing businesses to flee communities already experiencing a lack of opportunity.
  • As businesses flee high-crime areas, there is a negative impact on the price and availability of goods in underserved communities
  • Communities will see healthcare and community health impacts from this loss of retailers.

We keep hearing about it: Businesses and retailers fleeing downtown areas—or entire city communities—due to violence, theft, and crime. It happened in Portland, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, but it should be a warning to other cities around the country.

The exodus of companies due to crime creates a downward spiral for communities already experiencing a lack of opportunity.


When businesses flee a community they take convenience, jobs, and access to goods. The result is a market crisis where demand stays steady while limited access increases the price of goods and incomes stagnate or decrease. 

The inability to access goods at reasonable prices is a direct response to the loss of competition. No longer are you able to buy essentials at market value but instead you pay premium prices as supply is constrained. This is no different than what we experienced nationally over the past few years as supply constraints pushed the price of gas, milk, and other essentials higher.

This limitation of access to transportation, clothing, and food will have consequences in other areas of community health and opportunity.


Take the limited access to food issue. We know that lack of healthy food options in underserved communities is an ongoing problem. Cheaper food options, which are “shelf-stable,” tend to be less healthy. This creates a downward trend of poorer health outcomes like obesity resulting in a rise in healthcare costs.

Communities with a lack of affordable healthy food options get stuck in a cycle where they are less healthy, less likely to work, and more dependent on temporary, less-reliable healthcare. When we see stores closing or moving out of a community due to violence, we see smaller businesses that cannot afford to absorb the costs of throwing out healthier foods. The result is that these businesses tend to stock less perishable and more unhealthy items on their shelves.

This means that these communities become more dependent on systems and services to survive long term. Our safety-net programs are designed to be temporary systems that catch people (or even communities) at the point of tragedy to help them get back on their feet. But when opportunity flees, these individuals are left hopeless, looking for what’s next. They become trapped in their circumstance.

“…communities become more dependent on systems and services to survive long term.”

“…communities become more dependent on systems and services to survive long term.”


Crime and the unwillingness to address crime robs communities of value. It makes these communities into societal pariahs.

Not only are these communities unable to access adequate goods, they are unable to find local jobs and services. When companies flee an area, they take hundreds of entry to mid-level jobs. In a community that is reliant on these types of job opportunities, it once again means they have no path out of their current situation.

In his study of ethics, Immanuel Kant asserted that “if you steal from him, you steal from yourself.” It’s a philosophical acknowledgment that crime steals from the entire community. It takes livelihood, property, and security away from everyone in the community including the perpetrator because it destabilizes.

While it’s hard for some to have sympathy for a mega-corporation needing to close a store, it is a warning sign to the health of that community. Vibrant communities, which we often speak of here at the Georgia Center for Opportunity, are ones that attract opportunities. They are communities so lively that everyone, even mega-corporations, wants to be a part of them. As we begin to see these companies leave a community it catches headlines, but the real-world impact is much more than a temporary blip in our newsfeed.

We must address crime in communities to keep opportunity open to all.

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Media Statement: Assessing the GDP numbers and what it means

Media Statement: Assessing the GDP numbers and what it means

In The News

Media Statement: Assessing the GDP numbers and what it means

Today, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that in the second quarter of 2022, real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by 0.9%. That marks two consecutive quarters of negative growth, a barometer of economic health that economists typically use to define a recession.

The Georgia Center for Opportunity’s (GCO) take:
“It’s now official. We’re having stagflation.

There has never been a time when the Business Cycle Dating Committee did not declare a recession when real GDP declined for two consecutive quarters since the availability of quarterly GDP data,” said Erik Randolph, GCO’s director of research. “In fact, the opposite is true. There have been two times, since the availability of the data, without two consecutive real GDP declines when the Committee declared them to be recessions. This happened with their declared 1960 and 2001 recessions. Who knows if and when the NBER Committee will declare whether we’re already in a recession, and for how long. But if it doesn’t declare so despite the real GDP data, it would be unprecedented and require a good explanation. In the meantime, GDP gives perhaps the broadest measure of economic activity, giving a strong signal that we’re in a recession until such time economists work out their various methodologies to affirm or deny.”