My principal principled objection to this concept flows from the spectre of inter-neighborhood parochial squabbles. That said, considering how many other cities seem to be managing that well enough, that doesn't seem to be manifesting itself too strongly ... My other objection is simply a generalized "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" argument. Columbus has been one of the most successful cities in the state over the past 20 years. Even though I disagree with some major decisions such as the arena bailout, Columbus is still doing a lot more right than wrong.
I appreciate the thoughtful comments, which I'd like to offer some perspectives on. You are correct in stating that inter-neighborhood squabble issue is overblown by the political opponents of Districts here, and that for 200+ years District-based electoral models have been the preferred model of government at the federal, state and local levels. While the federal system is hyper-partisan, experience shows at a local level, as Mayor LaGuardia famously said, "there is no democratic or republican way to clean the streets."
While Districts is a nonpartisan issue, here in Columbus one of the values to having people elected by District (IMHO) is that they would be less beholden to the party infrastructure and its "happy talk", and more accountable to their constituents. The larger issue that I see, is a continuing dumbing down of the public discourse, with nobody asking the hard questions -- such as whether the public rationale presented for the Arena District bailout actually holds water (it doesn't -- downtown has shed jobs and businesses every year since the Arena came on-line, and the Arena District has pulled major employers from 65 E. State, the BancOne building, and other near Capitol Square locations).
You are right: Columbus has done well compared to other Ohio cities. But nobody has ever asserted (until recently) that the success of the city was due to our At Large system of government. We have looked at 20 years of public statements about the success of Columbus, and these are the reasons cited: 1) the Sensenbrenner era (1950's) water/sewer service annexation policies that allowed Columbus to avoid being ringed by suburbs and keep growing it tax base to capture what in land locked cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati is suburban growth, 2) the presence of the state capitol with its stable jobs and associated industries, 3) the largest public university in the country, 4) and the balanced economy which was thought to make Columbus "recession proof" (at one point listed at 20% industrial, 20% FIRE, 20% education, 20% government/healthcare, 20% services).
Over 20 years of public dialogue about the success of Columbus that we looked at, not a single person mentioned At Large governance as a factor in the city's relative overall success.
To be clear, many Columbus neighborhoods have been experiencing long-term decline, though -- so the good news is not universal.
Here is a sample from a press release about a recent study of the City by Community Research Partners, the United Way/City of Columbus/Franklin County-funded research entity:
"Franklin County's population has grown almost 9 percent -- more than 94,000 people -- since 2000, but parts of Linden, the East Side, the Far East Side, the South Side, Franklinton, the Hilltop and several other Columbus neighborhoods all experienced declines.
"It really has the characteristics of a typical central-city area ," said Roberta Garber, executive director of Community Research Partners, a Columbus data-analysis organization. "With the city of Columbus, you really have a city within a city."
Columbus was the only major Ohio city to gain population in the past decade, growing 10.6 percent to 787,000. Because Columbus is not locked in by suburbs like Cleveland and Cincinnati are, the growing parts of the city mask the decline in the core, Garber said.
"Basically, this is a trend that has been going on since the 1970s," Garber said. "There has been a fairly steady loss of population in older Columbus."