Who’s that Candidate? Will Petrik, Columbus City Council
With less than 30 days left before election day on November 7, CU is taking a better look at the candidates vying for a spot on Columbus City Council.
Will Petrik is a Yes We Can-endorsed Democratic candidate. As a community organizer, Petrik has rallied behind a variety of issues affecting Columbus residents. Should he be elected to council, he intends to tackle inequity in income, housing, safety, and opportunity.
Petrik is currently a Grants Associate for Local Matters, a nonprofit founded in 2008 to address the health crisis around diabetes and other diet-related diseases. His role is to write reports and grants that support the organization’s programs and mission.
Prior to Local Matters, Petrik was working with Advocates for Ohio’s Future, a coalition of 475 statewide organizations focused on expanding access to human needs such as housing, mental health and drug addiction services, healthcare and early education. The coalition pushed for the Medicaid expansion that was ultimately funded back in 2013, opening access to healthcare coverage for 700,000 people.
“That’s why I’m doing this work. That’s why I’m running for city council,” Petrik said, “to try and make a difference in people’s lives.”
Petrik wants to see people of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds inhabiting the same space. Using the concept of inclusive zoning, he suggests an ordinance that requires 20 percent of newly developed housing to be affordable for seniors on a fixed income, “or for working class families — people like teachers, social workers, fire fighters.”
“The basic idea is that it’s inclusive. It’s not just for the most wealthy that can afford the market rate,” he explained, “but that we make sure that everyone of different socioeconomic status can be part of the neighborhood and can be part of the community.”
He’s planning to push to cease tax incentives for wealthy developers and ask them to “pay their fair share,” arguing that they ignore middle- and low-income families that are in need of childcare, housing, quality pre-k and job training.
“Even recently, the home values and tax values reappraised, and basically tens of thousands of people across the city are seeing an increase in their taxes while the few who are the most wealthy are getting tax cuts,” Petrik said. “That’s a big part of why i’m running is to see a more equitable Columbus.”
Police training reform
Petrik supports a reallocation of resources to transform current police training practices. He recommends implicit bias training and de-escalation trainings and incentives. He offered Salt Lake City as an example. The city implemented de-escalation incentives and went a year without an officer-involved killing. Recognizing the demographic differences between SLC and Columbus, Petrik said a similar model analyzing “how you respond to the way you respond” could be used to reduce police involved killings.
As far as local activists pushing for the termination of Officer Zachary Rosen and Police Chief Kim Jacobs, Petrik thinks it’s bigger than that.
“Ultimately it’s not about, for me, firing one officer,” he said. “It needs to be a real culture shift and a rethinking of this whole notion of serving and protecting and what’s the best way to do that.”
Petrik’s plans go back to basics. He asserted that tensions between minority communities and the Columbus Police Department stem from the same issue of inequity.
“I think the bigger, broader question is, ‘How do we strengthen neighborhoods and make more resilient communities?’ And that goes a lot beyond the Columbus Police Department to me,” Petrik said. “That’s about — when I think about this whole idea of opportunity, housing and education are the basis for opportunity.”
As a candidate for council and as an organizer before that, Petrik has rallied behind campaign finance reform. He supports contribution caps at the local level, which currently don’t exist in Columbus proper. Petrik argues that developers are pouring tens of thousands of dollars into city council, school board and mayoral races.
“One person could literally dump $50,000 into the election,” he said. “In the post-Citizens United world, winning is raising the most money to blast TV and the radio and the airwaves.”
To further elevate the voice of the public, Petrik wants to change the way city council meetings shake out. Ideally, he’d like issues to be discussed for two or three weeks before a vote is made. He wants to send out surveys, ask for input over social media and create community conversation via local media.
“Typically, when something comes to the floor, there’s a lock-step majority. Everyone’s already kind of rubber-stamped it,” he said. “To me it’s like, let’s have a real debate, let’s be transparent, let’s bring the public in and get input from people.”
Petrik’s other policy plans cover transparency, green initiatives, the opioid crisis and more. They can be found at willpetrik.org.