City Council Election 2013: Brian Bainbridge
On November 5th, Columbus residents will be given the choice to fill three seats at Columbus City Council. Three democratic incumbents are being challenged by three republican and independent candidates.
To help our readers make the most informed decisions, we’re publishing the answers to a Q&A series from each of the participating candidates. Below is our full interview with Brian Bainbridge:
Q: First things first — The Columbus City Schools Levy is the biggest local issue on the ballot this year. Regardless of whether or not the levy passes, what would you say is the biggest problem with the Columbus school system today, and how best can it be addressed and corrected?
A: Among issues facing Columbus today, nothing is more important than the problems facing our Columbus City Schools. As a lifelong resident of Columbus and someone who is raising a new family – our future depends on the decisions we make today towards a stronger, more ethical, and more reliable educational system. Over the last several years, the Columbus School system has failed both the citizens of Columbus and most importantly our children. Our mayor has done a tremendous job at taking control of the situation by creating the Columbus Education Council, the Columbus Education council in turn created the “55 Recommendations” as a list of goals for the school district to achieve.
However, where Mayor Coleman and the Columbus Education Council have failed is educating the public on what these obtainable goals are and how they plan to go about achieving them. Honestly, as a taxpayer and a Columbus resident, I hear a lot of ambiguity about what quantifiable measures will be set in place to fix the district – and certainly a lot of ambiguity on how they plan on spending any tax levied money. I am not necessarily against allotting more money for our schools; they’ve spent years squandering our money, now they want more? The Columbus voters have proven time and time again throughout history that they need a good reason for a tax raise. So far, Mayor Coleman and the Columbus Education Council have done a poor job at giving us the good reason we are looking for. All I am hearing is: “We know we failed you, now give us more money.”
Q: The City of Columbus has fared better than many other regional cities during the economic recession and job growth reports this year have shown that the city has been outpacing much of the rest of the state/nation. What else needs to be done to further local job growth initiatives to continue to strengthen and diversify the local economy?
A: Columbus has done very well over the course of the economic downturn. Throughout the years of the Great Recession 2007-2012, Columbus compared to other states had some of the fewest unemployment rates and was able to maintain stable economic growth. Only 14 cities have gained more jobs than they lost during the Great Recession, and Columbus is one of them. Foundational to this success is our cornerstone corporate flagships such as Nationwide, Limited Brands, and The Ohio State University to name a few. These giants, along with Central Ohio’s great neighborhoods are what have helped our city experience exponential growth throughout the last 40 years.
However, growth also means evolution and adapting to the needs of its residents. As of the 2012 US Census, Columbus has 809,798 residents; this is a 13% increase since 2000. This creates a problem within city council. The current city Council has seven people, most of which live on the east side, representing 810,000 people living in various parts of Columbus. It is time for us to evolve to a more equitable and balanced form of Council to better represent the people of Columbus. What has transpired since the City Charter was adopted 100 years ago is a monolithic one party system that practices monopolization of power, political favoritism, and a “rubber stamp” form of government where a difference in opinion is discouraged. This is not democracy and is not in line with the American form of politics. As of this year, we are the only top 50 US City that doesn’t have a district/neighborhood representative form of City Council. Our nation was built on the premise of “No taxation without representation” why is Columbus exempt from this?
Q: I recently returned from the CEOs for Cities Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and discovered that this Dayton-sized city has multiple incubator facilities (retail incubator, medical incubator, idea incubator, design/innovation incubator, etc) located within blocks of each other Downtown, and developed largely with private-sector funding. How can Columbus better connect corporate partners with entrepreneurial efforts to better boost small business creation and development?
A: As someone who spent 13 years in the technology industry and as a self-employed real estate professional, I am a huge advocate of innovation and entrepreneurship. As a City Council representative, I will advocate neighborhood small business growth through additional tax incentives and entrepreneurial grants. I am a current member of Tech Columbus, so I am a huge fan of technological & entrepreneurial incubators. When I get elected to Columbus City Council, I will assist the current plans to build a new mobile application based incubator. Additionally, I would love to partner with area hospitals to help wounded veterans in creating biometrics and prosthetics based incubator – not nearly enough is being done in Columbus to help our wounded veterans.
Q: What do you feel are the most pressing crime/safety issues in Columbus in 2013, what areas of Columbus need the most police attention, and what other solutions should be implemented for combatting these problems?
A: I believe that through stronger neighborhood representation – possibly district representation, we could tackle problem areas in our Columbus neighborhoods. Throughout the last 12 months, I’ve been visiting the various neighborhood commissions. As a former commissioner myself, I noticed that no one knows neighborhood high crime areas better than the respective civic leaders and commissioners. How can our current city council members know how to fight crime in the west side when none of them live over there? We need to give more credence to the neighborhood heroes like Lisa Boggs in the Hilltop and Nick Szabo on the Southside who fight daily to make their neighborhoods a safe clean place for their families.
I also believe the government has a whole needs to do a better job at partnering with churches and non-profit organizations to combat crime and to keep our kids off the streets. Unfortunately, the family unit is under fire and kids are not getting the excellence in education that they deserve from the Columbus City Schools. As a member of Columbus City Council, I will partner with entrepreneurs, technology companies, and non-profit organizations to create The Minority Teen Technology Taskforce (TMTT). The purpose of the TMTT will give minority youth the education and exposure the world of Information Technology. I believe there are plenty talented young people in both the African American and Latin American community that may not be getting the proper exposure to the world of technology in our city schools.
Q: Columbus has seen the launch of multiple new transportation modes in 2013. The CoGo Bike Share service seems to be well received, COTA bus ridership is up, and not-yet-launched services including Car2Go and Uber have received early fanfare. Are these options good enough for a city rapidly growing residentially denser in the urban core, or is Columbus ready to begin planning rail-based transit in the near future?
A: I champion what the Mayor and the incumbents are doing to encourage alternative ecological forms of transportation in Columbus. While I am a fiscal conservative, I also care deeply about the environment. I believe our duty as a generation to be good stewards of the environment so we can offer a cleaner and greener Columbus for future generations. I believe we need to continue to foster technological ideas such as Uber and offer stimulus’s to innovative car sharing businesses such as Car2Go. I also champion the mayor’s CoGo Bike Share initiative and appreciate the extended bike lanes and bike trails.
Regarding light rail, while it would be a “nice to have”, my biggest concern is the cost. While I believe light rail transit will give Columbus greater economic mobility, better access to downtown, and lower our carbon emissions – the cost is exorbitant. Both of our last two governors (both of differing parties) Strickland and Kasich noted the excessive cost of updating the current infrastructure and/or purchasing a right of way to build new tracks. Charlotte, a city comparable in size to Columbus just completed their rail system, The Lynx in 2005 for $460 million. However they started their design planning over 20 years ago.
I believe Columbus will one day benefit from a light rail system, however now is not the time. I believe there are greater financial issues happening within our neighborhoods that need attention. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Q: While the full impact of Obamacare is still yet to be seen upon the national rollout of key components in 2014, do you think that the policies will have a net positive or negative impact locally on the health and well-being of Columbus residents?
A: While I think the intentions of the Affordable Care Act are commendable, I question where federal government is going to get the funding to pull it off. While there are some excellent benefits to the program, I continue to ask – where is the government getting the funding? While the government has classified certain medical services as a “no cost preventative service” such as birth control, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a fee associated from the doctor from the pharmaceutical company. Someone is going to have to pay for it.
At the end of the day, it will be the healthy middle-class already insured policy holders that will suffer financially by having to paying higher premiums to balance out the cost. This is called socialized healthcare and unfortunately the middle class will get the short end of the stick. The Affordable Care Act needs to be revamped to consider the typical insured middle class family who may not be able to afford the pending higher premiums.
Q: The Freedom to Marry campaign has made strides in 2013 toward a Nov 2014 Ohio ballot issue, which is likely to be a highly prominent issue next year. Do you support the Freedom to Marry campaign in Ohio, and do you feel it would have a positive or negative impact on Columbus?
A: This particular topic has created a dichotomy in my heart through recent years. Growing up, I attended a local conservative Christian school and I was always taught that marriage should be kept between a man and a woman. According to my faith and my Judeo Christian belief system, I still believe this to be so. However, I am also a huge advocate and believer of a smaller “hands off” form of government. In my mind, nothing restricts prosperity more than a big government that restricts our freedom. Growing up during the Reagan years, I learned the value of capitalism and laissez-faire economics – I also believe this governmental philosophy applies to its involvement in our personal lives. There are situations where the government should (frankly) butt out of our personal business. So therefore, while I personally hold to the traditional view of marriage, I have a hard time trusting in a government that can dictate who can and who cannot get married.
Q: Last but not least — What is the most positive aspect of life in Columbus Ohio right now, and what are you most excited about or inspired by for the near future?
A: I am excited about direction that Columbus has taken both financially, intellectually, and economically. As someone that is a fan of fiscal responsibility, I am stoked that we have a robust rainy day fund and a Triple A credit rating. Throughout the recession, Columbus became a financial beacon for America. A light on a hill cannot be hidden!
However, amid the good news, there are challenges within our city that threaten our lofty status. We need to evolve and adapt to maintain our strong standing. While our Downtown is vibrant and development is plentiful – the lack of attention my ivory tower incumbents pay to our neighborhoods make us stand to lose everything. While the west side has the casino, what good is the casino if there is no economic development in the neighborhood to support it? The Columbus Southside recently lost Bob Evans corporate, a large tax contributor, all while the city was too busy focusing on negotiating contracts for the Columbus Commons. The Columbus Near East Side continues to struggle with crime, but our current city council seems only concerned with ways they can ship homeless out of Downtown and into our neighborhoods. Our Mayor and Columbus City Council seem solely focused on Downtown and consider the needs of our neighborhoods as a second-hand priority. My incumbents have openly admitted this fall that Downtown is where their priority is. As a neighborhood leader, enough is enough – it’s time for the neighborhoods to rise up, declare their right under the name of democracy, and make their voices known in Columbus City Council. We are tired of being ignored.
For more information, visit bainbridge2013.wordpress.com.