City Council Profiles: Elizabeth Brown and Emmanuel Remy
Ahead of the general elections for four at-large city council seats tomorrow, November 5, 2019, Columbus Underground is giving voters a chance to do some last-minute research on the candidates.
CU has interviewed challengers Tiffany White, Scott Singratsomboune, Joe Motil and Liliana Riviera Baiman, as well as council’s newest members, Rob Dorans and Shayla Favor, after both were appointed earlier this year.
Two more seasoned incumbents — Elizabeth Brown and Emmanuel Remy — are also on the ballot.
When Brown first ran for City Council in 2015, it was after declining to apply for an appointment left by former councilmember Michelle Mills. Such a move has rarely, if ever, happened at council. At the time, Brown’s campaign platform focused on job creation, fighting poverty, and building safe neighborhoods.
In the over three years that she has been a councilmember, Brown has led a number of new city initiatives. She commissioned a study of the city’s job incentive programs, resulting in a $15-per-hour minimum wage requirement and new affordable housing requirements for city housing and job incentives. She also introduced an ordinance that encouraged the hiring of disadvantaged workers, including formerly incarcerated individuals, by local companies that bid on city construction projects.
Another priority that has emerged for Brown has been women, children, and families. In 2017, Brown unveiled a plan to offer comprehensive family leave to city employees, making Columbus the first city in the Midwest to do so. She spearheaded a law to prevent harassment of reproductive health workers and patients, and a program that expanded public menstrual product access to Columbus City School restrooms and recreation centers. She has also sponsored an initiative that connects at-risk pregnant women with stable housing, employment, and medical assistance, and a scholarship benefiting preschooler enrollment and teacher’s work development.
Before his nearly two years as a councilmember, Emmanuel Remy — who was appointed to council at the top of 2018 — was president of the Northland Community Council, a role that involved him helping shut down “problem” hotels in Northland and across the city, as well as working on the redevelopment of the Morse Road corridor.
As a councilmember, Remy led and co-sponsored an effort to provide emergency funding to an immigrant community center, after U.S. immigration policies drastically cut operational funding to refugee resettlement organizations. He has sponsored ordinances to enter job incentive agreements with a number of companies, including Filtra-Systems Company and Radiology Partners Management.
Brown and Remy have both spoken out on the “false narrative” about the city’s job incentives program, a point of contention for their challengers and some city residents. Both have expressed the need to stay competitive locally, with the city’s suburban neighbors, as well as nationally.
Brown has pointed out that the city plans to revisit its job incentive policy every three years, making changes as necessary. The city had not revisited the policy in decades, she said. She also commented on the suggestion that development would progress in the city regardless of incentives.
“I am not satisfied to say that, let’s just sit back and it will happen anyway,” said Brown in a City Council debate held by The Columbus Metropolitan Club. “I think that is a recipe for disaster going forward if we don’t think we have a part to play in achieving equitable growth here.”
Remy said that “These things do work,” adding that as the result of a tax incentive Easton Town Center received from the program, Columbus City Schools would receive $26 million a year.
And in response to an investigation by The Columbus Dispatch, in which costs to develop the new Crew Stadium and redevelop the old Mapfre Stadium have expanded to nearly double what was originally reported to the public, Remy insisted the investment the city is making in the stadiums would benefit the entire city.
“We’re going to double the size of the Arena District in the next 10 years, and to do so, there’s a lot of infrastructure improvements that need to be made,” said Remy.
And Brown said the interests of Crew owners were not her concern.
“The economic development agreement that we authorized stipulated $50 million to go towards the sports park and needed infrastructure right around the stadium,” Brown said. “We’re going to analyze those investments based on whether they will pay off in income taxes and revenue that will help us develop the rest of the city.”
The City Council debate included more responses from Remy and Brown on the biggest issues affecting Columbus residents, including affordable housing (at 24:43 and 26:46) and income inequality (31:45 and 33:54).
Read profiles with other candidates running for City Council in the November election.