Our City Online

Messageboard - General Columbus Discussion

NOTE: You are viewing an archived version of the Columbus Underground forums/messageboard. As of 05/22/16 they have been closed to new comments and replies, but will remain accessible for archived searches and reference. For more information CLICK HERE

Ward System for Columbus City Council - News & Updates

Home Forums General Columbus Discussion Ward System for Columbus City Council – News & Updates

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 147 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #89405

    NDaEast
    Participant

    There is nothing that has happened recently to assuage the concerns I raised earlier in my op ed on Columbus Underground, titled “Soul Searching for Accountability in City Government (October 26, 2011).” Indeed, I have become more concerned, as the Dispatch has recently purchased the formerly independent and formerly alternative “The Other Paper,” as well as WBNS 10-TV, 97.1 The Fan Sports Radio, “Alive,” TheBAG, Columbus Parent, Fronteras, Capital Style, Columbus CEO, Columbus Monthly, Columbus Bride, and the 22 (“This Week”) Suburban News Publications.

    The stated reason for these purchases was for Dispatch journalists “to tell the most-compelling and interesting stories in the various communities and editorial convergence.” In other words, in every format the Dispatch will define “the most-compelling and interesting stories” are, and use this “editorial convergence” to make sure only one story gets out. They will tell you what they want you to know, and how they want you to understand it.

    With the Dispatch and its editorially-convergent media offerings an active player in City politics (having a 10% financial interest in both the Blue Jackets and the arena, putting $400,000 into the casino campaign, purchasing land to object to the casino rezoning, filing a lawsuit to force the casino to use City water and sewer services), we can be sure that we have very little independent journalism in Columbus. So at a grassroots level, information needs to get out.

    This week’s example of a lack of accountability in City government comes with the newest developments in the City refinancing of the Whitney Condominium Project in the King Lincoln District last year. Last year, the Dispatch reported that Rita Parise, the city’s housing administrator, said about the proposed loan to the Whitney developer, “the money is an investment, not a bailout. She said the bad housing market and change in financing rules for condominiums have hurt the project” (“City may aid condo project with $3.4 million,” 11/9/10). The project attorney said in that same article, “the collaborative went to the city of money … the collaborative needs a quick cash infusion.” Parise further said “some of the money from condo sales would be used to fund other housing developments on the Near East Side, and some would go to partially reimburse the city.”

    How things change. According to the Dispatch, on December 6th, Columbus City Council “agreed to forgive the loan if the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority takes over the project and completes it.” So that “quick cash infusion” for the collaborative, that “would be used to fund other housing developments on the Near East Side, and some would go to partially reimburse the city,” did indeed end up as not an investment, but a bailout – exactly the opposite of what was represented a year earlier when the Council approved the $3.4 million “loan.”

    This shows the risk of the City jumping into “investments” without a clear plan. One could argue that while Parise said last year that “the bad housing market and change in financing rules for condominiums have hurt the project.” But the housing market crash started in 2007, prior to the construction of this project, and 2008 marked the end of speculative condo development – which this was [the project spokesperson said they had “six verbal commitments from buyers for units” (Dispatch, “King-Lincoln Construction to Start Soon,” 9/5/2007)].

    Why, then, was this 28 unit speculative housing development continued on the basis of six “verbal commitments?” Nobody else was building speculative condos during the period 2008-2010. Where private and other developers had projects in the ground, they were scrambling to downsize, shrink units, and working to convert to rental. The market signals, market correction, financing issues, and developer reactions were lost on this development, which proceeded with a full-build out of all units – even though completion of the project relied on unit sales during construction.

    In a Dispatch article (“Stalled condo development to restart with city funds, 6/12/11), the project’ s demise was described as stalling “after the developer … ran out of money.” Steve Gladman, the executive director of the Affordable Housing Trust of Columbus and Franklin County (which was not involved in the project), further clarified saying “there wasn’t enough money to fund the whole build-out.”

    One might also argue that the concept of 28 condos priced up to $250,000 on that corner of real estate was never particularly enlightened. In 1997, when “asked if she thinks there’s a market for the Whitney, Near East Area Commission President Kathleen Bailey said, ‘they’re going to find out’” (Dispatch, 9/5/07). Neighborhood leader Dana Moessner said “he has been concerned all along that no units had been presold at Whitney Condos, ‘what we questioned from the beginning was the economic times did not warrant this project going forward’” (Dispatch 11/9/10). Many observers questioned the size of the units, the pricing of the units, the location of this development, and the amenity package long before construction was underway.

    While Parise said it would have been poor public policy to let the project die (Dispatch, 12/6/11), one could more rationally argue that it was poor public policy to let the project go forward. And now taxpayers have bailed out an ill-conceived $3.4M debacle. Perhaps most striking is that the City made no attempt to auction the development to the private sector to complete, which might have resulted in some recovery of taxpayer money. Instead, this will be completed as a government project by CMHA.

    So what happened to all the verbal assurances? They evaporated, and the taxpayers of Columbus are left holding the $3.4 million bag. But this is nothing, compared to our next story which shows the same lack of accountability.

    For one answer to this endemic problem, see http://www.ColumbusCoalition.info, where citizens are sponsoring a ballot initiative that would increase the accountability of our city council members.

    Coming soon: we will explore the many parallels of the Whitney project, with the $42.5 million public bail out of the Nationwide Arena, the $81 million public subsidy to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the $270 million ongoing commitment of public dollars to subsidize the operation of the Nationwide Arena.

    #473173

    News
    Participant

    Ward representatives for City Council urged
    By Pat Holmes
    The Columbus Dispatch
    Wednesday January 18, 2012 4:30 AM

    A coalition looking to create a “more accountable” Columbus City Council wrapped up its final educational session last night. The Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government, which is working to get an initiative on the November ballot, wants to expand the council from seven at-large members to four at-large and seven district representatives.

    READ MORE: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/01/18/ward-representatives-for-city-council-urged.html

    #473174
    Tom Over
    Tom Over
    Participant

    There was a thread on this topic I was reading last night that had more posts and pages than this one. But searching for “wards/districts v at-large” won’t render it. It’s yet another consPIRACY of the shopaholics against the socially conscious. Well, anyway, I digress–must be the cyclist in me. Here is a talk with Bob Fitrakis. Any photographers out there that’d like to help us out ?

    100_4553

    Fitrakis is one of the people leading efforts to rewrite the charter of the City of Columbus. He said having an at-large city council is not the best way to represent residents.

    “At large, if you’re running in a city with 800,000 and it covers a lot of square miles, one of the largest cities in America—it’s beyond Franklin County and other counties—the amount of money you need to run advertising and campaign in all those areas is dramatically higher than if you ran in a district with a 100,000 people that was compact on the South Side, the Near East Side, the West Side, the Northwest Side, and the campus area.”

    Fitrakis said if we have all seven elected officials at-large, then usually only the people with a lot of money can finance those elections.

    “You’re ultimately beholden to the special interests that give you orders. For example, the people voted to not subsidize the hockey arena. We want the money for it. The city council, elected at-large, every single one of them appointed originally, not elected originally, roll over and give the wealthiest families in town –the Puzutti’s, the Wolfes, the Galbraiths, the Cranes— a quarter of a billion dollar welfare check.”

    Fitrakis said Columbus has a one party system.

    “ I’ve been critical of Republicans, but the Democratic Party is proven to simply resort to old big city boss politics, that is, dictatorial politics when they have their one party. They’ve been just as beholden and fawning toward the wealthy as the Republicans in Congress. So, it proves that a one-party system doesn’t work.”

    He said re-writing the charter would add some diversity.

    “We’d like to hear independent voices, a Libertarian, a Green Voice, and a Republican Voice, so that there is not a one-party system.”

    Fitrakis said the effort technically needs about 11,000 signatures, though he and other advocates are aiming for 15,000 so as to be prepared for intense scrutiny from officials. He said they’ve already gathered about a thousand and expect to get the rest in the spring and early summer.

    He said whenever you see huge “democracy deficits” there is usually a structural problem.

    “No one is representing the interests of the Near East area where we’re doing this interview, or the South Side, or the West Side, or the Hilltop. Until we elect somebody from them, those areas will be ignored at the expense of new development sprawling into the outlining counties.”

    Fitrakis said things to look for that indicate “democracy deficits” are as follows.

    “If you know where a ‘sacrifice zone’ is, say, the South Side, where you put all your waste and rendering plants or if you go to some neighborhoods and the houses are abandoned and the streets are in bad shape and buildings are boarded up, and you go to other areas where that’s simply not tolerated, well, usually that’s due to a lack of money and representation from those areas. Seven districts will allow each area to have an advocate when these houses sit abandoned and the infrastructure is crumbling. Forty-seven of the 50 largest cities in the US have some notion of district or ward representation. We need to add our city to that.”

    #473175

    cheap
    Member

    thanks for sharing that,tom.

    #473176

    NDaEast
    Participant


    Channel 6 did a story on the Council change initiative. Did anyone see the Dispatch graphic on the relative size of the City in 1910 (23 sq. miles), compared to 2012 (224 sq. miles)? To think that 7 people at large could represent a city this size is ridiculous. Council member Miller did make one mistake in his talk — he seemed to think this 7 at large structure has been in place from the city’s founding. In fact, Columbus had a ward system initially … prior to 1914 the city had 19 members — 3 at large and 16 from Wards.

    #473177

    arenn
    Participant

    I think you need to draw a distinction between voting by district and what is meant by a “ward system” in a place like Chicago. Chicago wards are more than just district. The provision of city services is organized by ward. Alderman in wards have great control over the delivery of those services, and also nearly dictatorial control over zoning and permitting in their wards. This is very different from merely having someone represent a district.

    #473178

    NDaEast
    Participant

    arenn said:
    I think you need to draw a distinction between voting by district and what is meant by a “ward system” in a place like Chicago. Chicago wards are more than just district. The provision of city services is organized by ward. Alderman in wards have great control over the delivery of those services, and also nearly dictatorial control over zoning and permitting in their wards. This is very different from merely having someone represent a district.

    Good distinction … I didn’t know that. In another thread a couple months ago, someone posted a map that showed one vision of what 7 Districts in Columbus would look like — does anyone know how to find that — or could the drawer re-post?

    #473179

    News
    Participant

    Ward proponents look to neuter council
    Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2012
    BY GARY SEMAN JR.

    A potential fall ballot issue has some city powerbrokers squirming like they haven’t squirmed since, well, someone decided to plop down a casino in the middle of the “family-friendly” Arena District. The ballot initiative would do away with the Columbus’s current—and, some would argue, cozy—city council structure of government, opting instead for a ward system that would ensure representation from every section of the city. It’s a notion that’s inching closer to the general election, says a group supporting the charter amendment.

    READ MORE: http://www.theotherpaper.com/news/article_58f5ffe6-84c7-11e1-9499-001a4bcf887a.html

    #473180

    NDaEast
    Participant

    Facebook Page for Columbus Coalition for Responsive GovernmentWard proponents look to neuter council
    Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2012

    Good article in The Other Paper — the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government is now going to neighborhood groups and other meetings to discuss our initiative. I’d like to clarify one question raised above, as to whether our specific proposal would lead to “gridlock.” Our proposal would require 6 councilmembers out of 11 to vote for or against an issue. Assuming the 4 At Large council members vote as a block (which is the sad reality that we actually hope to improve), for a majority to occur, only 2 of the remaining 7 District-based council members need to join the At Large members. And if it is a place-based vote, it would occur in one of the seven districts and would presumably have that council member’s vote. Thus, all it would take is a single more vote out of 6 to make something happen. Any city benefit project that couldn’t get a majority of votes on council, probably shouldn’t happen.

    One of the main goals of a District-based council is to stimulate a more robust public discussion on a broader range of issues — not just those presented by the downtown powerbrokers.

    Other goals would be to have a council member who is always positioned to serve as an advocate for every neighborhood — someone who can help keep things fair and honest.

    Finally among major benefits, running for election in Districts is much less expensive than running At Large in a city of over 225 square miles. Last November, the incumbents raised and spent over $790,000, compared to combined spending of $246,000 for the challengers. In the last 27 years, only 3 councilmembers have had to run for election to take office — the rest were appointed to Council by their peers on Council prior to their first election and having to face the voters. Given the power of incumbency (including the money advantage), the voters of Columbus have not had a real choice for council in more than a generation.

    If you are interested in moving Columbus forward in a progressive manner, check out and Like our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/columbus.coalition

    READ MORE: http://www.theotherpaper.com/news/article_58f5ffe6-84c7-11e1-9499-001a4bcf887a.html

    #473181

    cheap
    Member

    the most productive thing you can do is quit voting for the same mf’ers over and over.

    that’s a good start right there

    #473182

    lakeerietransplant
    Participant

    I can’t believe that I’m on the same side as Bob Fitrakis, but changing from all at-large to a district/ward based representation is a great idea. It’s about time City Council became more diverse politically.

    Or if this does not come to pass, at least change how we handle vacancies on the Council so if a seat does open up we can have special elections to fill them.

    #473183
    hugh59
    hugh59
    Participant

    lakeerietransplant said:
    I can’t believe that I’m on the same side as Bob Fitrakis, but changing from all at-large to a district/ward based representation is a great idea. It’s about time City Council became more diverse politically.

    Or if this does not come to pass, at least change how we handle vacancies on the Council so if a seat does open up we can have special elections to fill them.

    +1

    #473184
    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans
    Keymaster

    lakeerietransplant said:
    I can’t believe that I’m on the same side as Bob Fitrakis, but changing from all at-large to a district/ward based representation is a great idea. It’s about time City Council became more diverse politically.

    Does a ward/district system guarantee political diversity? Do all at-large systems across the country only have current single party rule? Has Columbus City Council always been one-party ruled or is this just a recent thing?

    #473185

    NEOBuckeye
    Participant

    I’m still not convinced that a ward system, as sketched out so far, is necessarily better for Columbus than the current at-large arrangement. Not that the current arrangement is necessarily the most ideal, but the city at least appears to be moving in a forward direction with it. How much can Columbus’ success be attributed to its current form of government? And would that be adversely affected by a change? I have no idea. I’m no expert on government. Perhaps a study of the current form versus others, and a look at best practices might help help to make (or break) the case for a system reform.

    As it stands, the sum of the pro-ward argument seems to be “it’ll be more democratic, politically diverse, and responsive”. Will it be? Can you prove or guarantee this?

    One thing I can assure you from my own observations and experiences is that ward reps are by no means any more impervious to corruption or “chumminess” with power brokers and special interests than any other type of local government representative.

    Also, for those who think a ward system will break or shake up the current one-party dominance of city council, I invite you to take a look around the Midwest for a reality check. Most major cities’ councils with ward components are completely dominated by Democrats. Toledo is the only major city in Ohio that appears to have some diversity with Republicans and Independents also serving on council in a mixed Ward/At-Large (6:6) rep system. Perhaps it would make a good case study?

    #473186

    cheap
    Member

    NEOBuckeye said:
    Not that the current arrangement is necessarily the most ideal, but the city at least appears to be moving in a forward direction with it.

    i think that all depends on what part of town you live in.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 147 total)

The forum ‘General Columbus Discussion’ is closed to new topics and replies.

KEEP LOCAL JOURNALISM HEALTHY.

Local journalism is more important than ever. Please take a moment to read a bit about our mission and consider financially supporting our cause.

CLICK HERE