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Ward System for Columbus City Council - News & Updates

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

Viewing 12 posts - 136 through 147 (of 147 total)
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  • #1126194

    NDaEast
    Participant

    All Sides with Ann Fisher today (Wednesday, 5/11/16), WOSU 89.7FM from 10:00 – 11:00. Whitney Smith, Co-Chair of Represent Columbus with Lucas Sullivan (Dispatch), Mary Ellen O’Shaugnessey (former city council member now FC Clerk of Courts), and Kevin Kelly (President of Cleveland City Council) to discuss city council districts. As you may know, we (Represent Columbus) turned in more than 28,000 petitoin signatures in support of city council districts. This time we invested in checking every petition signer, and we know that we have more than the 17,780 valid petition signatures needed to place this on the ballot (>10% of the electorate). We know the city council approved the petitoin as to form prior to circulation … since form and signatures are the only elements that can deny a petition, we expect this to be on an August 2nd Special Election ballot. We are waiting for valid signature confirmation by the FC Board of Electoins and council’s subsequent (required by state constitution) vote to place it on the ballot. Tune in to 89.7 FM at 10:00 and hear more.

    #1126268

    NDaEast
    Participant

    Great discussion today on All Sides with Ann Fisher (listen in at: http://radio.wosu.org/post/battle-change-columbus-city-council-representation). The discussion and the comments blew away the fear mongering fig leafs that downtown has been hiding behind and evidenced public support for a campaign and public debate on the issues. I appreciate Mary EllenO’Shaugnessey’s statement that we should have a public debate (though she said she wasn’t open to council district form of government), so I do not want to miss this chance to offer my critique on Mary Ellen O’Shaugnessy’s positions on council districts (MEOS was advocating for the status quo and dismissing council districts as a solution) in hopes she and others who hold that position will recognize there are solid arguments that may refute their position and be open to listening and potentially changing in their advocacy.

    First, it is always interesting hearing someone defend the institution they were a part of for years without having first engaged in listening to critique, when the real evaluation should come from the people being served and who have the sole right to collectively choose their form of government rather than a position of “I’ve been there. I know this.” Listening is a useful first step … something the council has not done — I have a June 8, 2012 letter from then-council president Ginther saying “I am aware of your standing meeting request, and my office will contact you at a time when a meeting might be appropriate.” Well, we have submitted more than 86,000 petition signatures evidencing public concern on this very issue, but I never got that call. By our count, then-Council President Andrew Ginther had in fact refused or ignored 26 meeting requests from January 2012 from representatives of the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government: council does not listen to the people on matters of demonstrated (petition gathering) importance to the people. In Issue 7 they voted to change the charter about the process, but refused to talk to the people about the substance of what was being petitioned for.

    MEOS started off talking about the history of At Large governance. A more complete discussion could have included the historical fact that the at large movement took place in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s across the country, funded by big business (Ford/Rockefeller Foundation forming municipal leagues seeking to train/make government more like business — which, at the time was top-down, with a few big bosses and a lot of peons working) and supporting local business/political establishments which were also trying to blunt the political power of a second wave of immigrants from central and eastern Europe (Italians, Poles, and Germans) who were settling in wards and developing ward-based political power. Further, women did not have the right to vote in 1914 in Ohio when the Columbus charter was approved. Our charter and this abnormal form of governance was created by wealthy white males — the 1913 Columbus Charter Commission was chaired by Hugh Huntington (catch the last name?), and according to a Dispatch from that time, the charter commissioners “were pledged to a more centralized form of government.” Historically, a second round of at large swept across the Deep South after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted, to decrease the number of Black elected officials. In 1982 amendments to the VRA, Congress declared at large systems to be unlawful voter dilution strategies in areas with a history of polarized voting. The Department of Justice initiated over 300 Voting Rights cases against at large systems, and every big city except Columbus has turned away from at large and back to districts. Under the ward system, Columbus had an elected African American councilman in 1882 (Rev. Poindexter), however it was 55 after the change to the at large system that another African American was elected to council (Dr. James Rosemond, in 1969). Columbus is ever more diverse as it grows: how long will it be until we have an elected Somali/African, Asian, or Latinx heritage person on council?

    MEOS was concerned that under the hybrid district-led system we propose you can’t vote for every council member. We also don’t get a chance to vote for every member of Congress, or every member of the State House either. We have a representative form of government in America, and council districts can provide better representation. If she wants further proof, I can send her a link to a video of some of the shootings in my neighborhood that council ignored (until a year later when they got a video of a horrific murder in the middle of the street) and suddenly jumped and did (a half-assed) version of what we had asked for before that they had said they couldn’t do. We were ignored by all 7 members of council that we voted for, because none of them lived in the neighborhood and had to look us in the face or see and hear what we did in those stressful days.

    That is why I got personally involved in this effort – it was the capstone to years of working in neighborhood after neighborhood where good people working to improve their neighborhoods were telling me they felt alone, neglected,and ignored by city hall. We have to do away with this self-serving fallacy that 7 people can adequately represent the interests, issues and opportunities of 836,000 people and more than 200 recognized neighborhood groups covering 225 square miles. We have to be realistic and give our elected officials something they can realistically achieve: Council districts will be good for all of Columbus.

    MEOS said we now have a fairer way for the allocation of resources??!!?? What — a handful of people downtown deciding neighborhood priorities??, really?? (How patronizing.) We are supposed to believe that is more fair than having elected officials doing their job (same as every other big city across the nation) — which is advocating for and allocating scarce resources?? Why shouldn’t councilmembers from other parts of the city have a say in whether a $67M downtown bridge or a publicly-owned $300M arena that we didn’t want to own in the first place and that gets deeper in debt every year because we aren’t making any mortgage payments is more important than a rec center or fire house? Why should council members be able to advocate for local needs brought to them by their neighbors?

    As far as area commissions — over the last 20 years I have worked with many and have had at least 10 area commission chairs on my Board of Directors. They are acutely aware they are codified “recommending bodies” on planning and zoning matters, and that they may have some influence, but that they have no political power. Zero. Every one of the established area commissions I have presented a council district proposal to has voted in favor of supporting a council district proposal: Westland, South Linden, Near East, Livingston Avenue, Milo Grogan, Greater Hilltop, and Clintonville area commissions come to mind (I think there were two more). In fact, over the past few years, three area commissioners have served on the 5 member council districts petition committee required by charter to circulate petitions. MEOS: there is no conflict between area commissions and council districts — this could in fact offer a next step to commissioners interested in politically representing areas they have been volunteering to serve.

    Right now, on the Near East Side, NEAC got run over despite three “no” votes on Poindexter Village (demolition, zoning variances on the new build senior center, and application for LIHTC) — in short, NEAC (the recommending body) disagrees with the premise for the PACT redevelopment but it continues unabated — demolishing the very history the people of the Near East have treasured and know adds value to the neighborhood. The area commissions and civics tell me they would like to be allied with a member of council and have a true political voice downtown for their neighborhoods.

    And being someone who has done work through multiple generations of council members, I have had to brief each one on who we were, what we were doing, and why. If members were drawn from the neighborhoods, they wouldn’t have that steep learning curve on each community’s people and issues. Finally, in talking with a senior member of the last administration about a certain past council member’s inexperience in their committee area, this person said “I’ll deny this if you say it — but that’s the way we like them [inexperienced], so we can do what we want.” Council members should not be clueless about the city’s neighborhoods.

    When you look at Mayor Ginther’s Christopher Columbus-like expedition across the city upon his election, he apparently “discovered” that parts of Linden and the Hilltop were quite distressed, and in looking at their dilapidated condition was quoted as saying that you wondered what city you were in. Then went further and was quoted in the Dispatch as saying “they are not sharing in OUR success” as though they are not a part of OUR city. This is the type of unintended (but real) perspective that a council member elected by district would blunt. These neighborhoods and other like them are part of OUR city, and they deserve on-going political support. I remember that 16 years earlier,Mayor Coleman discovered the 11th Avenue school and talked about revitalizing the same South Linden Mayor Ginther remarked upon — an effort and financing commitment that fell apart after Four Corners. Further, council and the administration have weakened the community development infrastructure (not just in South Linden, but across the city) as they have pursued downtown-initiated projects — with no one to advocate politically for neighborhoods.

    MEOS talked about the cost consideration of adding districts — which is nickels and dimes in the $800M city operating budget ($1.7 billion including all funds). I would suggest the incremental costs of adding a few positions would be far less expensive than the ($300M+) cost to the public of buying Nationwide Arena that the people rejected at the polls. Had council been elected by district,rather than appointed by downtown insiders who can’t afford their own elections and whose elections were deeply subsidized (52-90%) by the council president (who in some cases also led their appointment), that unanimous vote that overid Columbus voters at the polls might not have been made and the private sector risk (and loss) would have stayed in the private sector, rather than ending up on the taxpayers’ backs as a publicly-funded corporate welfare. With council members elected by district, we might also have some discussion about the continuing propriety of abating taxes on $500,000 downtown condos — whether we are subsidizing the “lifestyles of the rich and famous” instead of investing in neighborhoods across the city, or whether “more than $10 million — to buy and renovate a ramshackle Downtown garage so that city executives might have free parking and a short walk” is the best use of money when pending neighborhood improvement requests are being denied. A more robust political debate could certainly fuel ways for the city to increase revenues and cut unneeded/unwanted spending.

    On the ridiculous council districts could cause gridlock argument that keeps coming up from downtown, Kevin Kelley, Cleveland’s council president scoffed at that non-issue, and said ward issues never held up a single piece of legislation in Cleveland and challenged anyone to point to one. In contrast to the City Hall talking points about Cleveland, wards can’t be seen as holding up a single piece of legislation — coming straight from the Cleveland council president’s mouth.

    #1126521
    Ned23
    Ned23
    Participant

    Ward systems aren’t the answer to everything. You can still get corrupt people who who can hold onto a ward and the rest of the city can’t do anything to unseat them. People are always looking for some kind of outside answer to the problems that they create with their own votes.

    #1126527
    lazyfish
    lazyfish
    Participant

    corrupt people usually get exposed, whether they are removed from office is for the courts and voters, we get the leadership we deserve, it would be good if we had a mix of at large and district reps. 7 members on council is a bit too cozy

    #1126558

    NEOBuckeye
    Participant

    Ward systems aren’t the answer to everything. You can still get corrupt people who who can hold onto a ward and the rest of the city can’t do anything to unseat them. People are always looking for some kind of outside answer to the problems that they create with their own votes.

    This has always been my critique of city council ward systems elsewhere. I’m not patently against them, but it is disingenuous of advocates for implementing a ward system in Columbus to suggest that making such a change will eliminate the flaws and corruption inherent in the current all-at-large representative system.

    Your ward-based council rep would still have just as many opportunities to be out of touch and corrupt as any given at-large council rep currently does, and they won’t necessarily even be restricted to their area of representation.

    #1126599

    NDaEast
    Participant

    Ward systems aren’t the answer to everything. You can still get corrupt people who who can hold onto a ward and the rest of the city can’t do anything to unseat them. People are always looking for some kind of outside answer to the problems that they create with their own votes.

    I don’t know how this is an outside answer — this is taking hold of our democracy to make sure it represents our interests and not the interests of entrenched business and oolitical insiders. We’re not trying to create an answer to world hunger here, just trying to improve on obvious defects in our democracy that marginalize the role and power of the electorate (by design). At Large seats are expensive to run for, so competition is diminished by that very fact. The people deserve and should demand fair and competitive elections. We should not accept a system where it is damn near impossible to unseat an incumbent. So few people can raise the quarter million dollars it costs to run a competitive campaign against an incumbent — in fact, the incumbents can’t afford their own elections and in recent years have received from 52-90% of their campaign funding from the council president, which makes a small council even smaller in terms of the independence of thought and action of the majority of its members.

    We should not have a city council — our representative legislative body — seated by sponsorship and heredity — this is not 18th century France. Just a partial review of current and recent past shows Shannon Hardin, former city employee sponsored by the former Mayor; Jaiza Page, former city employee sponsored by the city attorney; Liz Brown, former city employee and daughter of a U.S. Senator; Mike Stinziano, incumbent State Representative and son of the former state representative; Mary Elle O’Shaugnessey, daughter of the former councilmember who has a dam and reservoir named after him; Mike Mentel, nephew of former council member Charlie Mentel; Rich Sensenbrenner, grandson of former Mayor Jack Sensenbrenner; and almost everybody else for the past 30 years was appointed. All are nice people, but something is dramatically wrong with that picture — it is a problem of selection, not voters. We have allowed the creation of a self-appointing ruling class that through this system of expensive at large elections is unaccountable to the electorate, which is one of the problems we seek to change.

    Further, we have to get beyond the self-serving fallacy that each of the council members represents all of the people of Columbus. they can’t possibly know and operate at a substantive level for the issues of 836,000 people in over 200 recognized neighborhoods, covering 225 square miles, with the increasing levels of diversity in our growing big city. It is lunacy to think that the interests of much of this diversity is represented: indeed, in 1998, our longest serving council member Maury Portman said the council is “going through the motions of representation” and that 7 council members for 700,000 citizens is “ludicrous.”

    Having worked daily in Columbus neighborhoods for 20 years, I see first hand the impact of this distance between the people of our neighborhoods and their interests, opportunities and challenges and the council. I don’t know why anybody could make a straight-faced argument that the current system is better than more representation of the interests of everyday Columbus residents. And the fear-mongering of the current establishment was shot down by Cleveland city council president Kevin Kelley in the Ann Fisher show. We seek a rational public debate and decision on this issue by election. Let the people decide: it is our government and we collectively decide how we want to govern ourselves. The effort the city has put into keeping this off the ballot is telling … a small group of people is trying to hang onto their power, and they have no interest in further improving our democracy.

    #1126607

    NEOBuckeye
    Participant

    NDaEast, what is there to stop a Ward-based City Council from also appointing replacement council reps to fill vacancies on a near-perpetual basis? Having ward reps does not make a City Council any more immune to, or even adverse to, the practice.

    As for sponsorship and heredity factoring into the people who get positions, that pretty much happens with all elected offices, with or without voter approval. Even when people do have the chance to vote, why is it that they often push the button for the candidates with names that they know, more often than they vote for those with names that they are unfamiliar with? In Ohio, the Taft and DeWine families seem to benefit from this, while on a national level, who doesn’t know of the Kennedys, the Bushes, and the Clintons?

    I think you need a different angle for your argument, because what you propose to replace the current at-large council system with really is more like rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic than it would be a fundamental improvement in municipal governance. Even if you were to be successful, I think you would ultimately be disappointed with the end result when most of the problems you cite in the current system resurface in uncannily similar ways.

    Personally, I wonder if we’re getting to the point in our politics, both locally and nationally, where it’s time for more of a European-style model of governance? Maybe we should have a City Council with 30 or so representatives, and with 10 or so of them being elected at-large, and the remaining 20 or so being allocated based upon some combination of party affiliation and ward/district?

    One thing I have never been a fan of are single-member, “winner-take-all” districts at any level. The very setup is antithetical to democracy and is what has given us the overly reductive and awful two-party binary system of politics that we have today. Elected office always seems to be a “one or the other” deal in the US, which is why I think people are increasingly seeking out extreme alternatives to traditional Republicans and Democrats. Maybe it is time we acknowledge that not everything is a one or the other proposition, and that there are multiple shades of gray and points of compromise along the political spectrum?

    #1126669

    jbcmh81
    Participant

    Aside from the corruption discussion, I also see another potential problem. While the idea of more representation for all neighborhoods is a good one, I worry that this would just turn into each one fighting for a piece of the pie for their own agendas rather than supporting any true unified direction for the city at large. I’m not really sure the goal should be pitting one neighborhood against another for attention. The tone of the debate in media has already been that way to some extent, with the arguments against Downtown projects.

    #1126679
    _calebross
    _calebross
    Participant

    Aside from the corruption discussion, I also see another potential problem. While the idea of more representation for all neighborhoods is a good one, I worry that this would just turn into each one fighting for a piece of the pie for their own agendas rather than supporting any true unified direction for the city at large. I’m not really sure the goal should be pitting one neighborhood against another for attention. The tone of the debate in media has already been that way to some extent, with the arguments against Downtown projects.

    I think an even mix of at-large representation and ward-district representation would be the best solution. Creating 20 wards (representing around 4,000 people each) and having 20 at-large representation would be a good way to combat corruption. The equal representation gives the city a vision while ensuring that ward representatives are included in the discussion in order for it to pass. Vice versa, if the wards unify for something this already benefits the city and can also ensure that the at-large representation can’t dictate policy.

    The current city government simply can not keep up with the fact that Columbus is expanding so fast. We need better representation of the residents. Not only diverse, but also more voices. Increasing the city council from 7 representatives to 40 would increase the voices as well as increase creativity and more discussion at the city level.

    #1126700

    NEOBuckeye
    Participant

    <div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>jbcmh81 wrote:</div>
    Aside from the corruption discussion, I also see another potential problem. While the idea of more representation for all neighborhoods is a good one, I worry that this would just turn into each one fighting for a piece of the pie for their own agendas rather than supporting any true unified direction for the city at large. I’m not really sure the goal should be pitting one neighborhood against another for attention. The tone of the debate in media has already been that way to some extent, with the arguments against Downtown projects.

    I think an even mix of at-large representation and ward-district representation would be the best solution. Creating 20 wards (representing around 4,000 people each) and having 20 at-large representation would be a good way to combat corruption. The equal representation gives the city a vision while ensuring that ward representatives are included in the discussion in order for it to pass. Vice versa, if the wards unify for something this already benefits the city and can also ensure that the at-large representation can’t dictate policy.

    The current city government simply can not keep up with the fact that Columbus is expanding so fast. We need better representation of the residents. Not only diverse, but also more voices. Increasing the city council from 7 representatives to 40 would increase the voices as well as increase creativity and more discussion at the city level.

    This is similar to what I suggested above, but I think it would also go along way towards actually addressing some of the issues that are raising growing concerns about the current city council system.

    A balance of at-large and ward reps would be a good compromise, rather than going with other models that favor ward-dominated council arrangements with a few token at-large reps. Having more reps overall AND equal numbers of each type would provide for meaningful representation at the community level (wards) without completely losing sight of the “big picture” direction and outlook of the city itself, items that tend to be the focus of at-large reps. At-large reps also keep City Council from devolving into an arena for perpetual conflicts between communities with competing and even adversarial interests and agendas.

    Along with having the two types of reps, ward and at-large, the actual number of reps must be addressed as well. More reps overall would definitely be better than the current seven for a city of 850k and growing, but where wards are concerned in particular, that number needs to take into account factors like average community population, as well as diversity–racial/ethnic, sexual, living arrangements, economic, etc. I would rather see a higher number of wards that give more communities and a wider range of people a voice (and a reasonable compromise for single-member districts), than a much smaller number that tends to work to the benefit of the most privileged in a given community.

    Either this, or create fewer wards overall that correspond to community boundaries as much as possible, but with proportionally-allocated multi-member districts.

    #1126703
    lazyfish
    lazyfish
    Participant

    How many council seats is too many? It would be nice if there were 14 or so seats, half ward based half at large…20 seems a little unmanagable.

    #1126997

    Amaralfan1
    Participant

    You know there is a major problem when not a single member of a city council lives west of OH-315.

    1. Zach Klein – Clintonville
    2. Priscilla Tyson – Eastmoor
    3. Mitchell Brown – Far East Side
    4. Elizabeth Brown – Victorian Village
    5. Shannon Hardin – South Side
    6. Jaiza Page – Far East Side
    7. Michael Stinziano – Dennison Park (Near Campus)

    The mayor also lives in Clintonville.

    I don’t know for sure that a ward system would improve things, but it’s hard to swallow the fact that a place like the Hilltop doesn’t have a single resident serving on city council (and hasn’t for some time). Nearly 70,000 people live there, which would make it the 9th largest city in the state (between Canton and Youngstown).

    You should at least have one member from every CPD Zone, and by my rough estimation, only three of the five zones are home to city council members.

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