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May 14, 2016 8:00 am at 8:00 am in reply to: Ward System for Columbus City Council – News & Updates #1126599
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.May 11, 2016 5:11 pm at 5:11 pm in reply to: Ward System for Columbus City Council – News & Updates #1126268
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.May 11, 2016 8:37 am at 8:37 am in reply to: Ward System for Columbus City Council – News & Updates #1126194
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.
I used to think H. Johnson’s at Lockbourne and Whittier, until I had ribs at B & K Smokehouse at Main and Champion (1114 E. Main Street). They smoke all their meat — the meat quality is excellent, it is fall-off-the-bone tender, and the owners treat you like family. Best BBQ in Columbus.
My guess: downtown casino and hotel(s). If I remember correctly, the four casino location monopoly runs out after 10 years. Dispatch has been about 10% of everything NRI has invested in recently, and this location would not upset the “family friendly” entertainment district that was the stated reason they led the effort to remove the casino from the Arena district to a dead part of the west side without much else to excite tourists (i.e., isolated to the west side in a campaign led by the Dispatch/Wolfes that delayed water/sewer service, perhaps in hopes it would fail/relocate in 10 years), but would give the Wolfe family a toe-hold in the gaming industry along with its obvious real estate interests (after selling the paper, and likely selling the TV station sometime after the end of advertising for the presidential elections this year). A family needs something to do, right? — why not casino gambling? (And it would be sold as jobs for Franklinton.) that is what the (admittedly small) Machevellian part of my mind surmises.
Discouraged Democrat, don’t laugh: the Dispatch is reporting “Ginther Proposes New Ethics Regulations.” Legislation seems kind of like his last job, though. http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/01/07/Ginther-ethics-proposal.html
From WOSU’s write up: “School board president Gary Baker said he was motivated by the deal, in part, because it helped the district avoid costly and lengthy lawsuits.”
In other news, Baker and the school board spent $600,000 in legal fees to defend themselves and hide behind governmental immunity against me, plaintiff pro se with no law training, when I sued for being cheated out of $15,000 for their now undisputedly unlawful data scrubbing program.
They refused settlement offers from me, even though it is crystal clear that my family was cheated by the crooks they pampered on staff and our mayor-elect who covered up the cheating.
They feel free to spend whatever they must to try to stomp the little guy over what are really peanuts to them, but are scared to take on the big boys for something that could significantly benefit our kids. Cowards.
Well, it was a unanimous vote from the board members. Looks like the district decided it didn’t need/want the money. It was the district’s decision.
Nationwide Arena is like herpes — the gift that keeps on giving. And Columbus keeps voting for the same people who gave us this messed up situation where the school board got (a portion of) “theirs” and is prepared to fight the other levy-funded human services in support of a permanent state granted tax abatement. (You know, the schools got their cut at the expense of community mental health services, alcohol and other drug addiction services, senior services, parks and libraries.)
I just hope they don’t have the nerve to come knocking asking for a tax increase. Renewal levy, fine — an increase,? I can’t see myself supporting it and would probably work to oppose it. I remember being with a group that met with Gary Baker a few months after he became Board President. He seemed so impressed with himself, because in his word the downtown community liked and trusted his leadership. (Now I see why.) It struck me as incredibly ignorant that the school levy with a 24% tax increase that he helped force to the ballot got whalloped at the polls, and he was concerned about what downtown thinks of him and the district — not what voters and parents thought about him. SMH. We get the leadership we vote for.
All this debate and nobody has mentioned any co-factors externalities … time lost to congestiony/saved by increased efficiency, environmental impact, etc. The question in my mind is unanswerable, but for individual value judgement.
I heard recently it may be Larry Price. larry worked in Mayor Coleman’s office for a few years, then served two years in the state house before being upset by Mike Mitchell pver Price’s religious positions on LGBTQ issues. Most recently he was a Ginther election surrogate in the Black community. Definately loyal, which is checkbox number one.
I think the city got voters in Issue 7, to make a referendum on continued lease payments impossible to put on the ballot. We had filed such a petition and after receiving sufficient signatures it was thrown off the ballot by the board of elections pursuant to a protest over the form of the petition. Then, we again secured enough signatures, but the city would not send it to the BoE because we filed the certified pre-circulation copy with the city clerk as had been allowed in the past, rather than the city auditor. then, Issue 7 pushed by council amended the charter to say that multiyear commitments can not be undone at the ballot box (unless a referendum is filed within 30 days of the original council ordinance). I took that as a specific innoculation against citizens being able to vote on future payments on this bad deal that was cooked up in secret. Issue 7 also doubled the signature count for initiated ordinances last year … it was an undemocratic power grab, and the corrupt city got the people to give away our power. Sad.
Weighing in late here, but of course this is pudblic money … and the abatement hurts not just schools but all levy funded human services, including senior services, drug and alcohol addiction services, metroparks, libraries, developmental disabilities services, mental health services … the list goes on and on beyond schools. What irks me is that voters said “no” five times to publicly-funded professional sports arenas –including the last time to the pro hockey team arena, but our elected officials went on and did it anyway — at least it is a lack of respect for the fact that voters said a home for a pro hockey team is not our public spending priority. the arena and the Blue Jackets contribute a negligible net amount to the region’s economy, as almost every sports economist agrees — instead, pro sports facilities move entertainment dollars from one area of the city to another. So even though the people said “no,” the politicians decided to subsidize an extremely wealthy few individuals and businesses,while removing money to aid our most vulnerable citizens. Nationwide made something like $1.2 Billiion in PROFITS in the year of the sale — they could surely afford to take a haircut on this small portion of their investment portfolio (which we don’t know, because NHL teams do not release their financials) — particularly given that the rest of their arena district portfolio appears to be doing so well. But then counciljust extended abatements for all previously-abated real estate in the arena district and the increased property value taxes are TIFF’ed, meaning they stay in the arena district, rather than flowing into the General Fund to be available to all neighborhoods, so I’m really wondering where the citywide benefit is. We’ve made a few people who are already spectacularly wealthy even more so, and by relocating businesses and people we have created a new place to go … but I’m not sure anybody will ever be able to calculate the net benefit of our ever-growing debt on a facility the public never wanted to buy in the first place.
The Arena District has been a successful development – though almost every sports economist concludes that pro sports has a negligible impact on a region’s economy, but merely shifts economic activity from one part of a city to another. Here is my part tongue-in-cheek recipe for success: First, an unvoted public commitment for as much as is required to fund an arena and pay operating expenses for a professional sports team owned by multimillionaires and billionaire business enterprises is always a good start. Then buttress the 42 nights a year the arena is occupied and attracting crowds by the rent-free business for which it was created by building new tax abated office buildings to lure businesses from other parts of downtown and the region. Finally, throw in 100% tax abatements on residences that only the top 5% of families in the community can afford, and you’ve got the final ingredient in the recipe for success (do not include any affordable housing, as income segregation is the key to success). Then, if you can field a winning team, it would be gravy:
Today’s Dispatch: “The Blue Jackets are 0-5 in Nationwide this season, the only NHL club without a home win. In those five games, the Jackets have been outscored 24-10.
“If you don’t win home games in this league, you’ve got no chance,” Tortorella said. “We haven’t won a game in our place yet, and we’re a month into the season. That’s a sore spot for me.”
It’s a sore spot on many fronts.
That last home game against Winnipeg, played on a Saturday night, drew only 12,860 fans, about 70 percent of capacity in Nationwide. Many of those fans went home angry.
The NHL is no longer a novelty in Columbus; many fans here are no longer willing to endure the chronic losing.”
Hilarious political cartoon in today’s Dispatch. Unfortunately the voters swept the trash in the wrong direction.
People who cannot see a corrupt, pay-to-play system in city hall are ignoring what’s already been proven by Ginther’s own admissions.
Too funny, and I note the Nixonian “I am not a crook” victory hand gesture.
<div class=”d4p-bbt-quote-title”>NDaEast wrote:</div>
…unlike our electronic elections where we vote in a truly secret electronic box and would have no idea if our votes were hacked, changed or stolen.
Sounds like we should go back to that rudimentary system then, and we’d only have to worry about our votes being burned on the floor rather than hacked. ;)
As I watched the count process, I felt that at least I would know that it was arbitrarily burned — and everyone else’s vote had an equal chance of going up in smoke — rather than potentially purposefully altered for partisan gain. The decentralization of the count, each “precinct” count under observation by partisan and independent observers, makes wholesale vote manipulation nearly impossible, while it can be done in America with the swipe of a mouse.
Bob Fitrakis, of The Columbus Free Press has written extensively about “push and pray” voting in Ohio: http://columbusfreepress.com/article/bob-bites-back-push-and-pray-voting