Greg Lawson: Republican Challenger for Columbus City Council
This November, Columbus residents will be voting to fill three city council seats. Up for re-election are incumbents Priscilla Tyson, A. Troy Miller and Eileen Paley, all Democrats. Two Republican challengers have been nominated by the Franklin County Republican Party for the election: Greg Lawson and Brian Bainbridge.
While the election is exactly seven months away, and all candidates will be interviewed and profiled closer to voting time, we thought it would be a good time to introduce the challengers and provide some background information about them personally, professionally and politically.
Below is our Q&A with Greg Lawson. Click here to read the Q&A with Brian Bainbridge.
Q: First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, education and work experience?
A: I am a 2000 graduate from The Ohio State University and have been involved with public policy for the duration of my working career. I began as an LSC Intern (now known as Fellows) where I worked for a State Representative for a year. I then worked in government affairs for the Ohio Council for Home Care where I zeroed in on Medicaid policy as well as for the Ohio Department of Commerce where I focused on unclaimed funds, the state building and fire codes as well as securities regulation.
I have worked with transportation contractors for a Westerville based PR firm and served as the national Director of Communications for a sportsmen’s advocacy group based here in Columbus, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. Currently, I serve as a Policy Analyst and Statehouse Liaison for a free market think tank, the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, where I work on a wide range of issues including tax policy, local government reform, collective bargaining, Medicaid and education.
With a personal interest in foreign policy I also work on the side, as an analyst for a web based geopolitical and risk-consulting firm with global business clients called Wikistrat.
Finally, I serve as a Board member for two Columbus based charter schools and spent a year on the Fifth by Northwest Area Commission.
Q: Where in Columbus do you live, and is there anything specific about your neighborhood that makes you a good fit for Columbus City Council?
A: I live off of Fifth Avenue close to Northwest Blvd. in the Fifth by Northwest Area Commission territory with my wife, two sons (and soon to be a third child due on “Tax Day”, April 15). I love the neighborhood and its centrality to Downtown and relative proximity to other “ring neighborhoods.” This centrality gives me a chance to gain a great deal of appreciation for the need for real neighborhood representation on City Council. Hardly any major metro areas have full at-large systems of representation and it seems to me this is antiquated and leaves many neighborhoods without as strong a voice as they need. While the Area Commissions are helpful, they ultimately can be ignored by Council. Having an actual member from diverse areas of the city will help be sure specific needs of specific neighborhoods are not forgotten.
Q: Is this your first time in a political race? If so, why?
A: This is my first time as a candidate. However, I have been deeply involved in grassroots politics both locally and statewide for a decade. As for why I am running, my life long interest in public policy has afforded me the chance to think about issues in a way I am not sure a lot of people are afforded the opportunity to do. I think this allows me to bring a different perspective to City Council. Certainly, many voices should be heard. Given that only one party has run the city since 2002 without even one differing voice on Council, the time seems ripe for there to be an alternative. This is important even if for no other reason than to be sure complacency does not sit in with our leadership. If elected, I will push for a change in the City charter to modify how we elect City Council members to assure there is at least a mixed system that includes wards.
Q: What are the biggest problems or challenges that you think Columbus is facing today?
A: I think complacency is the biggest problem. Compared to many cities in Ohio, Columbus is an oasis of relative prosperity. However, we have raised the municipal income tax to the second highest among Ohio’s “Big 8” urban areas with only Youngstown having a higher one at 2.75 percent. That means Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo all have a lower income tax. Given that we can, and should, fully replenish the Rainy Day Fund, we should now talk about why we need to keep the additional money that comes in as a result of the 2009 increase. Yes, we can spend it, but do we NEED to spend it? Would it help smaller businesses and mom and pop shops in more challenged neighborhoods if they could keep a little more money? After all, it isn’t really “Columbus’ Money,” it’s our money. The present City Council won’t even discuss this. I think we need to discuss this and if elected will bring it up frequently.
I believe crime is still a major problem. While overall numbers seem to look ok, in some neighborhoods, this is manifestly not the case. I think we need to continue to refine our policing in Columbus to be sure that high crime areas get as much relief as possible. After all, it’s hard for families to feel safe, children to be educated, and businesses to flourish if there is a constant fear of having things stolen or of violence.
Q: What are the biggest positive assets that Columbus has that you’d like to play as strengths moving forward?
A: We have my alma mater, The Ohio State University. We have Battelle. We have numerous corporate headquarters. We have COSI. We have a well-educated work force. We have the seat of state government here. In other words, our cup in many ways runneth over in terms of tremendous assets. While this is great, it also means our leaders don’t necessarily have to work that hard to give the appearance of everything going well. Clearly, we need to embrace all of those assets, but we need to look at our long-term viability as a hot bed for small businesses and entrepreneurialism. While we have business incubators here, we need to be sure our taxes are competitive and our local regulations do not create undue burdens. It is all too easy for a great city like Detroit once was, to become complacent and fade. Look at it today vs. a mere generation ago. No, we’re obviously not on the cusp of turning into Detroit, but my hope is to be a voice on City Council that never lets the type of complacency that took place there emerge here.
Q: Any other initial messages you’re looking to get out early in regard to your platform or the race?
A: The Columbus City Schools data scandal is a travesty. Parents have been lied to and that cannot and should not be ignored. I give the Mayor credit for convening a special Commission to review how things are run for our Columbus schools. If he seeks greater control, I think City Council will need a voice and given my experience with high performing charter schools, I think I will be the only member of City Council that will defend them and educational choice for parents.
Additionally, I want to explore further cooperation between the County and Columbus in terms of shared services. With all of the changes in local government funding that is coming from the state level, we need to be sure we are leveraging all of our assets on a regional basis to be sure tax money is spent wisely so we can remain competitive over the long-term and not raise taxes again. If that were to happen, that cycle of complacency I worry about could very easily begin to ramp up.
More information can be found about Greg at www.franklincountygop.org/Lawson.
To read our Q&A with Republican Candidate Brian Bainbridge, CLICK HERE.