‘Mysterious’ Clean Energy Ballot Issue Draws Criticism from City Leaders
City officials have come together against Issue 7, the only issue Columbus residents will see on their ballots in the Nov. 2 general election.
Mayor Andrew Ginther, City Council President Shannon Hardin, and other community leaders announced their opposition in a media event last week. The ballot measure would take $87 million from the City of Columbus’ general fund for what they say are “vague” and “mysterious” purposes.
According to a petition filed with the Columbus City Clerk in October 2020, the initiative would establish an energy conservation and energy efficiency fund, a clean energy education and training fund, a minority business development program and an electricity subsidy program for city residents.
The petition calls for the largest chunk of funds — $57 million — be used to establish the clean energy partnership fund, which will include funds transferred from the city’s general fund to an “entity designated by the official representative of the majority of the committee of petitioners” which could include the Ohio Energy Initiative Commission, the state-sponsored investment fund NY Green Bank, or “any other entity designated by the official representative” of the group. That entity would then dispense all $57 million through subsidies to Columbus electricity customers who apply.
The initiative also calls for a transparency and accountability requirement for all use of funds by the City Auditor.
According to the petition, the group behind the ballot issue is called ProEnergy Ohio LLC, and this isn’t the first time the group has attempted to put an issue on the ballot for green-energy initiatives. City officials questioned the legitimacy of the group then as well.
The individual petitioners currently listed are Christina Gonzaga, Tyrone Spence, Udell Hollins, Dolores Williams, Irene Gil-Llamas and Jabarisidiki Gregg. The group’s former project coordinator, John Clark, was indicted for felony election falsification and felony tampering with records in December 2020.
WOSU reported earlier this summer that the group’s ballot petition was denied by City Council last December, but council was forced to pass the initiative after an Ohio Supreme Court ruling in April.
City officials spoke of the negative impacts the measure would have on city services.
“The city’s financial position, while challenged, remains strong, and reserves have been maintained to ensure we can continue to weather the pandemic,” said Mayor Ginther. “Issue 7 would force massive budget cuts that would challenge our commitment to closing existing gaps, advancing equity and making positive gains on our community’s highest priorities, including police reform, affordable housing and public health.”
“Taking $87 million of taxpayer dollars would devastate city services. It would undoubtedly require significant cuts to public health, emergency services, parks, and other critical services our citizens depend on every day,” said Council President Hardin. “Making matters worse, the issue is so vague, it’s difficult to know where the money could go. What we do know is that the group behind this effort and that would control how most of the money is spent has no business controlling city resources.”