Opinion: Establishment Politics Will Not Solve the Challenges Our City Faces
I am an elected member of the Franklin County Democratic Party (FCDP) Central Committee. On Wednesday evening, I got an email on FCDP letterhead with an announcement from Columbus City Attorney Rick Pfeiffer. His message to the Democratic Party Executive Committee was that he will not be seeking re-election for City Attorney. He closed with an endorsement for his successor, City Council President Zach Klein.
I read this not so much as an endorsement, but as marching orders to support the candidate hand-picked by the party elite.
This morning I got confirmation. I received an email from Mayor Andrew Ginther announcing that he is also endorsing Zach Klein for City Attorney. There hasn’t been any Central Committee or Executive Committee meeting to discuss, and there certainly hasn’t been a broader conversation to get feedback from the public. This is what our democracy looks like in Columbus. I wish I could say I was surprised.
I want to be clear. I deeply appreciate City Attorney Pfeiffer’s tenure of service to our communities and our city. I also appreciate the work City Council President Klein and Mayor Ginther do to make Columbus a city where everyone has opportunity.
My biggest concern is how this closed-door endorsement process reflects our broken political system.
The recent Ohio Senate primary is another example. Senator Sherrod Brown, former President Bill Clinton and the Ohio Democratic Party came out for Ted Strickland in early 2015. The Democratic primary was in March of 2016. Again, I deeply appreciate Sherrod Brown’s service to Ohio, and I support the vast majority of his policy positions, but these early endorsements give the perception that a few people at the top are tipping the scales. It also closes the conversation at a time when we need to involve more people in the discussion.
As a “Bernie Democrat”, this reminds me of all of the super-delegates and elected party leaders endorsing Hillary before any of the people voted in the primary. I felt the Bern, because Bernie’s campaign made me feel like my voice and my participation actually mattered. Too often, leaders in the political establishment think they know what’s best for the rest of us.
That’s the old, broken way of doing politics. The outcome of the presidential election made this clear. Yes We Can Columbus is creating a new way.
Yes We Can Columbus emerged at the beginning of this year with a vision of Columbus as a city of possibilities for everyone. While we are a city on the rise, Columbus has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country and one in five children doesn’t have enough food to eat. This inequity impacts our schools, our neighborhoods and our economy, even as the city continues to grow. Yes We Can Columbus believes that establishment politics will not successfully solve the challenges our city faces.
Now, more than ever, we need to push back against Trump’s vision and change the direction of our country. We can start right here in Columbus.
Yes We Can Columbus just launched a “listening campaign” to gather ideas for who should run for City Council, School Board and City Attorney in the 2017 municipal elections. Rather than a handful of ultra-wealthy individuals and political insiders choosing who gets on the ballot, we believe that all of us should be part of the conversation about building the future of Columbus. The deadline to submit a recommendation is December 14, so you can still weigh in here.
We want your ideas. Do you know a leader who loves Columbus and really cares about their neighborhood? Do you know a parent or teacher who is deeply invested in Columbus City Schools?
We want your recommendations for candidates who will fight for equity, justice, safety, opportunity, participation, and transparency. We want candidates who have ideas to give neighborhoods and everyday people more of a voice in the conversation about the future of Columbus. We want a slate of candidates that represents the diversity of Columbus.
Ultimately, Columbus needs trustworthy leaders who have a big vision for how to improve our schools, transform our neighborhoods and concretely improve people’s lives. We look forward to hearing your ideas.
– Will Petrik
Organizer, Yes We Can Columbus
Ward 18, Central Committee, Franklin County Democratic Party