Who’s that Candidate? Jasmine Ayres, Columbus City Council
With less than 70 days left before election day on November 7, CU is taking a better look at the candidates vying for a spot on Columbus City Council.
Jasmine Ayres is a Yes We Can-endorsed candidate. With fellow YWC member Will Petrik, she aims to add a populist voice to council, prioritizing equitable economic development, public safety, and increased local influence on state level decision-making.
A Columbus native, Ayres returned to the city after heading to North Carolina to earn a degree in history and political science from Wake Forest University.
Once back home, she started working on former president Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, organizing locally for six months.
“That’s really what just sparked an interest in organizing — really seeing how a community can come together to support somebody,” she said.
After substitute teaching at Columbus City Schools, she decided “I needed to go learn more things,” and went back to school, attending the Linden B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas to study public policy.
Now living on the north side of Columbus, Ayres is looking to apply her public policy knowledge to make the city a place where anyone can succeed.
“I’m excited about the growth,” she said. “I also want to make sure everybody is benefiting from the growth.”
Equitable economic development
While attending the University of Texas in Austin, Ayres took a class instructed by Austin City Councilmember Bill Spelman. In his class, she learned about demanding more from developers, ultimately inspiring her plan to better distribute tax incentives.
“The most impactful thing you can do for someone is to give them a good-paying job,” she said, “so I’d like to see our tax incentives going to build up small business in neighborhoods where you drive down the street and everything is boarded up.”
She’d like to see incentives go to developers planning grocery stores for food deserts, for those who start small business incubators and for businesses who hire locally.
“[Austin] demands a lot from people when they give out tax incentives, so I’d like to see us doing a little bit more of that,” she added. “Columbus is an amazing city. People would be fortunate to develop here. We have a premiere research institution. We have awesome food, awesome nightlife, right? This is an awesome place to be.”
Public safety, and the consequences of its absence
“The thing that really propelled me to run was the growing number of people I went to high school with that are dead from gun violence,” Ayres said.
She said students who walk to school every day fear for their lives, and on top of other chronic life stressors, that fear creates a non-academic barrier to learning. Ayres referenced the drive by shooting that occurred last October at Linden McKinley High School, injuring two children.
“The city’s response was to put an extra patrol car in the parking lot,” she said. “I want bike cops. I want cops on foot, walking kids to and from school for a week, just to make them feel safe.”
To elevate the public’s trust in law enforcement, Ayres wants any police-involved shooting to be investigated by a third party. She also plans to work with state leaders to reinstate measures that would incentivize the local police force to live in Columbus.
“A lot of the problem is that the people who police here don’t live here, and they’re very unfamiliar with the people that they’re serving,” Ayres said.
Local pressure on state leaders
In recent years, the city has turned over much of its power to the state, relinquishing the right to change its own minimum wage and becoming helpless to create those police incentives without state approval. Part of Ayres’ plan involves unifying the public, creating and delivering petitions to state leaders, and holding press conferences to promote the demands of Columbus residents.
“Columbus is the economic engine of the state,” she said, “and I feel like we should be leaning a little bit more when there are policies that are coming down that are affecting our kids and our families.”
To accomplish this goal, Ayres plans to connect directly with the public on a regular basis, “be more creative, have more press conferences, more tweets, events in City Hall.”
“Why aren’t there study spaces for kids who go to the Downtown High School there?” she wondered. “Let’s have folks hanging out and learning more about politics. Let’s get more involved in the schools.”
More of Ayres’ main policy plans can be found on her website. There, she addresses mental health issues, climate change, the local school system and support for small businesses.
For more information, visit ayresforcolumbus.com/solutions.