Who’s that Candidate? Mitchell Brown, Columbus City Council
With less than 30 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.
Mitchell Brown is a Franklin County Democratic Party-endorsed candidate. With an extensive background in public safety, his priorities align with the Columbus Divisions of Police and Fire and the resources that are available to them.
Mitch Brown moved from Pittsburgh to Cleveland in the 1980s, recruited by then mayor George Voinovich. There, he served as the Registrar of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and as Director of the Cleveland Department of Safety. When Voinovich was elected governor in 1991, he recruited Brown once again to be the Director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
After serving as Director of the Ohio Lottery Commission under former Gov. Bob Taft, former mayor Michael B. Coleman recruited Brown, and he served as Public Safety Director for the City of Columbus from 2000 to 2014.
Last year, he was appointed by city council to finish the remaining two years belonging to former Councilmember Eileen Paley, who was elected Franklin County Municipal Court Judge. Brown’s new role as councilmember has been somewhat of an adjustment.
“It’s very interesting for me being a legislator as opposed to being an administrator,” he said, “just getting a different perspective on getting things done and what it takes to make things happen from the legislative perspective, and knowing how you can have an impact and help things.”
Brown believes body cameras to be one solution to community distrust in the Columbus Police Department. While asserting that complaints get far more attention than the positive impact law enforcement has on the community, he said body cameras will provide a necessary perspective on interactions between police officers and citizens.
“I think the community’s perspective is being driven by what they see on television without the benefit of having an accurate reflection of what’s going on,” Brown said. “The Columbus Police Division responds to over a million calls a year for service, yet the complaints are so many you can’t even describe them. Any complaint is unacceptable, but that’s what gets all the attention.
“I think the body cameras will address the behavior of both the citizen and the law enforcement officer,” he continued. “It’s not a panacea. It’s not going to solve the issues of interactions with the public, but at least it gives you a more accurate perspective of what actually transpired.”
Body cameras are now used by 300 officers and will be fully implemented by the end of 2018. Brown said another important accomplishment was spending $110,000 to for bicycles, as the city plans to expand the department’s bike unit.
As central Ohio deals with the highest infant mortality rate in the state and, largely, the country, Brown suggests better education for expecting moms and improved access to healthcare for prenatal care.
“You have to educate young people who have children on what it takes to take care of a child,” he said. “To put that responsibility on government is one thing, but how about making sure the young person understands what it takes to take care of a child, and that they have access to good health care.”
When asked about addressing the social determinants of health — the factors contributing to high infant mortality that are outside of the mother’s control, such as education, built environment and socioeconomic status — he said the smart city initiative would broaden access to the resources needed to alleviate those stressors.
“I think the issue is access. Access to healthcare, access to job centers, access to higher educational institutions,” he said. “Any time you can improve an individual’s ability to get to a particular spot, you’re going to get better involvement. That’s what smart cities is going to bring for us.”
While Brown expressed the importance of higher education, he highlighted the necessity of learning trades as well. As technology evolves, he also sees knowledge in that field as a vital asset.
“I think what’s important is jobs and providing quality jobs with quality education,” he said.”It’s not just having a college education, it’s being able to do other things: electrical work, paving, dry walling, window installation — all those other things that people can learn how to do that somebody needs to do to improve their quality of life.”
“I think in today’s work marketplace, technology is going to change the way we do things,” Brown added. “We have to be prepared to make that adjustment from an education perspective. Times have changed. Cell phones have changed the way we do business. Technology is going to constantly evolve. We have to make sure that young people can be prepared for those changes.”
Brown also supports increasing the minimum wage, though he had no specific number in mind.
For more information, visit columbus.gov/council/mbrown.