Who’s that Candidate? Shannon Hardin, 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.
Shannon Hardin is an incumbent endorsed by the Franklin County Democratic Party. As a current member of Columbus City Council, Hardin has prioritized improving the quality of life for young men of color, winning the Smart City challenge to expand access to transportation, and supporting small minority-owned businesses. Should he win another term, his goal is to strengthen and expand initiatives on those fronts.
Hardin was born and raised on the south side of Columbus and attended Columbus Alternative High School. After studying political science and international relations at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA, Hardin came back home and began working at former mayor Michael Coleman’s office.
His passion for politics comes from the ability to connect with constituents, learn their needs, and move agendas forward that can meet those needs.
“I think that being inside the room counts — being in the room and being able to advocate,” Hardin said. “Working for Coleman after college for five years, I realized that, for me to take my advocacy to the next step, I wanted to run and be able to not just respond to policy, but to be able to give voice in the elected office to folks who look like me and came from communities like I came from.”
Advancement of Young Men of Color
In 2014, Hardin became the co-chair of I Am My Brother’s Keeper (MBK). The program offers a support system for young men and boys of color through partnerships with nonprofits, churches, and business and civic organizations. Participants can receive help with job searching and legal advice, and have access to any other program offered through the Columbus Urban League.
Currently underway is a study on “the state of men of color in our area,” examining the health, safety, workforce development, mentorship and recidivism rates of the population. The study will ultimately decide what is funded and how much funding it receives.
“From there we’ll be able to set specific goals and metrics for how we support men of color in Columbus,” Hardin said. “Being able to set real, clear goals about where we want to go for young men of color in our community, I think, can be transformational for our community.”
Hardin believes that the Smart City initiative is what will enable Columbus to grow equitably. By opening access to transportation, and by “smartening” that transportation through the introduction of autonomous vehicles and the city data exchange, people who are cut off from employment will be able to map a continuous route to work, school, and the grocery.
“I think that transportation is one of those very key things that determines if we grow smart, if we grow in a way that’s inclusive and socially sustainable, that gives folks opportunities not just to move, but move through social statuses, and connects people and makes our community healthier and a place where we want to be,” he said.
Tied into that Smart City initiative, Hardin sees the opportunity to not just connect people to jobs, but to create jobs within their neighborhoods. Part of the plan is to retrofit 3,000 cars — as old as 1996 and as new as current day — with smart technology; and 2,500 of those cars would come from the Linden area.
“Who’s more suited to install these smart technologies than young people who come from the community?” Hardin posited. “And if they don’t have the experience to do it now, then that’s the kind of training, when we say ‘workforce and connecting jobs,’ that we need to fund for.”
Hardin, chair of the Small and Minority Business Development Committee on council, also focused on the growth of the minority-owned business sector. Another study is going to “see how we are using our city dollars and make sure our spending is as diverse as our neighborhoods, and that should be coming back very shortly.”
“That’s one area that we’re going to have to really lean in on, and make sure that we can set goals and hit them in terms of our contracting for women and minority businesses,” he continued. “We do not do a good enough job with that right now, and that’s something I’ll continue to lean in on, and I think our study will help with that.”
Over the course of the last few years, grassroots organizations around the city have raised concerns about the over-policing of people of color, the amount of money going into local elections, and the failure of city government to raise the minimum wage.
“I do think we have some of the best trained police in the country, but being able to call out when we have an issue is important too,” Hardin said in response to being viewed as “soft” on the Columbus Police Department (CPD).
Hardin sees value in a diverse and local police force, and mentioned creating incentives for CPD applicants who live in Columbus or went to Columbus City Schools (CCS). While recognizing that an actual measure mandating a local police force would be beneficial, Hardin said the state government too often gets in the way.
“I think it’s ridiculous that the state steps in so many times to tie local municipalities’ hands behind their backs,” he commented, remarking on the state’s prohibition of local changes in minimum wage as well.
As far as campaign funding goes, Hardin agreed that there is too much money in local politics, but didn’t offer a way to change it.
“I definitely think there’s too much money in politics, but every day that I go down to City Hall, I’m not thinking about funders,” he said, “I’m thinking about the people that elected me and the community that I serve, and at the end of the day, those are the ones that will hold me accountable for the decisions that I make.”
For more information, visit shannonhardin.com.