ONUMBA.COM – Initially, Columbus City Council President Andrew Ginther was taciturn over the raging debate concerning the proposal to amend the City charter and swap the current ‘at-large’ method of electing members of the City Council with a blended system that would incorporate elements of ‘at-large and ward’ systems.
Simply put, there would be no changes to the charter, he declared.
The “petition” is “over.”
But the bad news for the leaders of Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government, the cabal rabidly seeking to reform the city charter, is not really that Ginther is fiercely opposed to their plan.
Rather, their official waterloo is that not enough petitions were submitted to advance their cause, meaning that they failed to meet a cardinal requirement for amending the city charter.
Ginther, whose opposition to the plan certainly doesn’t help, elaborated further in a letter he sent to the citizens of Columbus last week.
“In short, the petition failed to meet the minimum requirements for a charter amendment to be placed on the ballot, which is 19,164 valid signatures, representing 10 percent of the electors in the last preceding municipal election,” said Ginther, adding, “Upon review, the Franklin County Board of Elections determined the petitions contained only 8,471 valid signatures. Therefore, City Council concluded the process by voting unanimously not to place the proposed charter amendment on the November ballot.”
The cabal of reformists is seeking to place the issue on the November ballot for residents to decide. In a June 16th letter to Ginther, the group proposed a radical overhaul to the process of electing members of the city council, decrying the status quo as startlingly “archaic” and staggeringly “inadequate.”
Currently, the city maintains an at-large system where council members are elected to serve, represent and be accountable to the entire city. The coalition is pushing to change a system it describes as antediluvian that doesn’t serve the city well. It argues that the current system, which was crafted in 1914 when the city had a population of 181,000, is no longer adequate for a sprawling metropolis of 787,000 ethnically-diverse populations.
In their eyes, it all sum up to a need for change.
And their clarion call for reform embraces an approach that would combine the current at-large method and ward/district system for the city. That plan would expand the council membership from seven to eleven, to consist of four at large members and seven ward/district members.
But it is plan that would be implemented over the dead body of another group ferociously opposing it. That group, ‘Keep Columbus Strong,’ was recently formed for the sole purpose of undermining and ultimately kiboshing this plan.
Leaders of ‘Keep Columbus Strong’ simply like things the way they are, meaning they favor retaining the current at-large system of electing city council members, arguing that it works because they represent the entire city of Columbus and are accountable to all residents.
Opponents of the plan argue that the coalition’s proposal would create a bifurcated city and encourage a detrimental culture of “horse-trading” pitting one section of the city against another. They fear it could lead to dangerous intra-city tiff over resources and city projects. They also maintain that the current system has served the city well, and therefore see absolutely no reason to mess with it.
In his view, the coalition’s plan will be bad for the city on a number of fronts, including, his argument that the “proposed charter amendment would limit the power of our citizens, disenfranchise our diverse community, and create a dysfunctional form of local government while pitting neighborhood against neighborhood.”
He concluded: “If enacted, it simply would devastate our collective ability as a community to keep Columbus moving forward.”
Ginther lauded the city’s economic growth, affordable living, and safe, strong and healthy communities, and credited the current government, its charter and structure for the exemplary status and ranking it now enjoys among other major cities in the country.
He said that “Columbus works because we work together.”
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