A note from Joe
July 31, 2023
I just got home from testifying against the City Council ordinance that will allow City Council to hold meetings in-person, virtually or the combination of the two. That's correct. They would be allowed to hold virtual-only meetings. This provision was stuffed into a Charter Amendment among other things, and was approved by the voters last November. This ordinance was conveniently placed as the last item on tonight's agenda. The following is my testimony:
It is very hypocritical to complain about our Republican state legislature restricting women’s rights with abortion laws, "don’t say gay" bills, critical race theory, gerrymandering, and Issue One. Yet city hall Democrats are doing the exact same thing by restricting citizens’ rights and to solely conduct virtual City Council meetings to keep from facing the public in person. The Charter Review Commission meetings were a charade. Out of 12 meetings, the public was only permitted to give public comments at two of those meetings. And the second meeting violated Sunshine Laws by only providing a 15-hour notice instead of the required 24-hour notice.
It is bad enough that the Charter allows for provisions to appoint council members to fill vacated seats. I believe 40 of the past 44 council members first gained office through an appointment. This process is a slap in the face of Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. You have passed laws to maintain control and power in City Hall and stripped Columbus residents of their rights to equally participate in a democracy. Campaign finance laws allow for unlimited in-kind contributions, along with a maximum donation of $15,499 per reporting period. Candidates are prohibited from using taxpayer-paid public access television. You allow former city-elected officials and city employees to serve as lobbyists. You and the mayor allow and accept campaign contributions from developers, special interests groups and persons who have a financial interest in city business while such business is pending before city council.
Columbus voters know that the mayor spends the majority of his time making unethical and corrupt deals behind closed doors already. For instance the Crew Stadium, Ohio Health 315 Ramp, Little Turtle Roadway project, Redflex, rejecting the will of the voter by turning ownership of Nationwide Arena over to the taxpayer, and the recent $54 million Merchant Building public bailout. And that’s just to name a few.
You silence public scrutiny by adjourning the regular City Council meeting prior to allowing public comment so that the listening and viewing public cannot hear what a taxpaying resident of Columbus has to say.
The November City Council Fake District elections are a farce and completely undemocratic. The fact that the entire city electorate gets to vote for a candidate in all nine districts is nothing more than an extension of our current At-Large elections. And it is set up this way to continue control and power of the city’s current autocratic city government. If Columbus is to have true district representation, then only the electorate within the boundaries of a particular district should be permitted to vote for a candidate within their own district.
I am against this portion of this Charter Amendment that was created as an opportunity to further restrict the citizens of Columbus’s rights of properly participating and maintaining a true democracy and allows both elected and city officials to escape the pressure of facing the public in person.