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Early voting starts on October 1st.

Opening Statement about Endorsements
Early voting for the November 5th General Election starts on October 1st, so it is time for The Columbus Free Press to issue its recommendations on key contested elections and issues facing voters of Columbus. To frame our endorsements, let’s start by reiterating our Mission Statement (see below).  If you agree with our mission, then we would ask that you consider following our political endorsements.


Mission Statement
The Columbus Free Press is an independent news organization that delivers complete, accurate and timely coverage of social and political news to the citizens of Greater Columbus, Ohio. We are driven by principle and policy, not partisanship.
Through our journalism, we provide relevant information to the public to support and strengthen our citizen-based democracy and to ensure the accountability and integrity of our public institutions. In the long-standing tradition of muckraking journalism, we uphold the axiom that the role of a free press is to "afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted."
In addition to our news coverage, we provide editorial perspectives based on the democratic principles of openness, inclusion and transparency. We serve as a watchdog, rather than a lapdog for the power elite; as a guardian of the public interest; and as an advocate for peace and justice in a society where all people have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.


Columbus City Council
Recommended votes for Brian Bainbridge, Greg Lawson and Nicholas Schneider.

It is clear this year that the Editorial Board has a well-deserved anti-incumbent fever. These incumbent council members have divorced themselves from the people, and they act in public as a monolithic bloc.  This is bad for the democratic ideals of openness, inclusion and transparency that we support.
Further, we are distressed by the disregard shown to democratic processes by the current elected office holders, by and large.  As such, it would have been a hypocritical stretch to endorse incumbent city council members, and in fact we do not – we endorse all challengers.   

The Free Press is disturbed by the political machine that has grown up around the Franklin County Democratic Party and the Columbus City Council. We find it disturbing the levels to which the City Council has gone to secure its members’ positions, rather than offer the best representation to Columbus residents. The fact that all seven current council members were appointed to Council prior to facing the voters is appalling (described in our article “Welcome To The Machine, Part 2,” September 19, 2013). This is an unconscionable practice that distorts a representative democracy and it must end.  We struggle to see where leadership on this issue would come from on this all-appointed council.

When faced with a choice of appointing short-term members to fill vacancies on council and letting the voters decide on the long-term voted members, this Council has opted to reward party loyalty and limit the voters’ options. Council has created a pampered and privileged elite, which runs counter to Democratic Party ideals. The Franklin County Democratic Party needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror to see the hypocrisy of its actions, and do a gut check to see if these are the values it really wants to espouse – particularly when the party’s control of city government will never be an issue.

We see evidence that the “insider” nature of these Council appointments makes Council members more responsive to each other than to the public. Prior to Council’s election of a President early this year, we questioned each council member as to whether Council  member Andrew Ginther’s involvement in the largest public sector scandal was problematic for his potential election to President of Council. Not a single council member so much as responded to the inquiry. We are on the verge of a citywide vote on whether or not the Council President selects and oversees a Columbus City Schools Auditor – a position Mr. Ginther failed at in the past to the detriment of ten years of Columbus children and a data scandal that has brought investigation from the FBI, and Ohio Auditor of State, and Ohio Department of Education. The proposal sponsored by Ginther would put him in a serious duality of interest – if not a clear conflict of interest – and council members appear unwilling to ask or answer that basic question about Mr. Ginther’s problematic past and how it impacts the present. His potential appointment would stink of a scandal cover-up. This council will not engage on this issue of public trust, and that is a shame.

With respect to the incumbents, Council member A. Troy Miller is an enigma. Bright and personable, but on the issue of public access television, which falls within his Technology Committee, he has taken an unseemly subservience to Council President Ginther, who opposes the return of public access television. Mr. Miller seems stuck and unable to side with the people and voices for free speech in our democracy.  For nearly six months, Mr. Miller has refused to acknowledge meeting requests pertaining to public accesss television, and appears to have deferred entirely to the wishes of Council President Ginther to maintain the current blackout on unfiltered public expression through public access television.

Council member Eileen Paley has simply not distinguished herself, nor has she shown any indication to be willing to listen to the people of Columbus. On the issue of District representation to Council, she parrots talking points without substance and refuses to engage in dialogue and considered discussion.  We would expect to be able to reach a depth of discussion with our council members that Ms. Paley will not pursue when it comes to issues where she reflexively disagrees.

Council member Priscilla Tyson is somebody for whom there is hope, but time and again she fails to stand up for her constituency. Sticking with the powers that be, she remains strangely silent on the CMHA plan to demolish all of Poindexter Village, which is a major piece of Columbus’s African American history. With her interests in Black art, we believe Ms. Tyson understands the significance of history, yet she is unwilling to provide leadership for Black Columbus. Again with Ms. Tyson, we see the type of Council party-line thinking that sides with the power, rather than the people.

Running as a slate of candidates, we note that each of these members voted in favor of the 2010 bailout of Nationwide Arena – which had previously been rejected by the voters -- with none insisting that the public have a voice through hearings prior to the council vote. None have expressed concern about Council President Ginther’s contributory involvement to the Columbus City Schools data scandal. Finally, we are discouraged by the preliminary campaign finance reports filed by each candidate—all of whom seem happy to be fed by the financial largesse of the Council President, leaving the impression that their votes and perspectives have simply been bought and paid for.

This Editorial Board believes this system of Columbus City Council is unhealthy for democracy and serves to stifle, rather than advance, the powerless. Reluctantly, we are unable to endorse any of the incumbents. While they are all fine people, their attitudes and behaviors as council members show every indication of support for the Columbus political machine above support for an open democracy. That is something that is intolerable to this Editorial Board.

Given the above, the Free Press is proud to recommend Nicholas Schneider, Brian Bainbridge, and Greg Lawson for the voters’ consideration.

Nicholas Schneider is so committed to an open democracy that he recruited a candidate to ensure there would be a primary election, rather than a cake walk for incumbents. He understands the value of public debate, and would be a person to ask questions that others may find awkward; in this environment, we find that to be commendable. Mr. Schneider would add a voice for young Columbus professionals seeking opportunities. He brings abundant energy, a creative and inquisitive mind, a business background and a laser-like focus on maintaining the democratic ideals inherent in our political system.  Though he is new to the political environment, he is a candidate who expresses the highest degree of alignment with the Mission Statement and Guiding Principles of The Columbus Free Press.

Brian Bainbridge is a Greater Hilltop Area Commissioner, and would add a much-needed west side voice to City Council deliberations. The west side of Columbus has been under-represented for years, and Bainbridge believes that it is such an important issue that he supports the right of the citizens to vote on district representation. He also lays out more detail of his views on economic development and reaching Columbus residents who are struggling. Bainbridge also supports a vote of the electorate on whether the $236 million bailout of Nationwide Arena, which will drain up to $7.9 million annually from the city budget, believing the people voted this project down, and should not have been sidestepped by an act of council.

Greg Lawson is a long-time policy analyst, who has shown a political maturity and a willingness to question whether the City is taxing its residents too much and should have a community discussion about a “roll back” of some of the recent income tax increase that is generating unexpectedly high revenues. This makes him a lone voice on Council, which has yet to meet a tax increase it did not like or spending it could not incur. MSN/Money Magazine listed Columbus as the third highest taxed municipality in America. Recent Council-supported tax increases include, the failed rental car tax of 2008 (a defeat which caused council to adopt campaign disclosure requirements, though not campaign finance reform), the 25 percent income tax increase of 2011, the $250 million ,27.5 year bailout of the Nationwide Arena and now a 9.01 mill increase to Columbus City Schools taxes. We are taxed out, and Lawson would be a voice of reason to Council on that issue, and bring thoughtfulness on other issues.  We are encouraged by Mr. Lawson’s approach to having a dialogue on these and other issues which have gone by without much dialogue, as an expression of support for the best of representative democracy.

Columbus City Schools Board of Education
Recommended Vote for Michael Wiles, plus two of the following three challengers: Beverly Corner, Dominic Paretti or Michael Cole

The current school board is a mess. It has mishandled the enrollment and attendance data scandals, wasting taxpayer dollars and creating suspicion through its intransigence. The current Board has still not admitted any wrongdoing by District staff, which is a laughable proposition in the face of the reports of its own Internal Auditor, the Auditor of the State of Ohio and on-going investigations by the Auditor of State and F.B.I. that will likely result in criminal indictments. Mike Wiles aside, at this point, we would support Larry, Curly and Moe over every other current member of the Board of Education.

Michael Wiles has been alone on the Board of Education promoting parents and children and accountability.  Time and again, Mr. Wiles has stood as the voice of the public for reason, but he is outvoted. Wiles pressed for separate ballot issues for the city schools and charter school issue -- a position that was confirmed to be within the law -- but he was outvoted by the other members. Michael Wiles is honest, courageous and concerned about the children in Columbus City Schools, rather than his own reputation or any further political ambition. He should be retained.

The remaining Board members up for election, Hanifah Kambon and Ramona R. Reyes, should be rejected. They had their chance at community leadership and have failed miserably through their involvement in the mismanagement of the worst scandal of our generation. They have done nothing to restore confidence in the city schools, as evidenced by the fact that there are no pro-levy campaign commercials featuring the Board of Education, only local celebrities and children. It speaks volumes when the entity charged with putting its wants on the ballot hides behind celebrities and kids. This Board of Education, but for Michael Wiles, has been completely discredited.

By default, we support Dominic Paretti, Michael Cole and Beverly Corner as additions to a vote for Michael Wiles. We wish we knew more about each of these challengers, but none provided information to our editorial board.

Issues 1, 2, 3, 4
Recommended “Yes” Vote for all.

These issues are basic city infrastructure issues that do not cost taxpayers additional dollars. They should be approved as part of responsive management of the City of Columbus and its facilities.

Issue 50
Recommended “ No” Vote

This 9.01 mill combined bond and operating levy is a boondoggle of epic proportions. It shows the political arrogance of Columbus’s leadership, through the $1 million campaign to support its passage, while a corrupt school system is in the midst of federal and state investigations.

Political leaders should have asked for a short-term continuing operations levy that did no harm. Instead, they rolled the dice at an all-or-nothing sweepstakes. This should not be rewarded by the voters.
The school board is the entity asking for the levy, but nowhere in the advertisements is the school board prominent, because it has zero credibility among informed voters.   

This permanent levy for charter schools is supposed to be matched by private sector commitments. We have heard none announced. We would not be satisfied unless the private sector made a similar permanent commitment – we don’t need another Nationwide Arena public bailout a few years down the road when the corporations decide that shareholder profits trump Columbus kids. Finally ,we continue to be dumbfounded by the sheer dishonesty around the schools. While the school board passed a resolution allowing payments only to non-profit charter schools, the fact of the matter is that every charter school is a non-profit, while the management companies can be either non-profit or for-profit.  The resolution was meaningless.

Columbus City Schools asks for an expansion of early childhood education (Pre-K) – yet CCS refuses to say that the existing program works. CCS has all the data it needs to argue for the program, but it won’t provide the data. If the data was good (not that you could trust it, coming from CCS these days), they would be trumpeting it. Instead, silence. We smell a rat. Stop flushing money down a rat hole.

CCS asks for money for school rebuilding and wi-fi at all schools. Quite frankly, rebuilding schools should be at the bottom of the list  of measures that could turn CCS around. We have rebuilt 79 schools, and still end up as the worst school district in the region. This election cycle is not the time to ask voters to commit to 39 years of bond payments.   

After this vote is rightfully rejected by the voters, CCS should come back to the voters in the spring with a short-term, status quo operating levy, then clean house and come back with some badly-needed credibility in a few years to ask for any expansions.
Recommended “No” Vote
We cannot for the life of us understand the purpose behind this issue. It must be defeated. This issue seeks to eliminate the one position within Columbus City Schools that has shed light on wrongdoing. It is a misnomer … far from making the auditor “independent”, it puts the auditor under the control of five elected officials – three of whom have showed their cards on this issue. Further, for an auditor to be truly independent, she/he should report to the voters, as is the case with City Auditor Hugh Dorrian and State Auditor David Yost.
This auditor would be overseen by Mayor Coleman, who (The Columbus Dispatch reports) requested the  County Commissioners to delay announcing a sales tax increase until after the CCS levy vote – showing how political this position would be. Columbus City Council President Andrew Ginther, who chaired the Columbus City Schools Audit and Accountability Committee in 2004-2006, assisted in firing then Internal Auditor Tina Abdella as she set about to investigate the data scrubbing. It is not the Internal Auditor that needs elimination, it is the politicians who seek to diminish the work of the office.

Current Internal Auditor Carolyn Smith has been a credit to the position; stepping through pressure to deliver a clear and concise audit report on the attendance and enrollment data scandal – a report that was largely ignored by the current school board. For this, public officials seek to disband the office of Internal Auditor, rather than working to replace the school board with competent elected office holders.  It is notable that the school board has not responded to her request to expand the office, but is willing to dismantle the office. This smacks of political payback.

Further, it is beyond ironic that Andrew Ginther – one of the CCS Board members who fired the CCS Internal Auditor who was set to investigate data scrubbing in 2005 – is now proposing to provide oversight over the “Independent” Auditor position.

The reform involving the Independent Auditor should have specified a criminal offense for interfering in the work of the auditor. Issue 51 is nonsense designed to centralize even further power and control, and it should be defeated.

City Auditor

Recommendation: Hugh Dorrian (incumbent) -

When asked what qualified him to be Auditor, Igor Ternovsky answered simply, “because I’m not corrupt.”  In this era of the Columbus political machine, we like his insight and his chutzpah, but could not count enough reasons for him to replace current city auditor Hugh Dorrian.
Dorrian has served as auditor for 44 years. Though part of the Columbus Machine, he is a straight shooter – something that comes with electoral support. He has led the city admirably through that time.  He is respectful of disagreement and always willing to voice his opinion. That is democracy. Also he has a legendary and exemplary record in complying with public records requests. We support another four years for Mr. Dorrian.

Environmental Court Judge
Recommendation: Frank Macke

Frank Macke is our recommendation for the Environmental Court, which addresses neighborhood quality of life issues. A lawyer for 38 years, Macke is heavily invested in Central Ohio. Mr. Macke is a past President of the Lawyers Club of Columbus and the Central Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He currently is a charter member of the Board of Directors of the Harmony Project, and has volunteered with the Interfaith Hospitality Network, Bexley Methodist Church, Maple Grove Methodist Church, Faith Mission and the Ohio Northern University Law Alumni Board. In the past, Macke has served the Livingston Park Neighborhood Association, Southside Business Association and currently is a member of Olde Towne East Neighborhood Association. With his extensive knowledge of Columbus and his ties to the neighborhoods, Macke brings an understanding of the role of Environmental Court in shaping the quality of life in Columbus central city neighborhoods. When questioned about the Franklin Park Trolley Barn, Macke simply said, “I cannot comment on cases that may come before me if elected, but let me assure you this case would not have languished under a Macke court.” Well said Mr. Macke.