The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio’s capitol city daily monopoly, asserts that Columbus’ seven City Council members are “accountable to the entire city.” The Dispatch professes that the current system “remains preferable [to a system] made up of ward politicians pushing for the interests of their neighborhoods above all others.”

What the Dispatch conveniently leaves out is that the Titans that run Columbus, for the most part, live in the affluent suburbs of Bexley, New Albany, Powell, and Dublin. The Wolfe family with their closely held control of their central Ohio media empire, has long found it easier to deal with seven at-large Council members than to face the wrath of the neglected southwest and east sides of the city.

Without a petition to create City Council wards even being circulated, the Dispatch has launched a pre-emptive editorial attack on Keep Council Open, the group that led the charge against Council’s doors closed for the first time in history with the recent ballot question, Issue 12. The Dispatch argues that “Columbus has thrived in comparison with other Midwestern cities, and part of that success can be attributed to the fact that city councils and mayors see their chief responsibility as working together to shape policies, encouraging economic growth and addressing social needs throughout the city….”

What the Dispatch editorial ignores are the facts regularly printed in their newspaper, that virtually every vote on the Columbus City Council is unanimous and there’s little if any dialog or debate on any issues before the Council. The Dispatch conjures up the evils of “Cleveland, Chicago and other cities with old-style wards” when they know full well that the real backroom dealing is done by the Wolfe family and their wealthy friends at the private Columbus Club.

What the Wolfe family fears is that if you had a ward system it would be more difficult for developers like themselves to buy up the politicians. Raising money to run and represent one-seventh of a city is much easier than raising money to be elected in a city at large with well over 700,000 people.

Even more curious, the Wolfe family, long associated with the Republican Party, brings up the specter of Republican involvement in the ward system. The Dispatch is attempting to scare people away from a more representative Council system by portraying is as a Republican plot. The progressive peace and environmental communities are on the record in support of a mixed at-large/ward system through a resolution passed at the Citizens Grassroots Congress.

The Dispatch goes so far as to suggest that by giving Council representation to the impoverished south side or the neglected west side or the traditionally black community on the east side of Columbus, they’ll have less input than in the current system that has sprawled Columbus into adjacent counties and takes its orders from a suburban elite.

The Wolfe family and the Dispatch editorial board love the current setup because it functions like an authoritarian one-party system. It ignores all talk of sustainability, would never think of passing a resolution against illegal wars like Iraq, and could not even contemplate the idea of windmills or solar panels like the city of Bowling Green. The current system lacks any democratic dialog and is intolerant of any new ideas, which are dismissed as dangerous dissent.


Bob Fitrakis served as counsel for Keep Council Open.