WCBE

Draft Plan To Change City Council Structure Drawing Fire

Feb 17, 2017

A panel of people selected by Columbus City officials is scheduled to hold its final meeting this afternoon to discuss plans to change the structure of City Council.

A draft of the Columbus Charter Review Commission's proposal, crafted following more than a dozen public meetings, is already drawing criticism. Jim Letizia reports.

Last year, Mayor Andy Ginther and Council member Shannon Hardin appointed the commission after community activists collected thousands of petition signatures to ask voters last August to create a 13-person council with 10 ward representatives and three at-large members. Less than ten percent of Columbus voters turned out for the special election and handily rejected the ballot issue that was endorsed by the Franklin County Republican Party but opposed by the county Democratic Party. All of Columbus' elected leaders are Democrats. The draft proposal recommends a nine-member City Council elected by a hybrid system in which members live in specific districts, but are elected on an at-large basis. Candidates would run in head-to-head races for district seats voted on by the general public. Primaries would continue to be non-partisan with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election. The proposal includes creation of a policy that appoints new members to fill unexpired seats who will not run in the next election. Council members currently appoint a new member who then runs with the advantage of incumbency, which allows the Democrats to maintain control of Council. Local Republicans say the proposal does nothing to change the Democratic stranglehold at City Hall, and they criticize the commission for failing to take up the issue of campaign finance reform. Local Democrats say the proposal ensures neighborhood representation while not harming voter rights. Any changes must be approved by Columbus voters. The commission's final meeting is at 2pm at City Hall.