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Supporters Of Ward Representation Say City Leaders Want To Undermine Voters

Columbus City Hall
Creative Commons
On August 2nd voters will decide if they prefer a city councli with at large representation, or a ward-based system.

The group Represent Columbus gathered 39,000 signatures to get a proposal on the ballot for a special election in August. If voters approve, Issue 1 would move city council from at-large representation to a ward-based system.

City leaders have recently come out against Issue 1, and members of Represent Columbus say their opposition is an attempt to undermine the will of the people.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther says Issue 1 was created in secret and people were not told that enlarging city council will take money away from neighborhoods. He says that's why he's formed a charter review committee to gather public feedback and research the best way to restructure city council.

"This group will come together and have its first meeting in September," said Ginther. "They'll do their due diligence, do their research. Look at best practices from around the county and then ultimately come back with some recommendations early next year."

After the Mayor and city council have had the chance to make revisions, any proposals to change the city charter could wind up on a ballot shortly thereafter.

Jon Beard with Represent Columbus says Ginther's efforts come too late.

Since 2012, Beard says their group has tried to work with city leaders on this issue, but they've been ignored. Now Beard says they've followed the democratic process with a citizens' initiative, and in less than a month voters will decide how they think city council should be structured.

If Issue 1 is approved, Columbus City Coucil would move from seven at-large members to a total of 13 members, with ten coming from individual ward or neighborhoods and three at-large members. It would also create a commission to create the wards.

Beard thinks city leaders are scared they'll lose control of local government.

"What I think they've done is they've done polling, and they know that people like Issue 1 and they believe it's going to pass handedly and now they're trying to submarine the vote," said Beard.

If Issue 1 passes on August 2, Beard says the new elected officials would be voted into office by 2018. The cost to the city would be about $400,000 dollars a year and that, Beard says, is the cost of democracy.