The Columbus City Council must compile a list of more than 100 names of people applying to create new home districts for prospective councilors before setting up a new council housing commission.
The new body will create districts where council members will reside and be elected from as of 2024, although voters across the city will continue to vote for each member.
Only five of the 124 applicants will make it to the commission as part of an amendment to the city charter, which was largely approved by voters in 2018.
“I am grateful to the diverse group of residents from all over the city who want to serve our city in this capacity,” said Councilor Emmanuel Remy in a written statement published by the city. The commission is another step forward in advocating for the neighborhood and strengthen the voice of the community in the legislative process. “
Remy could not be reached immediately on how to reduce the long list and what criteria to use.
While the list includes some more well-known names, it also includes dozens of everyday citizens, even some who are out of town who appear to be disqualified.
“That really is a very powerful sign,” said Napoleon Bell II, director of the Franklin Sheriff’s Office for Diversity, Justice and Inclusion, himself an applicant. “People want to make a difference, they want to be involved. It’s just about giving them the opportunity to participate.”
“I applied because I had a thirst for justice for everyone, and I have always recognized the importance of seeing both points of view,” wrote Brigitte Christom, an additional communications professor at Capital University, in her application. She has lived in the Columbus area for 17 years and has never applied for a political position.
“We live in a time when people are hungry for change and hungry to make the world a better place,” said Christom, mother of two teenagers from Jefferson Township.
Other members of the list include former member of the Columbus Board of Education, Jeff Cabot, Herb Asher, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Ohio State University, several members of the area committee, and numerous members of churches, welfare agencies, and other bodies and commissions. Many others report no experience in governance.
Applicants include 38 blacks, 72 whites, two non-whites, Hispanic, and 12 who list or do not disclose other races or ethnicities. The applicants also consist of 47 women, 73 men, one non-binary and three people who choose not to disclose gender.
The commission will have its seat until March 1st and will schedule nine public meetings to gather input from citizens. Any new borough that makes it will have roughly 100,000 residents and may split up some boroughs like Northland, which have significantly more residents.
At the end of 2021, the council must still select or vote the new district lines from one of three proposals put forward by the committee to reject them all and instruct the panel to continue its work.
The voter-approved amendment to the statutes will also add two new members to the seven-member council. In 2023, voters will elect the new nine-member council, whose members will have their seat in January 2024. The town clerk will draw lots to determine which of the nine members has a four-year term and which has a two-year term, staggered elections.
By requiring council candidates to run from a district, the new system sets the residency requirements that proponents say will ensure geographically diverse council.
Critics of the new system note that Ohio has nothing like it with 265 charter cities.
The proposal to elect council members by district arose out of recommendations from a charter review committee appointed by Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and City Council President Shannon Hardin in August 2016 to determine the size and structure of the elected council review total – or if all townspeople vote for each member – since 1916.
The new system eliminates these general field races for council seats and establishes head-to-head races for each council seat in the nine new districts. And all city voters take part in every race, not just those who live in the boroughs.
The long phase-in-phase should give the city time to prepare and update the census counts for district creation.