Man with a hat

David S. Harewood

There’s a cultural rule that holds one’s vote to be exceedingly private. The idea behind such secrecy is more than a matter of privacy: usually people refuse to discuss their political decisions because they lack the reasoning capability to justify their choices. Like the journalist’s pledge to objectivity, I’m breaking that rule.

To Hell with it. I’m a progressive advocate, not a journalist, so here goes: I officially endorse Yes votes on Ohio Issue 1 and Issue 2.

I’m voting Yes on Issue One. This Issue One enshrines certain reproductive rights into the Ohio Constitution in light of the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and Ohio’s increasingly draconian anti-birth-control measures. My reasoning for this is beyond the salaciousness of the story of the ten-year-old rape victim forced to carry a fetus to term here. For me, it’s an issue of human rights and self-determination, two tenets of which used to drive the political party whose extreme wing once used the issue as their primary recruiting tool. 

Every Fourth of July, the same people who plotted to gerrymander every state they could to amass power and push through these restrictions on women’s bodies wave the US flag while drinking Bud Light and blasting “Proud To Be An American”. They speak lovingly of Donald Trump and Thomas Jefferson in the same sentence, failing to see that the first of these figures has hoodwinked them for years and the former’s message of universal rights was peppered by the fact that Jefferson’s fortune came from the exploitation of slave labor.

Also, as much as Mike and Fran DeWine can say the law’s “not right for Ohio,” dogma attached to the governor’s faith dictates that the couple take this stance, much as Governor DeWine’s political affiliation has compelled him to acquiesce to some of his party’s most radically conservative measures and turning a blind eye while more corrupt members of his party bilked Ohioans for $60B under his watch. 

His admirable handling of the COVID-19 crisis notwithstanding, Governor DeWine’s conservative roots often cloud his judgment in matters of protection of the vulnerable. Besides— our state’s population is comprised of 52% women while only 31% of our Statehouse’s Senators and Representatives are women. Until representation in the statehouse mirrors that of the population, they should have no right to legislate rights of the bodies of most of the state. 

I’m also voting Yes on Issue Two, which will, if passed, regulate marijuana in this state just as alcohol is regulated: buyers will have to be 21 or over and show proper ID before purchase of any cannabis-related item. Under the new law, adults will be able to legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana at a time and the state will add a 10% sales tax to every purchase. 

Those who’ve followed the long and winding road toward marijuana legalization will remember the “Responsible Ohio” effort defeated a few years ago. That older initiative was clearly a power-grab that attempted to impose a monopoly on the market. States like California, Colorado, Vermont and that State Up North have purportedly made money hand over fist since relaxing marijuana restrictions and regulating sale and distribution. 

A “Yes” vote on Issue 2 is as practical a matter for me as it is a moral one: as a practical matter, it’s ridiculous that so many Ohioans ineligible for medical marijuana cards take day trips up to the Wolverine State just to replenish their supplies of tincture and edibles. Technically they’re taking schedule I substances across state lines every time they do so, risking increased punishment if, say, they came back across said state line with 2 ounces of marijuana, 5 packs of THC-infused gummy candies and a 2 ounce bottle of liquid tincture (not that I’ve ever done such a thing.)

For the challenged forthcoming Columbus City Council districts 2, 4, and 5, I respectively endorse Luis Gil, Adrienne Hood , and Farxan Jeyte. (The remaining six—yes, six—districts are unchallenged in this election. Two of those seats will likely be filled by first-time officeholders who were able to gather the proper amount of signatures for their runs for office— Chris Wyche and Melissa Green. Predictably, Incumbent councilmembers Shayla D. Favor and Lourdes Barros de Padilla, President Pro Tempore Rob Dorans and President Shannon G. Hardin run unopposed).

The best way to sum up the state of this year’s City Council elections would be to lead with the first line in Amy Winehouse’s “Me and Mr. Jones,” but I don’t believe editors would allow me to print the word in its entirety. The f-----y is real nonetheless: not once, not twice, but three times, concerned registered voters in Columbus petitioned the City to assume a district- or ward-based system so that people in distressed areas in the city could have direct and accountable Councilmembers to address specific regional needs. The first of these prompted then-Columbus City Council President Andrew J. Ginther to push through the “single-subject clause” in petition-driven charter amendments. The second of these was successful enough to force an August special election and lost by a margin of 30 to 70—after the City, in the campaign’s final weeks, rounded up their usual corporate backers to flood local airwaves with $1.1M in deceptive campaign ads. The third attempt to address this issue was defeated only after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the third attempt had violated the law Ginther had previously pushed through in order to prevent citizen-initiatives of any import to pass through legislation to begin with.

I know this because I ran most of the field for the second of these operations and was overall Campaign Director for the third. In the second and third campaigns, our teams delivered signatures of over 40K+ signatures demanding effective, ethical representation in Columbus. As it is, the forthcoming 9-member chamber will have a councilmember who lives in each district, but the people who live within that district have no more power to decide who represents them as in another: voters in the Short North, for instance, have as much a right to vote for the candidate of their choice in their own district as they do in Grandview and so on.

Speaking of Grandview, longtime Westland Area Commissioner Nancy Day-Achauer faces (Reaganite) Republican Gil in their northwest District 2; in the northside districts 3 and 4, incumbents Nick Bankston and Emmanuel Remy face Mr. Farxan and Ms. Hood, respectively.

For his part, Mr. Gil is probably running as a Republican for political viability reasons: that is, he knows he doesn’t have a Michigan fan’s chance of winning an argument about sports in the middle of campus to get a Franklin County Democratic Party (FCDP) endorsement and so runs as Republicans of color in an overwhelmingly white political party. (Beyond which the type of Democrat the FCDP molds looks more like a moderate Republican everyday anyway.) Furthermore, I’ve run into Luis at countless community events and have marched alongside him at a number of protests against police brutality and the deadly effects of reckless Statewide legislations pushed through by members of his own party. 

I’ve only ever seen Ms. Day-Achauer at Area Commission meetings, all of which are closely monitored by whichever Department of Neighborhoods representative the Mayor’s office sends to ensure that policy disagreements and substantive debates are kept to a minimum. Luis’ fiscal conservatism and concern for public safety coupled with his tacit support of police reform leads me to believe that he’d provide a balance to the normally all-yes votes in City Council, potentially slowing the rubber-stamping of tax abatement legislation and police appropriation, whereas Ms. Day-Achauer, ever the dutiful Democrat, would cave to internal pressure to side with the majority at every turn.

Besides, this stupid hybrid district model needs its flaws exposed immediately to force the City to enact the substantive electoral reform for which Columbusites have clamored for the last decade. To that end, it’s imperative to stress that not all Democrats are progressive public servants. Because of the incestuous relationship our local government has with big business, they’re mostly neocolonial petty bourgeoisie who’re trying to wield as much power or make as much money as their corporate bosses dangle in front of them. Those Democrats who press other members of their party toward more people-centric needs and/or asset-based enrichment tend to be ostracized within the Party, even as we see the City fail, time and again, to meet the basic needs of the people.

Nick Bankston is a direct beneficiary and potential co-architect of this shell game of a system that’s about to come to Columbus. After all, his website proudly mentions his role in the formation of the Civilian Review Board, whose toothlessness grins at us at every public meeting. As he is the chair of development and his long standing as a City partner and employee, this tendency leads me to believe that Mr. Bankston is far more inclined to uphold a status quo that's caused one of the most glaring examples of the socioeconomic divide in this city—which our incumbents would, for the most part, rather we forgot. Mr. Farxan’s position within our growing Somali community would give the people yet more of an opportunity to slow the tide of gentrification championed by Mr. Bankston."

Emmanuel Remy is a quintessential Democratic Party team player. A former President of the Northland Area Commission and a real estate agent who was once advertised as doing business mostly in Upper Arlington, Councilmember Remy has been a Democratic stalwart for years. He’s cut from just the mold that this Democratic Party—more Clintonian (read: Reaganite) than anything. He’s also chair of the Public Safety Committee, whose departmental failure thrust Ms. Adrienne Hood into activism and, subsequently, into this run for office before Mr. Remy was installed into Council to fill a vacancy.

Incidentally, all current incumbent officeholders on Council were installed to fill vacancies before subsequently running as incumbents. The decidedly undemocratic way the FCDP chooses to endorse candidates is the worst kept secret in town, and those who benefit from it have no incentive to call the process out for the corruption it encourages. Savvy members of FCDP leadership have known that Ms. Hood is neither an inside Party person like Mr. Remy nor owes any portion of their livelihood to the City as does Mr. Bankston. They know this well enough to have allowed her election to the FCDP Central Committee in March of 2020 without objection, and even better to have rendered her position within that committee to be mostly ceremonial.

Ms. Hood isn’t running so she can gain more power or run for higher office like so many of the incumbents and fellow challengers. She has no ambition to be the First Black US Senator from the State of Ohio nor the first Black woman to be voted in as Mayor of Columbus—at least as far as I know. She’s running because she’s a person of deep faith who served this country in the Army, then Air Force Reserves, retiring recently as a Master Sergeant; a former public servant who drove for Columbus City Schools and served in their Security Department; she’s also a mother who lost her son, Henry Green V (his friends and family called him “Bub”) to city-sanctioned violence in the summer of 2016.

The police apparatus in this city have a habit of killing people—mostly Black, mostly young, often in the back; so Ms. Hood is hardly the first “member of a club nobody wants to be a part of” as she’s called it, referring to family members of those slain by law enforcement under questionable circumstances. The pace of police violence has risen this year: the average police-involved shooting rate was three per year from the time I arrived in this city a decade ago. This year there have been 8. The most recent of these was in a nearby township so it’s technically out of the City’s wheelhouse. 

As to the other seven—including when an officer who’d already been sued for excessive force shot a Black man in the back—while he was running toward a peace march in the South Side, no less—all happened under Remy’s watch. Given that the city has gone out of its way to create the appearance of police accountability (with the dog-and-pony show that’s become of the Civilian Review Board—but more of that later,) and a PR-driven Police Chief who’s slowly but surely re-instituting some of the very worst practices of enforcement in order to curtail the ongoing epidemic of violence, the people of Columbus need a voice within City Council to highlight the concerns that those of us without fealty to Party over people have. Ms. Hood will be that voice within Council. 

For mayor, I will cast my vote for longtime activist and 42-year member of Laborers Local 423, Joe Motil, challenging former Council President and incumbent mayor Andrew J. “Andy” Ginther. Regular readers and friends of mine might disagree, but Ginther hasn’t been hateful. When pressed in public, he at least gives the impression that he’s listening. He’s also content to lean on the tentacles of City government to enforce the more draconian measures the City takes in order to maintain the bland, corporate veneer that’s made developers so much money in the last twenty years-- some of which Ginther himself constructed.

Motil has been a frequent candidate, each time coming short of the coveted FCDP endorsement. It’s odd, then, that Ginther has run an attack ad against him: this proves that Motil’s near-constant presence at City Council meetings testifying against every developer-friendly tax abatement, the occasional questionable policing action, and at least once against the City’s at-best dismissive and at-worst cruel treatment of our houseless population. I ran into Joe multiple times during the 2020 Uprising, including on the first weekend. The first was on Saturday, May 30th—the same day that Council President Hardin and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty were sprayed (with an honorable mention to Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce, who was probably sprayed but was instead shown from his back in photos in which he was comforting our Congresswoman.) When I ran into Joe that afternoon, he’d been sprayed twice. He kept going.

I never saw Ginther in person during that time, and I was downtown at least five days per week that entire summer.

Last June, Joe quietly donated money toward basic sanitation for Camp Shameless, the near-east side houseless camp FIRST Collective built in response to the pre-emptive closing of multiple warming stations and the near-jail conditions at our shelters. In August of that year, he was among those willing to accept arrest for a protest we orchestrated. Two days after that group was released from jail, a group of us sat at dinner to celebrate their release and plan a forthcoming pressure campaign to ensure that the 14 people living at Camp Shameless got decent housing. Due to yet more pressure, the Columbus Police released the video of Officer Ricky Anderson’s murder of Donovan Lewis. 

Joe watched it with us. He marched with us the following week.

At the time, our incumbent mayor, Mr. Ginther, told the mainstream media that we should remain calm and, while noting that he had been relieved that our immediate actions had been “peaceful” and “calm”, he said “". . .I just ask everybody to show some patience and allow the chief and all the reforms that we've made to work through this process together." 

The mayor never stood with us in person. Joe was right there.