Does he live in the United States? On planet Earth?
Columbus statue

Given his public statements and his actions especially as mayor of Columbus, Ohio, I have been forced to ask a number of times: does Andy Ginther actually live in the city of Columbus? He does not know the physical, socio-cultural, economic, or political city. He is clueless about any identity, and profoundly ignorant of its largely undocumented and unwritten history.

His latest comments force me to ask: does he live in the United States? On Earth?

The evidence is increasingly clear: Andy lives in a wholly imaginary fantasy land. Remember that this is the lifelong professional politician who barely lives within the city borders. The mayor who has never heard of conflict of interest or ethics (despite issuing his own weak and ignored pieces of paper), and who accepts no responsibility for the ethical and legal violations of his staff. The mayor who mutters that “gun violence is a public health crisis,” while he actively weakens the Columbus Police Division and has no real concrete safety policies. For his own failings, he blames the State of Ohio and parents indiscriminately, Never the official divisions of the City of which he remains ignorant while pretending to lead.

Most of all, I underscore that only Andy declared that “Columbus is America’s ‘Opportunity City’” meaning “Opportunity for selected private interests.” His office’s website has the dishonest temerity to state that during his time in office “Columbus has been called ‘America’s Opportunity City,’” when Ginther is only person who can be documented making that statement. That is a singular act of distortion and dishonesty promoted on official public sites.

Of course, this is only the tip of the melting iceberg flowing into the tiny Scioto River now that it cannot fill the imaginary, environmentally destructive Rapid 5 nonsense of kayaking a canal to work or to have dinner at locations that do not exist in downtown Columbus, that is, in Colemanville.

Against the odds, Andy has now outdone himself. In the domain of the absurd, it involves Ginther’s bromance with the city—along with dozens of other US cities—namesake Christopher Columbus. We note that Columbus did not discover America as schoolgirls and boys were long told. He was an agent of Spanish and Italian colonial ravages, death, and destruction.

Along with all the other geographic places that carry the historical weight of the centuries’ old naming for Columbus’ fictional actions, Columbus, Ohio has a historical and identity problem. This was present long before the 2020 Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd. A city cannot have either an identity or a history if its memory is no more than three years long.

The questions surrounding Christopher Columbus have grown in historical awareness and understanding for at least 70 years. With typical contradiction and absolutely no awareness, Columbus, Ohio accepted the gift of its now challenged statue of Christopher C. from Genoa, Italy in 1955.

This is one of the City’s two statues, boxed for more than 2 ½ years, while the third continues prominently in front of the Ohio State House. Many cities and other institutions have struggled with such issues for more than 50 years, not less than three. Columbus refuses to look at and learn from any other city.

Typically, Andy’s response is simultaneously to throw away excessive amount of public dollars and gush incoherently.

In The Columbus Way, with no serious thought or study, Council hired an unqualified advisor, not even a consultant, in 2021-22. No report, if it exists, has been shared with the tax-paying, voting public of residents.

Now, in June 2023, in the middle of his third election campaign with no platform and a refusal to debate Democratic challenger Joe Motil (about whom Andy’s campaign lies and slanders), on June 20, the City suddenly announced a $3.5 million commitment “toward a new public art sculpture at city hall.” $2 million, we are told, comes from the Mellon Foundation’s unclear Monuments Project.

Ginther gushed unintelligibly with this murky announcement of nothing concrete—multiple meanings intended. Without specifying the “narrative” that he is “rewriting” with a ”visualization,” Andy says, “Today we take the next steps in rewriting our narrative. We take responsibility to tell the truth about colonization and racism, and to tell the stories of the people who have been overlooked and erased from the telling of our history.”

As a professional historian and 20-year long resident of Columbus, Ohio, I have no idea what he is talking about from which and whose “narrative” to the act(s) of “rewriting” in stone. What does he mean by “responsibility” and “truth.”? “Tell” what “stories” about “whom” and by “whom”? What is the relevance of “colonization” to the identity and history of Columbus, Ohio? What does Andy mean by “colonization”? All this is important.

What, indeed, does he mean in 2023 by “telling of our history.” There is no one history except in the eyes of the right-wing deniers of documented, inclusive, even “challenging” and “uncomfortable” history. There is no one history except in the ideologies of the 1620, 1776, and 1836 (Texas Independence) Projects. If Andy seeks a singular “our history,” that is the right-wing, anti-history side of the “history” and “culture wars.”

Fantasized as “Reimaging Columbus,” Andy has no idea what he is “reimagining,” how, what, or to what end? It matters. It is not imaginary, singular, or timeless. Andy wants to “recontextualize” the statute. Unfortunately, he cannot do that: it was never contextualized.

Of course, the enterprise has no contributions from professional historians. That is against The Columbus Way. Facts, expertise, interpretation, discussion, and the like are anathema.

In lieu of actual study and knowledge, Andy seeks a typical City series of “community” events with no rhyme or reason that bear no relationship to the tasks at hand and the results. This is among the many substitutes for genuine involvement in anti-democratic, unrepresentative Columbus where private interests and money determine all outcomes.

Finally, a complicated, conflict-ridden, contradictory history cannot be one or a few “visualizations” in a bit of stereotypical, superficial public art. This is ignorant, offensive, and guaranteed to fail in the eyes of all except, of course, Andy, council, various commissions without expertise, and of course the recipients of the cash.

“The plan [there is no plan at present] is a tool to guide communities in public art planning in the short and long term, with an emphasis on the equitable distribution of arts in the public realm and diverse and inclusive representation of both artists the communities they serve,” added Janet Goldstein, vice president of marketing for the Greater Columbus Arts Council,

“Marketing” public art, eh? “Equitable distribution of arts”? Ms. Goldstein, I challenge you to translate that into meaningful, communicative English.

In the fabulous (in the sense of Intel’s fabs rather than factories in the original word choice of CEO Pat Gelzinger-speak) Columbus Way, it is no accident that at the same time as Andy’s announcement, Brett Kaufman, the developer of the anti-urban-anti-aesthetic multi-colored architectural disaster on the boundary of downtown and Franklinton, tells us about a second phrase for the not yet completed Gravity mixed use commercial development. Kaufman has never stated why his out-of-control development is named Gravity, unless it marks its proximity to COSI. Or does it signify that like Humpty Dumpty, “all falls down”?

Celebrated—of course--by city boosting Columbus Dispatch and even more advertisement-determined Columbus Underground (which has never been “underground”), Phrase Two is characterized by multi-colored “adult dorms” and a “cold-plunge pool.” Overall, seven new buildings, it is claimed, will join the present ones to occupy one million square feet. Gravity takes The Columbus Way award not for mixed use but perhaps for mixed-up uses. Metaphors, analogies, images collide like lost satellites falling from the skies.

The promotional announcement of Gravity Two never mention “market.” Who will wish to live in “adult dorms” and unsanitary “cold plunges” in more than a dozen 1 to 12 story buildings with no clear overall design? This is The Columbus Way of marketing without a market.

What else should we expect in the wild project that calls itself “the world’s largest conscious community,” without defining either “community” or “conscious.” Its developer does not seem “conscious.”

Perhaps Andy should move Christopher C’s supposed likeness to Gravity. It could add to the fab-ulous “conscious” or is it “unconscious community.” With the lonely deer on the narrow bank of the Scioto not far away, we might have The Columbus Way’s inversion of Disneyland or Disneyworld. Ot, is the Dizzy-land or -world?

Columbus, Ohio, is neither “community,” nor “conscious.”

Postscript  Oh, yes. By late 2024, Columbus may or may not add to its “identity” and “narrative” when Puttshack, an indoor miniature golf chain franchise replete with beer pong and a bar, supposedly comes to town. Andy, be sure to leave a space in “our narrative” for Gravity and Puttshack. And the not yet written “great” Columbus novel will be entitled “Gravity’s Rainbow Over the Scioto.” I hear James Thurber tossing in his grave.


Harvey J. Graff is Professor Emeritus of English and History at The Ohio State University and inaugural Ohio Eminent Scholar in Literacy Studies. Author of many books, most recently he published Searching for Literacy: The Social and Intellectual Origins of Literacy Studies in 2022. My Life with Literacy: The Continuing Education of a Historian. The Intersections of the Personal, the Political, the Academic, and Place is forthcoming. “Reconstructing the new ‘uni-versity’ from the ashes of the 'multi- and mega-versity’” is in progress.