Handgun and bullets

Dear Andy, I cannot address you as “mayor.” You take the salary but refuse to do the work. You never accept responsibility, not even for your own staff lobbying for your benefit. You do not tell the truth. You do not lead. You have no policies. Your slogans are poor.

As elected “mayor” and lifelong professional politician (unlike Joe Motil, whom you dishonestly tarnish with that label in your legally actional campaign misconduct), you fail the City and the city of Columbus.

You, Columbus Police Department chiefs, and the city council that knows little about cities in general and Columbus in particular—and the private interests who dictate their orders to you—are collectively responsible for the failing state of our city.

Admit it: Columbus is the site of mounting violence especially with guns and vehicles. Columbus has no visible public safety. This is true even in the favored but declining Short North whose owners give you commands, including discriminating against the day-to-day well-being of food truck owners/workers. You recent claims of safety based on less than two weeks ONLY in the Short North ignore the ongoing violence everywhere else in Columbus.

Ignoring the city as a whole, you overload the Short North unnecessarily on weekends with military-like armed force, human and overwise. But no one in your administration or you acknowledge that CPD is a zero-sum game. Each resource moved from another area directly increases the chances of crime and violence elsewhere. That’s exactly what is happening now: from shootings to “block parties,” street drag races, car break-ins and thefts, robberies, and more.

Can no one in City government or CPD do simple arithmetic?

Columbus has no traffic control or patrolling. The physical city is broken, decayed, and ignored except by visitors to the city and people who live here. Scooters are a threat to everyone on streets and sidewalks. Neither Public Service nor Zoning and Neighborhoods finds it worthwhile to inspect and maintain the city. There is no profit for them in doing their officially-mandated work.

What does Andy do? Unconscionably, shamefully, ignorantly, and distractingly, he blames Ohio Republicans for allowing almost completely unrestricted access to guns. Even more offensively, on Tuesday, May 30, he shifted to blaming parents. And he increased the intensity of his whining daily. This is ignorant. It is also irresponsible and offensive to all.

Andy, your office, along with your non-“public safety” officers, CPD chiefs, and so-called city council public safety chair, hold major responsibilities. Do any of you know what “taking responsibility,” making policy,” “conflict of interest,” “public service,” or “honesty” mean?

No, none of you do. At the same time, your “campaign” for re-election” plants a completely false letter in the Columbus Dispatch (May 31, 2023) proclaiming without a single specific example “Mayor Ginther’s top priority is safety.” Written like a typical set of Andy’s empty slogans, Kelly Harrop brazenly asserts in poor prose: “Only Mayor Ginther’s many years in office and his strong leadership can enact this [not specified] type of real change across ALL city neighborhoods. Crime, affordability and sustainability issues do no pick and choose by address…. Living under a rock. I think not. Try leading the City of Columbus as an architect of change, growth and revitalization from right where he belongs, behind the mayor’s desk at City Hall.”

That’s quite a fabrication even for the unchecked Opinion page. “Architect,” “change,” “growth,” “revitalization.” Not in Ginther’s “Opportunity—for the very few who pay to play—city.”

While blaming everyone but himself and own administration for Columbus’ accelerating decline, available actions are ignored. First, recommended to city government for more than three years is the city after city very successful program of responsible gun buybacks. I, for one, have urged all relevant parties to take this step and also provided data from other cities. Paying between $200 and $300 per gun greatly reduces the numbers in the hands of those who are only likely to take them to the streets when they cannot afford food or housing, or find themselves threatened.

On one hand, there is no way completely to stop gun violence. On the other hand, there are tried and proven ways to reduce it substantially. Given the NRA’s successful, well-funded blockage of legitimate Second Amendment controls of federal and state regulation, Ginther’s Columbus refuses. It is easier to have record-levels of shootings and killings (including by CPD) than to enact a program. And pointlessly suing State AG Yo Yost only keeps City Attorney Klein’s name in the news.

City refusal to take responsibility and enact actual policies is part of Ginther’s pattern of malpractice. He single-handedly reduced an already short-handed CPD with an excessive, uncontrolled $22 million retirement bonus buyout for 100 officers ($20 million) and four senior administrators ($2 million). Challenged over almost three years, Ginther never explained his grossly wasteful program that rid CPD of some of its best.

Despite hiring a new chief who brought her own assistant chief, and then creating two new branches purportedly relating to public safety in the mayor’s office and a still undefined Citizen Review Board (whose members inexplicably and unconstitutionally lose their First Amendment rights), neither the city nor Ginther sees any improvement in policing. There is almost no progress in filling vacancies.

Coordination, communications, and training remain substandard. The police chief is rarely seen in public. The assistant chief aims to “disrupt the disruptors,” but cannot state who, when, what, how? Recently, and alarmingly, the head of one of the US’s most obstructive Fraternal Order of Police chapters says more to the public through the major media than Chief Bryant.

CPD has a history of toggling between overuse of force—response to public peaceful protests following the police murder of George Floyd, among other episodes—and failure to act—the scandalous neglect of law enforcement during the 2021 Chittfest riot or on OSU football weekends, to take just two examples. Veteran police on the beat speak in detail off the record to private citizens like me and my neighbors.

Much like trash collection for which we get slogans, do-nothing programs like Cleaner Columbus and Litter League, and expensive TV ads, on public unsafety, when not blaming parents or the Statehouse, Ginther whines without substance about violence being “unacceptable,” “doing everything we/I can,” and “spending whatever it takes.” Of course, he does none of that.

Council fusses about spending millions of taxpayer dollars on helicopters (whose sale Ginther fumbled badly), drones, shot-spotters, cameras, and the like. They have no demonstrable effect in reducing crime and violence. Not even director of development Stephens can misread numbers and percentages to assert any positive results.

Drive around the broken city where no traffic laws are enforced. Look at the location of cameras and near OSU spotlights: they are clustered closely together typically near permanent light sources. No wonder that they do not stop block parties and drag races, let alone 45 drunken students on a roof not built to hold any human weight.

Why do CPD officers, including do-nothing “joint patrols” and Block Watchers near OSU, “see” nothing. How can they miss crowds of 100s of people and masses of vehicles?

Residents and paid officials of Columbus: It is 2023. We know so much about the causes and varieties of responses to crime and violence. Guns on the streets can be reduced. Yet the sloganeers of Columbus say nothing about the news report of much of the city as an “aquatic”—public swimming pool—desert as well as food and health deserts. Those are sources of crime.

Millions of dollars for limited early teen sports leagues run by councilors’ buddies and related “non-profits” while underfunding the radically unsupported Columbus City Schools. Direct payments and tax-giveaways for apartment buildings hither and yon with no design, traffic, or location review. But almost no direct funding for genuine affordable housing or responsible humane policies addressing daily rising homelessness. Criminal justice programs and reform are never mentioned.

In the place of any program, policy, timetable, or measure of accountability, council announces late on May 31, a June 2 “Gun Violence Awareness Vigil and Illumination.” But I must ask: who is not aware of gun violence? City Council?

Ginther, council, and the dictators of Colemanville and The Columbus Way don’t know and don’t care. If a bad slogan doesn’t fit, end of story. End of city with no concrete dreams, also known as the biggest little city in the United States.

Oh, there is now the basis for a bit of sculpted identity. For Nick Bankston and Ed Lentz (the Dispatch’s favorite pretend historian), the unrestrained admirers of the single lonely metal deer sculpture on the bank of the Scioto River, Columbus is well on its way to becoming Deer- and/or Rabbit-Ville or City.

Foraging deer and rabbits in search of food to survive are now taking over the University District and Clintonville. Living on the fruits of vegetable and flower patches, they are endangered by vehicles and drunks.

311 does not know to whom to send my reports and requests for prompt humane responses to the plight of nonhumane wildlife. Of course, they cannot deal with human problems either. That is not in The Columbus Way playbook.


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 was 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.