Black man in a hat

David S. Harewood

I last saw Councilmember Shayla D. Favor on Tuesday, August 2nd. She and I had arrived at our mutual polling location at the Blackburn Community Center to cast our ballots in the Democratic primary election. As luck would have it, we’re registered in the same district, District 1. 

Our exchanges over the previous two months had been contentious if cordial, negotiable if slightly adversarial. As Chair of Housing and Health and Human Services, her office had the keenest interest in Camp Shameless, a houseless camp for which I advocate as a member of a local nonprofit called FIRST Collective, a group of activists making art, creating social infrastructure and fostering community through mutual aid.

My position as an executive committee member with the Columbus Coalition for Rent Control has put us in a place of needed negotiation given Councilmember Favor’s position as well. 

As chair of the City’s Criminal Justice and Judiciary Committee, her office’s inaction every time a member of law enforcement has wrongfully killed, harassed, detained or charged any number of my friends, community members and/or comrades makes her one of the most influential members of Council – and potentially the one with the most for which to be held accountable.

Two months prior to the vote on August 2nd, members of the FIRST Collective held a meeting with her office to discuss a plan to use around $200,000 to convert the camp into temporary tiny homes using American Rescue Plan funds. Not a single dime of the $93 million they’d received of a proposed $168 million total had yet been spent, The city’s housing crisis makes headlines every few days and our group had proposed a model to do something about it.

“We don’t invest in tent cities,” she told us. 

Her office did, however, promise to work with us and had assured us that no one from City Council would move to have us removed from the lot. 

I was reminded then of the time I first saw Councilmember Favor in person. It was February or March of 2019 at the Lincoln Cafe, a Black-owned diner on Long St. in King Lincoln/Bronzeville. 

I was working on my laptop in a back table while Ms. Favor, recently appointed to City Council (having replaced Ms. Jaiza Paige, who’d been elected as a municipal judge in the previous election cycle), was addressing a group of young people. Ms. Favor spoke effusively of her time working for Zach Klein’s City Attorney’s Office and cautioned them that financial literacy was the key to all future success.

Mr. Klein, who’d also had been appointed to City Council – after shifting political parties from GOP to Democrat in 2011 – was promoted to City Council President in 2016 and won the City Attorney’s Office in 2018. 

I was a guest at his ceremonial swearing-in while working on a citywide campaign. During his inaugural speech, he stressed the importance of addressing the opioid crisis. Weeks after taking office, his official Twitter feed began touting the closures of a series of “drug houses” – all of which were in economically depressed, majority-minority areas. 

Flash forward to March 2019: Ms. Favor, freshly off her job at the City Attorney’s Office and the new head of the Criminal Justice, Housing, and Health and Human Services Committees, was surely aware of the recent disappearance of Amber Evans, another daughter of the city who’d been given the job of Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Coalition around the same time that Ms. Favor had taken office. 

During his time as City Council President, Mr. Klein had several encounters with Amber as an organizer with the People’s Justice Project, who’d mounted several protests inside City Hall calling for justice for those slain by Columbus police in recent years – mostly Black, mostly juveniles, and usually shot in the back. 

Amber had also been instrumental in a statewide campaign in 2018 to reduce the sentences of nonviolent drug offenders – a measure that the Columbus City Attorney’s Office opposed and, immediately after the citizen-led effort’s defeat at the ballot box, replaced with a diluted version that the overwhelmingly Republican Ohio Assembly would adopt.

Despite that Ms. Favor would later chair the Criminal Justice committee on Council, her position at the City Attorney’s Office was that of Zoning – hence her pride in describing the systematic shutdown of houses under her watch in her previous position.

A few weeks after I first saw Ms. Favor in person, Columbus police found Amber’s body awash in the Scioto.

Flash forward to the last time I saw Ms. Favor at the polling location. The week before, Camp Shameless had been issued an eviction notice by the City. The two of us exchanged pleasantries. I then asked her about the eviction notice.

“About that,” she said. “I wanted you to know that City Council had nothing to do with it. The City Attorney’s office got involved. It was out of our hands at that point.”

It’s now 2022. I’m not sure how much the City Attorney’s Office staff has changed since her appointment to Council, but Mr. Klein still acts as the City’s chief counsel. Once an employee, she is now one of Klein’s office’s clients.  

The last time I saw Judge Paige – also at the Lincoln Café – she hugged me hello. I told her that I was glad she’d gotten out of the city machine and might be able to do some good in her new position with the Court of Common Pleas. She thanked me but declined to verbally acknowledge the shot I’d taken at her former legislative body.

Once she’s done with the machinations of city government, I might be able to have a similar conversation with Councilmember Favor. On the other hand, the member she replaced – Councilmember Priscilla Tyson – had retired as the longest-serving female member of Council in its history. 

This City loves having a true daughter of Columbus in a seat of power – whether she uses it for the good of Columbus or not. 

David S. Harewood is a writer, director, stagehand, and advocate in no particular order. A native of Dayton who’s called Columbus “home” for the last decade, David toggles his time between fighting for social justice and making performing arts pieces about its struggles.