Gary Witte

November 10, 2022

Our city is in a desperate housing crisis. The evidence is all around us. Huddled masses of beggars at intersections, shelters at capacity, tent squatters springing up on many vacant lots, thousands of families waiting for available Section 8 housing, while hundreds also suffer evictions every month. Meanwhile, thousands are wondering how they will survive the coming harsh winter. 

This city (whose Mayor proudly claims Columbus as the “Opportunity City”) offers very little in opportunity to those stuck in poverty and who are homeless.

The City Council continues their catering to the wealthy and greedy developers while turning their backs on the needy and those in poverty. The wealthy get tax breaks and perks while the poor get empty promises and bulldozers slamming through their tents. This is mean-spirited, cold-hearted, morally disgusting and indefensible.

So, yes, I am guilty of trespassing and camping on the front lawn of Mr. Hardin’s beautiful home.  It was an act of premeditated civil disobedience that protested the lack of hospitality shown to our brothers and sisters in peril and at risk.

Not only I, but also my colleagues, are disappointed with Mr. Hardin’s and his Council’s harsh and neglectful policies. I firmly believe that he needs to work on his own personal hospitality skills by shouting at us to “Get the hell off my lawn” after we invited him to sit down and talk civilly with us. Hospitality, and the lack of it, is the core issue here.

I am guilty, guilty of putting my faith in a radically hospitable God who calls us to care for the lost and forgotten. I am guilty of a hope that our city will act out of values that all people deserve dignity and rights. It is my conviction that the good and decent people of our city want our government to do its job of providing for the general welfare of all its people and not the “entitled wealthy”. 

I will comply with the agreement worked out by my lawyer with the Prosecutor to accept a fine and community service which I have already completed. However, “disorderly conduct” is a misnomer because our actions were premeditated and organized by a group of committed citizens concerned about the well-being of their brothers and sisters. There really was no disorderliness about our actions. We are sick and tired of this city charging the owners of a 140-million-dollar soccer stadium $10 a year rent while our people scrounge to find a roof over their heads. We can and must, as a city, do better. Thank you, your Honor, for allowing me to make this statement.