Cameron Mitchell

Everybody in town knows who Cameron Mitchell is and many have dined at his local establishments, such as Cap City Diner. His meteoric rise from dishwasher to nationally recognized restaurateur is also well-known. His restaurants, while pricey and bougee for some, have given Columbus a je ne sais quoi flavor (kinda).

Ask anyone who has worked in one of his kitchens or carried his golf clubs at a local country club and they’ll tell you he’s a down-to-earth guy. Cameron also has significant influence over Ohio’s restaurant scene. The Free Press heard he had a big say on re-opening protocols during the pandemic. His restaurant group, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, sits on the Ohio Restaurant Association’s board, as does Wendy’s, White Castle and the ole’ Rusty Bucket, which Cameron is part owner.

The Ohio Restaurant Board (ORA) recently announced their support of Issue 1 or HJR1, a bill that will be put to a statewide vote in August, even though Republicans had banned August elections. Issue 1, if it passes, will require citizen-initiated amendments to earn 60 percent support in a statewide vote to change the Ohio Constitution. Majority rule thus squashed in the state of Ohio.

In response, the Clintonville Area Progressives and others called for boycotting those restaurants who’s ownership has a seat on the ORA’s board.

“Ohio voters are already burdened by a gerrymandered legislature and a coordinated attack on voting rights,” stated the Clintonville Area Progressives. “Issue 1 will undermine one of our last remaining tools of democracy: the ability for policies to enjoy majority support from voters to succeed at the ballot box.”

Retired Dispatch editorial writer, Mary Ann Edwards, who also serves on the board of directors of the Central Ohio Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, in a letter to the Dispatch, retorted: “Ohioans refusing to eat in those restaurants will cut the paychecks and tips of tens of thousands of fellow Ohioans who work there.”

The timing of Issue 1 is so damn suspicious. But no big surprise coming from the GOP-besieged Statehouse. Citizen-driven initiatives seeking reproductive choice, fair districts, and ending Qualified Immunity and legalizing recreational marijuana have all been in the works for months if not years, and some were eyeing this November’s ballot.

There’s another citizen amendment in Issue 1’s crosshairs. The SEIU, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, and others are seeking to fast-track Ohio’s entry level wage to $15-an-hour by 2026. The state’s current minimum wage is $10.10 an hour. The amendment is titled “Raise the Wage Ohio,” and signature gathering is underway (they need over 400,000). The amendment is also the reason the ORA has burnt their cheese fondue over Issue 1.

The ORA is saying the “Raise the Wage Ohio” amendment could “potentially eliminate” the tipped wage. Proponents of the amendment say this is a misrepresentation. The subminimum wage for tipped workers is still at $2.13-an-hour at the federal level, which has always been a source “of poverty, racial inequity and sexual harassment for millions of service workers nationwide.” A full minimum wage with tips on top shows that reducing workers’ dependence on tips also reduces racial inequities, say proponents.

If the amendment were to someday pass, the bottom line is restaurant owners would be forced to pay a higher hourly wage to their wait staff who can still make tips.

Cameron Mitchell and his restaurants this year are celebrating three decades in Columbus. Cameron has become a part of Central Ohio’s identity – an identity that’s come under serious debate of late as to what the heck exactly it is or should be.

Cameron is also a very wealthy man. He belongs to several (if not all) of Central Ohio’s “Big 4” country clubs: Muirfield Village, Scioto CC, The Golf Club, and Double Eagle CC.

The “Big 4” and their hardworking service workers have made Columbus a playground of sorts for 50-something ultra rich white guys, many of whom got fat off cheap labor and cheap goods from overseas being flown into Rickenbacker. A “playground for 50-something rich white guys” is an identity Columbus at-large doesn’t want, but que será, será unfortunately. These country clubs are also the remaining robber baron legacy of Ohio’s “old money.”

Cameron in many ways is part of “new money” Columbus. Over the previous 30 years many a local service sector worker has worked tirelessly hustling food, golf bags, or even taking their clothes off (strippers) so to make middle-age rich white men feel more comfortable and special than they already think they are.

“Raise the Wage Ohio” should, at the very least, have a chance at the ballot box, but rich white guys in the Statehouse, and their supporters, are scheming to squash this with Issue 1.