Marijuana plants

Issue 1: Ohio Bipartisan Redistricting Commission Amendment

What’s the issue?

   Issue 1 attempts to end the blatant partisan gerrymandering of Ohio’s state legislative districts.

ger·ry·man·der (ˈjerēˌmandər/), verb. Definition: gerund or present participle:
“gerrymandering” -- to manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency)
so as to favor one party or class.

    Issue 1 creates a redistricting commission, including members from the two major parties, that would redraw Ohio’s House and Senate districts. The plan requires that four out of seven members of the commission vote to approve a redistricting plan and one of the votes must come from the major party that is not in the majority on the commission. Essentially, Issue 1 gives Ohio’s major opposition party veto power to prevent unfair district rigging.

Pros and Cons

   The amendment is supported by both major political parties and Ohio government reform groups like Common Cause Ohio and the League of Women Voters. It is also endorsed by the Ohio Educational Association.
   Ohio is fairly evenly split between Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Of the 33 state senators only 10 are Democrats and 23 are Republicans. In the Ohio House, only 34 are Democrats and 65 are Republicans. If these districts were drawn in a bipartisan manner, there would be roughly an even split.
   A criticism of the plan is that it continues to allow absurdly partisan Congressional district rigging. That’s why they call us a “battleground state.” A better model would have been to create a nonpartisan commission charged with drawing compact and competitive districts.
  While there’s no substantial opposition to Issue 1, its biggest enemies are apathy and ignorance of the gerrymandering problem and the fact that the pot issues 2 & 3 have completely dominated the state’s political discourse.

Issue 2: The Ohio Initiated Monopolies Amendment

What’s the issue?

   Issue 2 proposes an amendment to the Ohio Constitution initiated by the Ohio General Assembly. The motivation behind Issue 2 is to thwart the passage of The Marijuana Legalization Amendment, Issue 3. The issue was rushed through the Ohio legislature in a mere two weeks in an attempt to be “first in time” to move ahead of Issue 3.
   Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted insists that if Issue 2 passes, even with fewer votes than Issue 3, there will be no legal marijuana in Ohio (at least this year). Why? Issue 2 cut in front of Issue 3.

Pros and Cons

   Issue 2 proponents claim that the intent of the amendment is to prevent constitutional amendments that would allow economic monopolies in the state.
   Opponents argue that, in actuality, Issue 2 could potentially destroy future citizen ballot initiatives. This would hit hardest the controversial issues that are historically voted on as citizen-led ballot initiatives such as a new minimum wage, collective bargaining and marijuana legalization.
   Under Issue 2, any citizen-led ballot initiative would run the risk of the Ballot Board declaring that it creates a monopoly, therefore violating the state constitution.

Issue 3: The Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative

What’s the issue?

   The long sought after Holy Grail of the pot movement is upon us in Ohio this November 3rd with Issue 3. Responsible Ohio (RO) is the group of ten growing companies proposing a constitutional amendment that would insert into the Buckeye Constitution their right to grow commercial pot at their “marijuana growth cultivation and extraction facilities.”
   The RO owners can expand up to 300,000 square feet of growing space at their facilities. The grow facilities would be regulated by the seven-member Marijuana Control Commission (MCC). Modeled after the existing Alcohol Control Commission, pot commissioners will be appointed by the governor. RO’s commercial marijuana will be genetically “tagged.”
   The RO amendment provides for one marijuana store per every 10,000 Ohioans – meaning approximately 1,160 outlets to catch a puff. A retail store license would have to be approved by voters at the precinct level, emulating liquor licenses. Individuals over age 21 can purchase a $50 home grow license and may have up to four flowering plants. These plants cannot not be transported outside of their house, sold, traded or given away.
   Issue 3 legalizes possession by Ohioans over age 21 of up to eight ounces – roughly 224 grams of homegrown marijuana – in an individual’s home. Issue 3 also allows purchase of an ounce (28 grams) of commercial marijuana. Currently Ohioans in possession of 200 or more grams of pot are committing a felony and this will not change if Issue 3 passes. So, don’t take your 224 grams outside your house.

Pros and Cons

   American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio and national NORML endorse RO’s scheme. Both the Ohio Libertarian Party and Ohio Green Party oppose the measure.
   Proponents of Issue 3 argue that this is the only chance in the near future to legalize marijuana precisely because it is backed by the wealthy cartel of ten growers willing to bankroll the initiative.
   The “yeson3ohio” website promotes legalization as creating jobs and helping communities by raising the local tax base. It also claims that Ohio will be safer because pot products will be lab tested and there will be less of an illegal drug trade.
   Many grassroots marijuana legalization activists counter by claiming that RO represents a new pot oligarchy. As the USA Today pointed out, “Most of the operatives pushing Issue 3 are Ohio Democratic political professionals such as Ian James, Executive Director of the investor group ResponsibleOhio and election lawyer Don McTigue.”
   Some pro-marijuana activists opposing Issue 3 take offense that a product that literally grows like a weed (and is a weed) would only be legally grown by ten companies. Critics charge that it is an anti-democratic, a corporatist solution that will make a handful of businessmen filthy rich, which some view as not much different than the drug lords that reap millions from the illegal drug trade.
   Also, advocates for legalization want an end to the so-called War on Drugs that has filled our prisons with nonviolent offenders and caused thousands of people to lose college loans. Issue 3 legalizes weed in a limited sense. Marijuana possession is still illegal unless you buy from the man – or rather, the men. 
   Medical marijuana is addressed in Issue 3 for patients that have a physician’s certification. And although Hempmilk, hemp cereals and hemp products are freely sold in Ohio stores, growing hemp is not addressed in Issue 3. Hemp is widely thought to potentially be a boon for Ohio farmers and good for our state’s environment.

Columbus Mayoral Race

Who’s running?

   The key issue in this election is whether the corporatist and authoritarian wing of the Democratic Party continues its one-party machine grip on Ohio’s largest city. We have had the same mayor in Columbus since the year 2000. Michael Coleman, apparent “Mayor for Life,” suddenly stepped down and appointed his protégé, City Council President Andrew Ginther as the city’s anointed Mayor to Be.
   Ginther and Coleman represent the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the pro-corporate wing of the Democratic Party. The duo has found the living easy in the Buckeye capitol city by doing favors for wealthy developers.
   In the 1990s,Ginther served as an ambitious Party regular in search of any appointed position. He caught a break when the Franklin County Democratic Party appointed him to the Columbus Board of Education in 2001. Although he claims on his website that he helped “…uncover waste and fraud in city schools from 2001 to 2007,” numerous articles including those by The Columbus Free Press found that he was the key School Board member covering up the data-rigging scandal that led to corruption charges against Columbus City School officials.
   In 2007 he was appointed to Columbus City Council where he quickly rose through the ranks to become Council President. With the unexpected resignation of Mayor Coleman, Ginther became the consensus choice for the so-called Titans of Columbus and the Mayor who put together the political machine in the capitol.
   Ginther’s opposition is the Democratic Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott. Scott was appointed as Sheriff in July 2011 and was elected in 2012. He has adopted policies promoted by the democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

Pros and Cons
Corrupt machine-backed candidate Ginther may inexplicably survive the Redflex red light camera scandal. The CEO of Redflex pleaded guilty to bribery of Columbus public officials and Ginther was found to be in the middle of the Redflex deal with the City. For some unknown reason, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office have failed to indict the mystery official who took the bribes.
   This fall Ginther, in an appeal to Black Lives Matter activists and the minority community, has come out supporting body cameras for police. A smart move, since the Fraternal Order of Police endorse his opponent, Sheriff Scott. Neither candidate supports the local effort to start a civilian review board of the Columbus Police.
   Scott has won some progressive voters over by endorsing a ward system for Columbus and has also pledged that his first act as Columbus mayor would be “order strict ethics rules and training” for city employees. As Scott stated, “The foul odor of corruption hangs over Columbus City Hall and my first order of business is going to be to throw open the windows and air the place out.”
   Ginther has attacked Scott, as have some prison and jail rights activists, for inhumane conditions in the Franklin County Jail and Workhouse. One of Ginther’s campaign ads claims that Scott is responsible for a pregnant woman being tased at the jail. The Ohio Legal Rights Services lawsuit indicates that the incident occurred a year before Scott became Sheriff. Ginther also claimed that Scott is responsible for $1.2 million in lawsuit settlements – however all but $16,000 of the settlements were the result of lawsuits filed during Sheriff  James Karnes’ tenure.
   Ginther charges that a man died in the jail and that a subsequent internal investigation determined that 52 deputies should be punished. Ed Peterson died in the jail in 2011, amidst squalor and body waste. His death was attributed to heart disease. Scott’s investigation found the 52 deputies culpable but none were fired due to the incident. The former owner of The Columbus Dispatch is a big Ginther backer. Jonathan Beard, on the publishing Board of The Columbus Free Press, is supporting Scott.

Columbus City Council race

Who’s running?

   Democrats running for Columbus City Council are Zachary M. Klein, Michael Stinziano, Jaiza N. Page and Elizabeth C. Brown, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown’s daughter filling in after Michelle Mills’ exit from the race. Republican candidates are John Rush, Besmira Sharrah, Ibrahima Sow and Dimitrious Wayne Stanley. In a special election that will fill unexpired terms are Democrat Shannon Hardin and Republican Ashley Wnek. Joe Motil, endorsed by the Franklin County Green Party, is running in the special election as a write-in candidate.

Pros and Cons

   Motil has a long record of community activism, particularly his support for a ward system in Columbus and his push for an $11 an hour minimum wage in the city.
   Shannon Hardin was appointed to City Council as a result of direct intervention by Mayor Coleman. His mother is Coleman’s long-time administrative aide. U.S. Rep Joyce Beatty also interceded on Hardin’s behalf. Like his mother, Hardin also worked as an aide to the Mayor and he is also the first openly gay black Columbus City Councilperson. A consummate political insider and product of nepotism, Hardin is not taken seriously in the activist community. However, he is more visible than his opponent Wnek, who has yet to appear on the campaign trail. She admits she is merely a placeholder.  
   Other than Motil, there are no progressives in this race. Interesting notes about the mainstream candidates in the field: two Democrats are independent of the Columbus political machine. Brown had the good sense not to apply for the Council seat then run as an incumbent, but rather sought election in an open field. Over the last 20 years, Columbus’ Democratic Party has always appointed a candidate first, before running them in an election, making them beholden to the Party. In most cases, they tend to choose weak and corrupt non-entities they can control. With Brown, they have selected someone not beholden to by the corporate wing of the Party. Stinziano, also the son of a progressive Democrat, does not follow Coleman and his cronies. His politics tend to be moderate to liberal on most issues.

Columbus Board of Education race

Who’s running?

   Candidates for Columbus School Board are incumbents Gary Baker, Shawna Gibbs and Mary Jo Hudson challenged by Eric Brown, Jim Hunter, Bernadine Kennedy Kent, Tina Pierce and Ben Tyson.

Pros and Cons

   Two candidate were on the School Board during the data-rigging scandal – Gary Baker and Shawna Gibbs.
   Two black female candidates stand head and shoulders above the rest as activists. Well-known whistleblower Bernadine Kent is, more than any other person, responsible for exposing the data-rigging Columbus School scandal and the mismanagement of No Child Left Behind funds. Kent, a former Columbus City Schools assistant principal, is endorsed by the Franklin County Green Party. Pierce, a Ph.D. specializing in public education, has children in the Columbus City School system, and is another outstanding candidate.
   Another candidate of note is Hudson, who brings excellent financial and public policy skills to the Board. She is a former Columbus City Councilperson and is openly gay. Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Brown offers voters an intriguing choice for voters. Having started his career decades ago as a School Board member, he is coming full circle in an attempt to give back to the community.

Franklin County Municipal Court Judge

Who's running?
Eddie Pfau is a Green Party candidate running this year for Franklin County Municipal Court Judge. He has over 23 years of experience as a domestic attorney and guardian ad litem. The other candidates are Democratic Columbus Columbus City Councilperson Eileen Paley, who announced amidst the Redflex bribery scandal that she would be seeking a municipal judgeship, and Republican Tony Paat.

Updated Oct. 13

Appears in Issue: