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Some things are just too good to let go. So with a nod of respect to The Other Paper and its annual Halloween masks, The Free Press is pleased to serve up City Council President Andrew Ginther as this year’s Halloween trick. So what makes this an appropriate honor? Well, Ginther is a kind of modern day political Frankenstein … a Democrat on paper whose execution of office has distinctly Republican overtones. What do we mean? – well, let’s consider ...

Corporate welfare

Republicans love corporate welfare, and so does Council President Ginther. The year was 2011, and the power elite of this community decided they no longer wanted to accept the money-losing consequences of the business risks they took in building an arena to house the Blue Jackets NHL franchise. So what’s a council president to do? First, meet in private for two years with representatives of this group of multimillionaires to figure out how to help them. Then, agree that City Council would support 27.5 years of lease payments, so the public could buy the arena from these businessmen and women, and give the Blue Jackets free rent. Most importantly, don’t hold any public hearings or invite the public (which voted down public financing of arenas on five previous occasions) to comment. Pass the legislation unanimously (one abstention due to conflict of interest), and give any opposition just 9 minutes to object, just prior to the vote that you already announced would be passed. That done, more than $236,000,000 in public funding vanished to the benefit of a corporation with over $20 billion in annual revenues and over $1 billion in annual profits – paid for by the citizens of the City of Columbus. Big corporations take the profit, the public takes the losses: corporate welfare … that’s scary stuff coming from a self-identified Democrat.

Hypocrisy

Whether it’s Mark Sanford not hiking along the Appalachian Trail, Newt Gingrich talking about the sanctity of marriage or Larry Craig doing a tap dance in an airport bathroom stall, Republicans seem to say one thing and do another. (The Free Press submits that Anthony Weiner was tweeting his weiner, and was thus consistent in word and deed. For the record, we take no position on Elliot Spitzer.) “We all need to take responsibility for not engaging with the school district and in the school district over the last couple of years the way we should,” Ginther said to WOSU recently. Well, let’s just say if Andrew Ginther had taken responsibility and engaged with the school district from 2004-2006 when he was on the school board, we wouldn’t be talking about a data scrubbing scandal today. Back then, Ginther chaired the school board’s Audit & Accountability Committee when two whistle-blowers sent him letters letting him know the administration was “cooking the books.” Despite having this information, Ginther did nothing (other than assist in firing the Internal Auditor who was set to investigate the allegations) and the data scrubbing continued until 2012. Now, if Issue 51 passes, Ginther is poised to again oversee yet another Columbus schools auditor. So while he was the problem, he is now presenting himself as the solution. This kind of stuff can only happen around Halloween. Manipulating Elections and Unlimited Campaign Spending Republicans are great at stealing elections and making voters inconsequential, but they could learn a few tricks from Andrew Ginther. Ginther has turned the practice of circumventing the voters to stack council with compliant members into an art form. In late 2010 Maryellen O’Shaugnessy and Charleta Tavares vacated their council seats prior to the 2011 municipal election cycle. In the 2011 elections, then, there would be four seats to be filled – incumbents Andy Ginther and Hearcel Craig who were both up for election, plus the two recently-vacated seats (which the City Charter requires to be filled in the next election). A Nominating Committee comprised of Democratic stalwarts Fran Ryan, Dannie Palmore, Hugh Dorrian, Mike Mentel and Marilyn Brown began circulating petitions for four candidates (incumbents Andrew Ginther and Hearcel Craig) plus two people largely unknown outside Democratic Party circles: Donald Klco and Zachary Roberts. After O’Shaugnessy and Tavares resigned, Council President Ginther led the interview process that resulted in the appointment of new council members Michelle Mills and Zach Klein in early January. But as late as January 31st – weeks after the council appointments had been made – the Nominating Committee was still gathering petition signatures for Ginther, Craig, Roberts and Klco. However, these newly appointed council members (Mills and Klein) still had to get signatures to get on the Primary ballot. The solution: Zach Roberts and Donald Klco withdrew as candidates on February 11th after the nominating petitions with their names on them were filed, which allowed the Nominating Committee to designate the newly-appointed council members (Mills and Klein) to replace them on the ballot. The signatures gathered for Klco and Roberts were thus awarded to Mills and Klein, meaning the two never had to show support from the voters prior to being placed on the primary ballot. And after appointing Klein and Mills to council in January, according to Pre-General Election Campaign Finance reports, Friends for Ginther contributed $148,321.51 to Klein’s election campaign and $128,246.51 to Mills’ election campaign. Thus, months after appointing two candidates to council, Ginther poured money into their campaigns for election – in true Citizens United format -- ensuring they would remain accountable to him, rather than to the people of Columbus. And people, disdain for electoral process and appearance of money influencing elections is about as undemocratic as you can get.

Media Consolidation

Yep, check that box, too. While Ginther supports spending over $600,000 a year to build CTV-3 into a Faux News-like propaganda channel for the City, he rejects making the community access television channel (Time Warner Channel 21) accessible to the people of Columbus who it is supposed to serve. The national public access television program involves the “PEG” channels: Public, Education, and Government. Locally we now have the Education channel run by Columbus City Schools and the Governmental channel run as CTV-3 by the City of Columbus, but Ginther refuses to re-open the Public Access channel, on which the community would control programming. Instead, council runs the blue screen community bulletin board – a rolling listing of church addresses and service times. That’s what Ginther provides for public access. Stating “public-access television is arguably the least efficient and effective means” and “YouTube allows for the immediate and free global distribution of video” Ginther rejects community calls for the return of the local public access channel to the people, while simultaneously building the 24/7/365 government propaganda station, CTV-3. So while YouTube is good enough for the people, Ginther the politician blocks community programming while building the city’s own mass media station. Just like a little local Rupert Murdock, Ginther acts as if media should be controlled only by the powerful.

Gay Marriage

Well, even Dick Cheney is OK with that one – so we’ll again confuse Ginther with a Republican. And we wouldn’t go hunting with either one of them. Halloween invites you to be one thing when you really are something else. We invite fellow Democrats to put on an Andy mask and act like a Republican, and hopefully we’ll see Andrew Ginther embrace a few Democratic ideals this year.

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