White guy and Latina woman smiling for the camera

For the most part, theFreep supports Sen. Sherrod Brown and his daughter Elizabeth Brown, current Columbus City Council Pro Tem, or temporary council president, but this is no endorsement for re-election.

Mrs. Brown is an advocate for Columbus City Schools and a staunch fighter for women’s rights. She initiated the Columbus Families Together Fund, which provides legal help to keep local immigrant parents together with their children.

But when we reached out to her to see if she is actively pushing for air-conditioning in all city schools, the Freep did not hear back.

It makes us wonder whether her past position as an economic development manager with Columbus city government and her current position as chair of the city’s Economic Development Committee has anything to do with her silence on the sweltering issue.

Could the city have avoided this absolute embarrassment and shame, where our city’s marginalized children, who need the best educational system and setting possible, are instead treated like second-class citizens?

The city has given millions in tax breaks to developers who have mostly built high-end condominiums that in many cases have stolen the soul of several Columbus neighborhoods.

Just in the last four years Columbus City Council has given out over $300 million to developers and corporations building their offices in Columbus. Keep in mind Mrs. Brown was elected to city council in 2015.

Those millions, and the millions given away while she was working for the city as an economic development manager, could have paid to air-condition every Columbus city school.

But don’t let us tell you this. Hear it from the definitive voice on the issue, Columbus City Council candidate Joe Motil, who is running with the progressive activist Yes We Can ticket and against the incumbent Mrs. Brown on November 5th.

“There’s no doubt it. In my mind there could have been enough money to provide air conditioning to these schools,” says Motil who has documented every tax break Columbus City Council has granted over the previous four years.

“The tax abatements are stripping millions and millions of dollars that should be going into public education,” says Motil. “The only way that many young people can get out of poverty is a good education. The tax abatements are counter-productive, they’re self-defeating, and they’re also having an enormous impact on affordable housing and poverty in general.”

Motil explains how the abatements are causing the cost of mortgages and rents to spike.

“The abatements are raising property taxes in these areas where their giving them out to,” he says. “They’re giving them out in the Near East Side, the South Side. The property values of those tax-abated lands and developments are making the other properties in the area to go up. The Franklin County Treasurer stated that 30 percent of foreclosures are due to people not being able to pay their property taxes.”

The problem is, to unseat the Columbus City Council incumbency – or what some call Establishment Democrats – is a monumental if not impossible task. A challenger hasn’t defeated an incumbent in 24 years.

“It’s hard to raise money in a city where basically everybody is in bed together. Whether it’s an architectural firm, engineering firm, a construction company, the unions. You name it. It’s going to be difficult for anybody who runs against the incumbency at city hall and against the influence that controls the mayor’s office,” says Motil.

The ‘influence’ that controls city hall and the mayor’s office?

It’s hard to process because those in office are all Democrats (apparently), but Motil has been circling them like a red-tail hawk. This will be his third run for City Council. He knows exactly who and what he is up against.

“The Columbus Partnership (a membership org of more than 70 local CEOs) is Huntington Bank, Cardinal Health, American Electric, Battelle, Big Lots, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Net Jets. And they decide what happens in town. Who the mayor is and where the highways go. They are really the ones controlling city policy.”

Take the Columbus city charter (or city constitution) and how it was utilized to block a Yes We Can candidate in 2018. The Yes We Can candidate, Jasmine Ayers, had finished 4th in the 2017 November City Council vote and was the first runner-up.

But when City Council member Zach Klein vacated his seat in early 2018, City Council didn’t pick the first runner-up Jasmine Ayers, they instead abided by the city charter and appointed one of their own, Emmanuel Remy, a realtor.

Yes We Can protested saying the Columbus appointment process is undemocratic. They contend special elections should be held instead.

Many City Council members over the previous decade have vacated midterm. The math is simple: City Council appoints who will best rubber stamp legislation that’s favorable to the Columbus Partnership. Don’t forget, incumbents are a lock to win re-election.

“Remy is somebody who is going to do what he is told. He wasn’t going to be an independent voice on city council. He was going to follow orders and those are the kind of people that get appointed to council,” says Motil.

By all measurements Columbus and its surrounding communities are thriving economically and been doing so for two decades or more. Young people both skilled and unskilled have flocked to the middle Ohio. But Motil feels this progress has convinced many young people to accept Columbus as is and forego any political motivation, such as voting.

“When they see bright new shiny buildings and nice apartments being built, they don’t understand the impact that’s having on the general population overall,” he says. “Many seem to wear blinders when it comes to the economic and social impact our local Democrats and the Columbus Partnership has on policy decisions. Kind of sad.”

Motil says these same local Democrats try to come across as liberal minded and for all peoples. Yet behind closed doors Motil would bet the house they curse him, saying “That damn Motil!”

“They talk a good game but they’re not really trying to help the underserved. They’re afraid if they get behind somebody who’s running against the system that’s going to hurt them more than help them. So they don’t want to be aligned with me or Jonathan Beard (local progressive activist) and Bob Fitrakis (editor of the Columbus Free Press).”

Community-minded Joe, one of his monikers, wants you to know he’s been unemployed, temporarily on food stamps, and sold personal belongings so to pay his rent when he lived on South Campus.

“I understand what it’s like to be penniless and late on your rent,” says the  construction safety manager. “I’ve worked hard and I understand the needs of other people. There are other people who were in the same and are in the same situation I was in. I’ve been there before.”

It’s safe to say Elizabeth Brown has never been on food stamps or on the verge of homelessness. Incumbent Democrats will remain fat cats as long as they help their own, like the Columbus Partnership.

Yes, we applaud Mrs. Brown when she visits Columbus city schools (air-conditioned ones only perhaps) and advocates for women. But maybe her true political motivations can be culled from when she created in 2017 the Columbus Families Together Fund that supports local immigrants.

When she distributed the fund’s $185,000 of taxpayer dollars, $157,000 went to Advocates for Basic Legal Equity or ABLE, a nonprofit where her sister, Emily Brown, works.

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