Another critical vote for the future and soul of Columbus is this November 5th. Can we keep our city Dick’s Den cool or are we doomed to become Easton?
Three people, a black woman, a Latina woman and white man

Tiffany White, Liliana Rivera Baiman, Joe Motil

Keep Austin Weird has done wonders for Central Texas. Those three words have inspired that city’s leadership to propel Austin into one of the most soulful and successful American cities of the 21st century.

For the most part, Austin is unified between rich and poor, and the city protects it’s independent and inclusive flavor by keeping high-end developers and corporate influence in check.

Can we capture that here?

It may very well depend on who wins the City Council race on November 5th.

Yet the last time a Columbus City Council incumbent lost was 24 years ago. The city’s appointment process after council member step down is partially to blame for keeping the status quo in place. And over this 24 years Columbus has morphed into something that is too exclusive, too corporate and too lame.

High-end developers drunk with City Council-approved tax abatements have played a huge role behind this change.

Without question Columbus has moved forward, and the incumbents on City Council, the endorsed Democrats, are urging voters to keep it that way.

The Columbus Partnership, which many believe has a strangle hold on City Council, is also ramming this direction down our throats. Formed in 2002 the Columbus Partnership is the local entrenched corporate influence, such as L Brands, Huntington Bank, Cardinal Health, American Electric, Battelle, Big Lots, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, etc.

True, the Columbus Partnership has brought us an abundance of ok paying jobs (many seasonal in a warehouse).

But critics believe the partnership has pushed for the invasion of sterile out-of-place mixed-use monster buildings which have taken the soul from the University District, the Short North, Old North, Clintonville and other neighborhoods.

Do you remember how Gallery Hop use to be? The Short North is becoming a gated community with too many $4,000-a-month apartments.

Do you remember Mean Mr. Mustard’s? Destroyed for the corporate-lame Gateway, while the rest of off-campus has seen a similar demise.

And how can we forget Clintonville’s Olympic Pool, where generations of kids and parents had an oasis from our overheated summers? The pool was destroyed for a bland condo only the “haves” can afford. City Council and the Columbus Partnership never lifted a finger to save Olympic, but they are planning to spend over $100 million in tax-payer money to build a soccer stadium.

Do you think Austin’s City Council would allow Barton Springs to be destroyed for a condo with a concierge and a Starbucks in the lobby? Not happening y’all.

So, what can be done to save what’s left of cool Columbus?

How do we push back against high-end developers from spoiling the rest of North Campus or SoHud? What’s the future for the Near East or German Village?

How can we raise wages for our economically segregated city and make Linden and the South Side vibrant and eclectic?

Last but certainly not least…How do we keep the Columbus Partnership from having what they like to call their “Columbus Way?”

Thank goodness there is a solution in the Yes We Can candidates Joe Motil, Liliana Rivera Baiman and Tiffany White.

Motil has been promoting his community-minded everyday people platform since first running for City Council in 1995. He’s a regular at Dick’s Den – an island of Columbus old-school cool facing an uncertain future as a mixed-use Easton-like monster is being built down the block.

Sometimes you can catch Motil at Dick’s Den playing the keys during jazz sessions. We at Freep are pretty sure we’ve never seen City Council Pro Tem and incumbent Elizabeth Brown there sipping on a two-dollar beer. Mrs. Brown of course being Sen. Sherrod Brown’s daughter.

“Mrs. Brown and the other three have never been in the trenches with everyday people fighting against ill-advised development projects, police abuse, tax abatements and trying to break the grip of power of City Hall. They are part of the problem, not the solution,” says Motil.

Rivera Baiman, a former Dreamer born in Mexico, believes the City Council incumbents are good people but their progressiveness marginalized if they were appointed or anointed by “the system.”

“Most of them come from the same background. They knew someone in the party or the system and they were able to land a job in the elected office that way. Many of them have never gone without,” says Rivera Baiman, who as a child in rural Texas lived in a three-bedroom trailer with nearly a dozen family members where the next door neighbor was the headquarters of the local KKK.

Tiffany White says it’s an American tradition to divest in neighborhoods that are poor or of color, and then when some find success they flee these neighborhoods never looking back. White, chair of the North Central Area Commission, says her choice to remain and fight for her community has shaped who she is.

“The differences between myself and some of the incumbents is that I know the effect of opioids on a family and communities. None of the schools within a five-mile radius are excelling. I know the transportation barriers to living-wage jobs. I have personally worked more than one job to cover all household needs. I have watched families lose loved ones to violence. I’ve fielded calls when there is no life insurance to cover a proper funeral,” she says.

White says running against the endorsed Democrat incumbents and the Columbus Partnership could bring consequences. Besides the North Central Area Commission, White has also served on committees for the Community Shelter Board and Columbus City Schools.

“Could there potentially be consequences for my decision to run? Absolutely. There is a great possibility that I will not serve on another committee in the future or that I may no longer be an area commissioner. There comes a time when you personally have to make a decision to stand up for what’s right,” she says. “If I were going to be intimidated I would have removed my name from the ballot.”

Keep Columbus Cool this Tuesday by voting Motil, Rivera Baiman and White.

Response to this article:   Dear Editor,   I am writing in regards to your Nov. 2nd article/editorial/endorsement "Keep Columbus Old-School Cool this Tuesday".   I know this article means well to forward the candidacy of Mr. Motil & Ms's Rivera Bairman & White.  I wish them good luck, too.  However, having lived in Austin for near 15 years, and having moved to the Columbus area 3 years ago to basically escape the economic hardship of living there...

"For the most part, Austin is unified between rich and poor, and the city protects it’s independent and inclusive flavor by keeping high-end developers and corporate influence in check."

Your writer couldn't be farther from the truth.  The powers that be in Austin have bent over backwards for Big Tech and drank their's & the real estate speculators Kool-aid, with little reward to true local Central Texans.  The subsequent gentrification there has shut down many local businesses and pushed out many families, esp. from historically Latino/African-American neighborhoods.  "High-end developers drunk abatements..."  That's totally Austin, too.
  And touching on Austin's "environmentalism", the writer also mentions, "Do you think Austin’s City Council would allow Barton Springs to be destroyed for a condo with a concierge and a Starbucks in the lobby?  Not happening y’all."  In reality...well, it's very much getting there.  Loads of greenspace in the Austin metro area (spanning about 5 counties) has already been torn up over the past 3 decades for development, compromising the aquifer system that supplies most of the area's water.   (BTW, The main reasons Barton Springs is still around has little to do with their City Council, and more to do with 1) a grass-roots movement started in the 1990's, Save Our Springs, still around & active today...  ...and 2) the fact that Barton Springs & Pool has since become such an iconic landmark that no one would dare mess with it now.  Still, it faces the growing global warming threat from runoff via the aquifer & algae.)   And if you want to see the effects of rampant growth on an urban semi-arid/semi-tropical ecosystem, Austin makes the case.  Summers with months...MONTHS...of high 90 to 100+ temps, with little if any rain (read: heat island).  Polluted & algae-clogged creeks.  Poor air quality on top of already bad allergens.  Rarely snows anymore.  Austin is nowhere near "green".   I can go on ad infinitum/ad nauseum, but at the end of the day, when you look past all of its hype & sexiness, Austin is the same as every other major Texas city.  Bland, sprawling, over-priced, hot & just not fun anymore.   I have enjoyed Columbus' scene & living here, and realize & appreciate the major differences between here and Texas.  So, I beg the candidates & the rest of the city who cares about the direction it's going please, please, PLEASE DO NOT EMULATE AUSTIN.  (Unless you'd like California-sized rents/mortgages in Linden & South Parsons..?)   You don't need a catch-phrase*.  Just keep it real and you be YOU, Columbus, and you'll get it figured out.   Best regards, L. New   *P.S. I will say "Keep Columbus Old-School Cool" is better than, and should not equate, being "weird".   Article author's response to letter to editor:   You are Austin through and through. My sister lives there and I have visited over a dozen times. She said the same thing about my article. There's truth to what you say. But has 6th Street become overwhelmed by luxury apartments and corporate piano bars like campus and the Short North? Has Barton Springs been replaced by condos where some residents live there two weeks out of the year? I think both you and my sister have a higher degree of resistance, or a higher degree of recognition to what is happening to both cities. Every growing city is experiencing this and losing to development. We used Austin as an example because there is a much higher level of understanding of what's ongoing and thus a much higher level of resistance and push back compared to Columbus. It's inevitable we will lose this fight, thus lose Keep Austin Weird, ect. But we can fight like hell, yes? What you think of my logic?