Middle aged white ma's face looking vacant

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther

After watching Mayor Ginther’s online interview with Channel 4’s Colleen Marshall on Wednesday, I have to ask, why has it taken our Mayor nearly 19 years to recognize and address the obvious inequalities that exist in the African-American communities of Columbus?

Never before has this question had more weight or relevance than during the pandemic.

Mayor Ginther said Wednesday he would focus on those who were most in need. Homeless, those in need of food, and affordable housing. Working with the Community Shelter Board, Urban league, YMCA.

Nearly 30 percent of Columbus is African American, and the issue of racial disparity is confronting us once again in terms of blacks being greater infected by the virus due to economic and social disparities.

Unfortunately, the virus further exposed the inequality where it matters the most – our overall health. Yet Ginther has been an elected official since 2001. Columbus School Board from 2001-2007, Columbus City Council from 2007-2015, Council President from 2011-2015, and Mayor of Columbus from 2016 to today.

When asked about the stress on city services the virus would have on income tax revenues, he talked about the fact that Columbus residents voted in favor of an .50% income tax increase in 2009. It should be noted it only passed by 3,479 votes with only an 18% voter turnout.

He mentioned the cities of Cincinnati and Akron have both furloughed workers, but he did not perceive it as necessary to furlough city workers at this time. He did send 1,300non-essential city workers home but they will continue to be paid and those that can work from home will do so. He did not say whether there would be layoffs.

Gov. DeWine has asked his state of Ohio department heads to look at reducing their budgets by 20% for the next 15 months. 76% of our city’s operating revenues comes from income tax and Columbus ranks number one in the country in its reliance for city income tax revenueto fill its coffers.

As I said before, I believe the City of Columbus should make budget cuts immediately if we are to have the resources down the road to help those who are most in need. Ginther was also asked about tax dollars being spent on the new Hilton Hotel and Crew Stadium.

Ginther said no city tax dollars were being spent directly towards the construction of the Crew Stadium. Well, we all know better. The city’s initial $50 million subsidy has climbed to $113 million. City tax dollars are most definitely being spent as part of the Crew deal with infrastructure dollars ($10 million for underground utilities, $25 million for a parking garage and more) supporting the new stadium and the $50 million to revamp Mapfre Stadium.   

Again, that $50 million project needs to be put out to pasture. That kind of money can go a long way with helping the citizens and small businesses of Columbus to get back on their feet.Soccer fields and basketball courts are not going to pay for peoples rent, mortgages and food.  

He also sidestepped the question about the city backing some of the debt for the new Hilton Hotel and how that will impact city revenue. Twenty-five cents of every dollar the city collects goes towards paying off bond debt. Paying additional debt for the new hotel will further decrease our already depleted city revenues for basic essential city services.

When asked what he would be doing to provide more health and safety ideas for people attending large events and to give people more confidence, he did not give any substantive suggestions.

On whether to dip into the rainy day fund before making cuts within the city, he answered by stating the 2nd and 3rd quarters would be the most difficult, and the 4th quarter of this year and 1st quarter of next year would be more telling in terms of what additional steps should be taken.

He pointed out that 85% of the state’s revenues comes from Ohio’s metro areas. Ginther is rolling the dice on betting that city income tax revenues will come in from the city’s top 50 employers and keep city operating revenues high enough so furloughs and other budget cuts will not be necessary. I think that is a big gamble during these uncertain times. I also have to wonder if big campaign contributions from city labor unions is having an influence on his decision not to furlough workers.         

It is time Mayor Ginther show more leadership and backbone. He and City Council should lead in the sacrifices being made by others and take pay cuts of at least 20 percent.