Decades ago, Sly and The Family Stone sang "I am everyday people ..." about the commonality of mankind.
We are everyday people here in Columbus. We believe in a government "of the people, by the people and for the people." While politics is broken across the nation, we believe we can achieve that democratic vision for all people in our home town.
We, everyday people, can redesign our electoral system so that our local elected officials -- Columbus City Council members -- are responsive to everyday people, rather than the local civic and business elites. We have the power to change these systems by voting on issues that we put on the ballot. We can not continue to allow politicians design and control these systems, because they always do it for self and political benefit, rather than for public benefit.
Why do we allow unlimited spending on local elections for city council, when we know that money buys politicians?
We everyday people must come together and act as concerned citizens to make the positive changes we want to make our world better for our children.
For many years, the Columbus Citizens Grassroots Congress has had a policy platform embracing a more democratic form of Columbus City Council. A group formed out of that effort and has been mobilizing since 2011 under different names (Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government and Represent Columbus) to try to reform our broken political system here in Columbus.
In 2016, Represent Columbus put Issue 1 on the ballot, to seek the most basic of reforms of Columbus City Council -- to have the majority of council members elected by council district, like every other big city in America (rather than having them all elected in citywide elections).
The business and political elites put together a $1.1 million campaign to mischaracterize our proposal -- you may remember, they said we were sponsored by the Party of Trump to put together a 25 member council to create permanent Republican wards that would cost $20 million! Nothing but lies!!! -- but as a grassroots citizens group we did not have the money to counter them.
They thought we were done, but we're back -- because justice never dies... because at-large forms of government are discriminatory and over 300 such at-large governments have been prohibited after federal lawsuits under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. According to the Department of Justice website, "Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups identified in Section 4(f)(2) of the Act. Most of the cases arising under Section 2 since its enactment involved challenges to at-large election schemes."
Columbus politicians, political parties, and business elites have conspired to keep in place a highly-suspect form of government, because it gives the elites complete control in exchange for payments through unlimited campaign contributions -- what former President Jimmy Carter calls "legalized bribery."
We propose a council of 3 members elected at-large in citywide elections, and 10 elected by district. We give neighborhood organizations the power to nominate candidates to fill vacant council district seats -- ending the council's ability to select itself. We take away the repressive signature requirement for citizens to stand for election to council and we put caps on contributions to council candidate campaigns to create a level playing field and competitive environment for democratic elections.
We will not continue under an oppressive form of government, and we will not allow it to be passed on to our children. While we are conditioned to accept it, what we have in place today is not good or normal -- only Columbus continues to operate in such a politically repressive manner to stifle the interests and aspirations of everyday people. We will change this by circulating petitions to reform our government, and when we get 20,000 valid petition signatures, our referendum will be place on the ballot for a vote. When it passes, we win and change for everyday people happens here in Columbus.
Join us by learning more and helping to spread the word about our work.
Meet the Petition Committee
Under our city charter, at least 5 Columbus electors can propose a referendum. Here are the six Columbus residents - everyday people -- who have signed their names on behalf of our neighbors to lead this referendum: a community developer, a nonprofit director, a teacher, an administrator, a retired lawyer, and a retired business man.
Jonathan C. Beard
Beard, pictured here with his children several years ago, has served for 21 years as president and ceo of Columbus Compact Corporation, a nonprofit community development entity bringing jobs, businesses and returning vacant property back to productive use in Columbus's most distressed neighborhoods -- those that meet federal statutory criteria for "pervasive poverty and social distress." His educational background includes degrees in political science and public administration. He has served as an International Elections Observer for state elections in Colombia, South America. In past years he has been Board Chair and a coach for the Driving Park Youth Baseball and First Driving Park Baseball leagues, and on the Boards of 1000 Friend of Central Ohio, United Way of Central Ohio, Ohio Dominican University, and Campus Partners, among others, He currently serves as Chair of the Political Awareness Committee of the National Action Network, and was elected in 2016 as Ward 55 Central Committee Member to the Franklin County Democratic Party.
Brown, a native of Harlem, NY who has lived on the Near East Side of Columbus for more than 20 years, is an agricultural expert who consults overseas on agriculture and economic development. When not overseas, he works as a middle school teacher for Bexley City Schools, and serves as president of the Bronzeville Neighborhood Association and as a Commissioner on the Near East Area Commission. Brown is a member of the Central Committee of the Franklin County Democratic Party, elected by his neighbors in Ward 7 to represent their interests in the local party.
Patzer is an administrator at Columbus State Community College, and is well-known for her work over the last 30 years in local and national environmental and social justice movements., including coordinating the Columbus Citizens' Grassroots Congress, which spawned this initiative years ago. Patzer is active in the Green Party, and editor of The Columbus Free Press.
(Retired, business person; past Chair, Franklin Park Area Association. Standing to the right of placque)
Walter Penn, a Columbus native, has a long history of work as a businessman and involved citizen. He has worked in neighborhood revitalization efforts with the Columbus Neighborhood Housing Services and as Chair of the Neighborhood Development Committee and then as Board Chair of the Columbus Compact Corporation, the nonprofit charged with developing strategies and initiatives to revitalize Columbus's most distressed neighborhoods. Penn is past chair of the Franklin Park Area Association.
(Entrepreneur, Executive Director, The HUB Community Development Corporation, Founder, Young People in Action)
Asad Shabazz is a lifelong Columbus resident, who in the early 1980's founded Young People in Action -- a grassroots organization designed to involve youth in community. He has maintained that interest in community -- serving in many leadership positions, including with the Coalition of Concerned Black Citizens and currently in the NAACP Columbus chapter. Shabazz currently leads the HUB Community Development Corporation, focusing on employment and financial empowerment of Columbus residents.
Joe Sommer, retired, formerly served as an attorney for the State of Ohio Bureau of Worker's Compensation. In his retirement he continues to be active in various local progressive causes and is an avid baseball fan.
Get in touch with us to help! We are looking for people to learn more about the initiative to present it to neighborhood groups, help organize petition circulating efforts, staff our booth at ComFest June 23-25, and be engaged as you are able.