The following is a copy of an email submitted to members of Columbus City Council on Monday, April 9th. A shorter version was submitted to public record at their open meeting that afternoon.
Councilmember Emmanuel Remy is ceremoniously honoring the Fair Housing Act today. That would be a fine declaration if it weren’t riddled with irony.
Mr. Remy is a real estate agent by profession. The Upper Arlington Market featured in Mr. Remy’s Coldwell Banker professional profile is over 90% White. The average house in the area sells for $345K.
Zach Klein– in whose seat Mr. Remy was recently appointed– lives in Clintonville, also near 90% White with a slightly lower market value than Mr. Remy’s client base.
City Attorney Klein spent much of March Tweeting about the raids the city’s been coordinating on “drug houses” in the West Side and in Linden. The fourth “drug house” shutdown was in Westgate–It’s 67% White and 12% Black with an average home value of $140K.
Emmanuel lives in 43224– 48% White. 40% Black. Average home value $98K. Mr. Emmanuel’s home is estimated to be above market by all conventional real estate listings.
In February, ABC6 ran a story that a house in 43211– South Linden– had been shut down. 43211 is 67% Black. Average home value: $57K.
The only one of the members of this body to live in a potentially vulnerable area, President Hardin, moved to East Long St not too long ago.
The area into which he recently moved is currently being gentrified. At the beginning of the year, Borror and Associates of the Dublin area and Kingsley Properties of Cincinnati acquired the lot across the street from the Lincoln Theater– in President Hardin’s new neighborhood. The deal was sweetened in this Hall by hefty contributions by Borror to many of the recent re-election campaigns in the previous cycle, and softened to the public by the advent of Kingsley’s owner, a Black man and former Cincinnati Bengal named Chinedum Ndukwe.*
In the meantime, I was at a meeting last October convened by James Raglin, who’d been hired by the city to (in his words) “get the Near East Side ready for gentrification.”**
Not a single member of Council lives in an area affected by the side-effects of housing discrimination, homelessness, police brutality, nor a whole host of problems facing the very people the Fair Housing Act was meant to protect. President Hardin’s feigned solution to what might be seen as a representative problem– where a member of Council might be inclined to work with other City apparatus to, say, implement rehabilitation or viable housing and work solutions to the current lock-them-up or-move-them-out method currently in use– fails to address problems like these.
In fact, it encourages their propagation. Mr. Remy’s appointment– tied as he is in the private sector to some of the best real estate in the Columbus area, with all of the potential for fundraising that comes with it–ensures that the people best served by the current system will keep it in place.
If President Hardin’s Issue 3 passes in May, this body would simply extend the system that makes decisions to incarcerate the indigent while enriching those who contribute to campaigns and promote those with friendly relationships with the same to positions within Council.
Requiring that an elected member lives in the area she’s meant to represent is a good start. The problem arises when that member is also voted upon mostly by people who don’t live in the area she represents.
One can only guess whether those new members would conveniently move to a part of the city within those districts that just happened to see an increase in real estate value. It’s a good thing that people are watching to see how this develops.
While you make this proclamation in honoring the Fair Housing Act, know that many in this city are without homes, most of them are Black and few of them think they have a voice within their government. It’s up to those of us who have voices to keep reminding you that they exist. This body consistently fails to do it and throws flimsily-constructed solutions to the people’s problems. Neither this empty proclamation nor Issue 3 offer a single tangible solution to problems the people of Columbus are facing.
There has to be a better way.
David S. Harewood
*Ndukwe graduated from Dublin Coffman HS in ’03.
**Councilmember Priscilla Tyson took umbrage at the usage of the word “gentrification” here, citing that Mr. Raglin had been hired to discover what the community in the Near East Side thought most appropriate in light of the closing of the Neighborhood House, which shuttered at the end of 2018. The meeting mentioned occurred mid-week of November 14th. The news about Neighborhood House’s closing broke on Friday, November 18th. The meeting where Mr.Raglin referred to gentrification occurred nearly a year later, and his use of it was shocking to me too, That’s why the utterance is so vivid.