Columbus Mayoral Candidate Front-Runner Andrew Ginther answers tough questions at Forum & Jeff Brown supports legalizing Marijuana if elected - read more from Tuesday's Forum
by Imanuel Larcher
The Director of Community Relations Lela Boykin, started the event by welcoming the Candidates. She thanks the Franklin Park Civic Association, Woodland Park Neighborhood Association, EastGate Garden Civic Association, Long Street Business Association, King-Lincoln Bronzeville Association, Olde Towne East Neighborhood Association, Mt. Vernon Avenue District Improvement Association, and St. John's Learning Center. The Neighborhood House provides the tools needed to move from "survive to thrive", working to help break the cycle of poverty by helping families meet Basic Needs, and offering Life Long Learning.
James Ragland, who served under Senator Charleta B. Tavares, introduced himself next. He plans on focusing on Education, Jobs, and Community Reinvestment. He describes himself as a visionary community organizer and recalls a time doing the 'Electric Slide' on Mount Vernon avenue, which has seen a significant economic decline in the past 20 years. When it comes to community reinvestment, neighborhoods like German Village, Clintonville, are often quick to receive investments as opposed to Mount Vernon Ave, which needs it the most.
Jeff Brown, who is a write in for Mayor, is also running. He was a teacher for 12 years at Fort Hayes. He is running on improving the budget, he would like to cut the Columbus Police Budget by $150 million (which it is currently $300 million right now) - and also would like to improve employer-employee relations, pertaining to wrongful terminations.
Andrew Ginther, who arrived conveniently on time for his introduction, mentioned that he was in a meeting at the Beatty Recreation Center, discussing community building and more, the 31st meeting that he had where he received feedback from residents at the meeting addressing budget. Andrew Ginther went on to describe his experience, on the City Council President for 8 yrs, he has been the President for last the last 4 years, and he is proud of progress that Columbus has made. A 'Triple A' bond rating, which is the largest city in America with that. He is focused on every family in every neighborhood sharing on the success that Columbus has had. He also expressed his desire on reducing the unacceptable infant mortality rates in Columbus, where 150 children a year die before the age of One. He added that three children a week die before the ago of one, due to social determinants of health, poverty, education, and lack of work, contributes to this. He plans on cutting this in half by 2020, by expanding early start programs, after school programs, and summer programs, as well as building up entrepreneurship, and small businesses.
Now to the Questions -
How can residents in the community improve relationships between residents in the city and their city hall constituents?
Terry Boyd - He recalled that residents should work on reaching out to members, and holding them accountable, adding that communities need to work together with one another more.
James Ragland - "City hall has lost its way when responding to residents in the community," adding examples of unanswered calls to 311. He would like to add on district representatives in every district to further address these issues.
Jeff Brown - He mentioned that he isn't satisfied with the communication with the city council meetings, and he agreed with the problem but needs to learn more to solve it.
Andrew Ginther - He added that he would like to build on Mayor Coleman's plan with neighborhoods, including the Pride Program, and work on systematically improving relationships between residents and appointed members.
The next question dealt with the candidates stance on decriminalizing marijuana and their position on it.
Andrew Ginther - He is opposed to the ballot issue that is being proposed. He mentioned that the last thing our families who are struggling with poverty and education, need to deal with more drugs and alcohol on the streets, and that the last thing that we should do is add one more challenge or barrier to this problem.
Jeff Brown - He added that he has never seen any problems with marijuana, but he has seen a lot of problems with law enforcement. "Hasn't Colorado made every state look like idiots," Brown added, "tax dollars can go towards community reinvestment and much more!" He is absolutely in favor of legalization, however, is not crazy about the proposed ballot. He believes marijuana rights should be treated the same as a tomato plant.
James Ragland - He mentioned that he is opposed to marijuana, however, he wants to educate the public about the ballot and begin educating everyone on what we will do if and, or, when it passes. He spoke on preparing ourselves in the event that this does pass, added using the new taxes on transportation and diverting the resources to help the city.
Terry Boyd - He agreed with James Ragland on this issue.
Question - How do you plan on getting more minorities in the Columbus police force?
Andrew Ginther - He recalled the visual of the recent shooting in South Carolina and he acknowledged how that video has changed his life. Mentioning, "We have to acknowledge the fact that people of color have had very different experiences in this country." He said it is time to do things differently. During this past year he ordered the Columbus's Lesbian Police Chief Kim Jacobs to go out and speak with the community to get a different idea and feedback directly from residents. Andrew Ginther mentioned he liked the US military recruitment method, which has had a great success in recruiting African Americans, ending with "the city's police force must be a great representation of this city"
James Ragland and Terry Boyd spoke on preparation in workforce training at a very young age. They collectively agreed that children need to be more comfortable with Police officers at a younger age, getting rid of false misrepresentations and breaking down barriers to enable communication between the groups.
Jeff Brown - He added that we should cut the Police budget in half, amounting to $150,000,000 - and enabling communities, rather than oppressing them.
The next question was posed directly to Andrew Ginther - "People connected to your campaign have been accused with threatening current contractors who are not willing to show public support for you. They mention that if they do not, then they may not receive contracts from you if you are elected. Are you willing to denounce these tactics publicly?"
Andrew Ginther - "I appreciate the question. This behavior, allegation, is completely unacceptable. The only thing that I have in my line of work is my reputation and line of work." He added that he is a Father of a little girl and the stresses the importance of integrity daily.
Question -how do you intend to balance economic growth and gentrification with the needs of lower income neighborhoods?
Terry Boyd - We need to continue bringing in affordable development, affordable housing opportunities, and generate other type of services. Too often we see our stores closing and other sevices moving out, economic development should include the attraction of businesses and affordable housing.
James Ragland - He recalls the residents of Poindexter Village having to move out, and how stressful this time was. His answer was simple, "Put me in office and help me implement my plan!" He plans on growing jobs right here in Columbus, Ohio. "Its about community reinvestment."
Jeff Brown - H plans on creating an additional $150,000,000 million to go towards community reinvestment, by cutting the Police budget of $300 million in half. He gave an example of utilizing businesses like the Columbus Land Bank, to fight homelessness.
Andrew Ginther - He mentioned that we need to be protective of our citizens, including affordable houses. He added, "It does not help us a whole if we are shifting families out of the neighborhood."
Question - What is your vision of improving the east side of Columbus, which is one of the more diverse parts of the city?
Terry Boyd - His plan is to create "quadrants" - which will tackle unemployment, education, development of businesses, housing, and mentioned that he is not going to continue to rely on abatements' from companies to come to Columbus. We are going to address the needs of the community with this group. He mentioned that this will be a gradual process and added, "I did not come here tonight to over promise and deliver."
James Ragland - Accountability. He added that when areas such as Clintonville, and Downtown Columbus need re-invesment it is much more easier to come by compared to areas like the East side of Columbus and the Hilltop. He mentioned that these areas get limitations when it comes to reinvestment, and due to the lack of accountability.
Jeff Brown - "We need to look at self sufficiency, what can we as a community do for ourself as opposed to relying on the budget."
Andrew Ginther - He added that he is most proud of the work that they have done to incentivize invesments in that part of town. He mentioned that adding a Save -A-Lot, which was the first time residents had a grocery store in their neighborhood, they had to previously go out of their way to get fresh produce. Adding, "the city has a role to play and they will continue on learning and improving that role."
Question - The political mayor race has been described as "pay to play "- do you support campaign finance reform to level the playing field and limit corporate investments?
James Ragland - "If you have a connection with the people, then you do not need a war chest of money to win an election." He referenced the millons spent on the Columbus School and Zoo levy, and that the people came together veto those levies. "The one advantage that people have is to vote. There should be a limit on how many funds you can spend and make it even so candidates are not "slaves to their corporate masters.""
Jeff Brown - He expressed discontent with the ballot access (needing 1,000 signatures to run) as well as campaign finances. He mentioned that is should an even playing field.
Andrew Ginther - He referenced transparency and accountability. He added that the people of Columbus should be able to see who is funding the campaigns so that that way they can make the most educated decision. However, he did not address his own campaigns donations, which has received over $1,000,000, but addressed the recent attack from the group 'Americans For Prosperity'. He added, "Right now I am being by the Koch Brothers, who is attacking me with "secret dirty money".
Terry Boyd - He wishes that there were limits to campaign donations. He added that he would like to have flyers, commercials, and more. He added, "if he had more money he could probably explain that to the audience more better."
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