Monday, October 08, 2007

Races in Other Communities

Besides Bexley, there are several other Central Ohio municipalities that are also holding elections for Mayor and City Council. One of these is a town called Columbus, and this weekend I was invited to sit down with some guy named Coleman and chat with him and a few other folks about the race there.

Seriously, Jerid of BSB worked with the Mayoral and Council campaigns to have Columbus bloggers like Walker Evans (Columbus Underground), Paul Bonneville (Columbus RetroMetro), and the guys from the 270 and ColumbusIng do a Meet-The-Bloggers style forum with Mayor Michael Coleman, followed shortly by a group interview with Council members Mentel, Tavares, Ginther, and Craig. I was lucky enough to end up on the invite list, and on Saturday I went back to the old stomping grounds in the Short North. TryFresh/FreshLabs, a web innovation company, hosted in their very trendy office space.

The conversation with Mayor Coleman was a whole lot more interesting than I expected it to be. To be honest, the one time that I had met the mayor before, he seemed to be completely somewhere else. Looking back at the timeline, I can't really hold that against him, but it made for a pleasant surprise Saturday when he latched on to questions and was obviously very engaged in the conversation.

There's supposed to be audio and/or video available either soon or already, but by way of highlights most of the conversation dealt with downtown, which is what the Columbus blogging community tends to be focused on. In particular, Mayor Coleman was animated about the Streetcar project, and talked about the benefits of connecting the students to downtown. For those of you who don't obsess on transit issues, you may be surprised that this part of the conversation caused a mild tension at the table, which Walker Evans eventually jumped in and made explicit: No version of the streetcar proposal had ever brought the line north of Buttles - 12 blocks south of Campus. Mayor Coleman's response was the big "scoop" of the day, that meetings this week had led to the conclusion that any future proposal would run north to campus (although possibly at the expense of the proposed southern portion of the route. Mayor Coleman mentioned that it was making more sense to wait for a finalized I70/71 plan through downtown before proposing how a streetcar line would cross the new freeway).

Of course, as Mayor Coleman was quick to mention, streetcars are an exciting but currently unfunded idea. Without the cash, the changes in the proposal don't mean much in the short term.

When my turn to ask a question came up, I specifically moved the conversation away from downtown and over here to the Eastside. I thanked him for the bulldozers at Woodland Meadows, and asked: So what now? The answer: Good Question. In a nutshell, the city does not own the Woodland Meadows property, the city would love to work with a new owner, it may take a while to get a new owner, because Jorge Newbery has many debts and needs to maximize what he can squeeze out of his assets, so we wait. I asked if there was anything the city could do to make the property more attractive to potential buyers, and his reply brought a quick laugh: "I think I already have." He clarified the quip, though, and I was glad. The humorous interpretation was that he simply got rid of the ugliness. The real meaning of the remark was that the net result of the demolition project was probably 2-3 million dollars in market value for the property. In effect, this is cash into Mr. Newbery's pocket, but worth the expense, especially if the benefits go beyond removing the blight and into facilitation of re-development.

Like I said, we had questions, he had answers. When time ran out, he asked for more. I for one was sincerely flattered.

Afterward, I got distracted and missed out on most of my courtesy lunch, but used the opportunity to let Charleta Tavares know that I knew she lived in neighboring Berwick, as Berwick's in the 12th... and I've located nearly every prominent politician in the 12th. That still flusters people for some reason. I also ascertained that Hearcel Craig remembered baby C., and chatted with him about the screaming pic I had put up in his defense. I was glad I got the chance to chat, as the roundtable with the Council Crew was not really conducive to that kind of interaction.

All 4 of the Council Members present were competent and impressive, but I was especially impressed with Council President Mentel. He took my first out-of-the-blue question (the city has explicitly stated that it wants to be more competetive for major conventions and meetings - what are the near term projects supporting that goal?) and listed off direct and indirect actions being taken by the city. It wasn't the content so much as the confidence. Later, when asked about the strategy of running against one-party-rule, a tack being taken by some of their opponents, Andrew Ginther gave an answer much like I might, saying that the issue has never really been one party rule, that the problem was corruption, and that one-party-rule was basically necessary but not sufficient for corruption, etc. Mentel took the mic and said Democrats have a long and excellent record of stewardship of this city. Columbus is the success story of the Midwest. He is proud of what Council has accomplished, he is proud to work with the Mayor as a partner, and he is proud of the teamwork on the Council. If that's what the Republicans say they want to change, let 'em run on that platform.


So anyway, that's the campaign off in the land of Columbus. I'd like to thank everyone, including the organizers, hosts, campaign staffs, fellow bloggers and the candidates. It was fun. Here in Bexley, the lawn signs exploded over the weekend. Lampke is dominating that race, although some streets are overwhelmingly Brennan (my next door neighbor has one of each). Interviewing the big guns may be fun, but you've got to love the races here in the enclave.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Things are less interesting in the Hilliard municipal races unfortunately. Mayor Don Schonhardt is running unopposed, and we have only four candidates for three city council seats. One of those candidates is Dan Nichter, former head of Franklin County development. I think Nichter moved into Hilliard just before the primary when it became clear that all you had to do was file to win. To not be seated on the Council this November, all he has to do is not come in last. Carpetbagger politics, all for the benefit of the developers.