Against Issue 1

Next week City of Columbus residents will go to the polls to vote on Issue 1.  Unlike other elections that are coming up in the next few months, I’ll go to the polls on Tuesday with anticipation, not trepidation, to vote against a colossally bad idea.

Issue 1 would change the structure of Columbus’ City Council.  Currently, the Council has seven members, all of whom are elected on an at-large basis by the city as a whole.  Issue 1 would create a 13-member Council, 10 of whom would represent designated wards within the city, with the remaining three being at-large members.  As the city grows, the number of wards could increase, and ultimately the Council could include as many as 25 members.

db037dcb22d918789a9be47067b41c61The proponents and opponents of the proposed changes have been debating the merits of Issue 1, and the Columbus Dispatch has come out against the issue.  In a nutshell, supporters of Issue 1 argue that the current council format produces members who aren’t paying attention to the needs of particular neighborhoods, and a ward system — where neighborhoods would be electing a specific member — would inevitably change that.  Opponents focus on the fact that the proposed ward boundaries haven’t been drawn yet, and the Dispatch argues that, while arguments could be made for restructuring the current approach to electing City Council because of concerns about corruption and cronyism, a ward system would balkanize the city.

I’m against Issue 1 for several reasons.  First, I think a ward system is likely to increase corruption, not reduce it.  That’s been the problem in many cities, where developers co-opt ward bosses to support pet projects in their wards in exchange for hefty campaign contributions.  Second, an increase in the size of City Council inevitably would increase administrative costs and add new people to the local government payroll — all to perform the very same function that has been performed capably by a much smaller group.

Finally, I think the existing Council system has worked pretty darned well.  Columbus has grown and prospered, and that’s due in part to the fact that City Council is focused on the city as a whole.  For decades now, Columbus city government has largely operated by consensus and without the fractious discord that has affected other cities.  I’m sure there are some neighborhoods that feel neglected in comparison to others, but the overall progress is undeniable.  Run a Google search on Columbus and you’ll find lots of articles talking about what a great city it has become.  Why change what has worked so well?

Letting Columbus Food Trucks Roam

Earlier this week Columbus City Council passed legislation that, for the first time, will allow food truck owners to sell their wares from parking spots on city streets. Previously, food trucks were restricted to selling only on private property.

IMG_3701Columbus politics are known for moderation and consensus, and the food truck legislation was no different. The vote on the law was unanimous, after City Council worked with food truck owners interested in greater access and restauranteurs concerned about safety issues raised by patrons congregating in the areas between food trucks and brick and mortar dining establishments.

Under the new legislation, food trucks will be able to park in the first or last parking spots on blocks in most commercial areas. In high-traffic areas, like the Short North, the food trucks will need to reserve one of 20 designated spots. Food trucks also will be subject to health and fire inspections and must buy a license and pay for an annual street parking permit. The legislation also established an advisory board that will periodically review the food truck rules and consider whether they need to be revised.

This is a great development for those of us who are food truck fans and love the passion, diversity, and entrepreneurial spirit — not to mention the tasty and interesting grub — that food trucks bring to Columbus. I’m hopeful that those of us who work on Gay Street, which as the coolest street in downtown Columbus is home to a number of restaurants already, will be happily surprised to see a food truck or two parked on our block as temperatures warm and we move into the food truck season.