According to their website, Represent Columbus’s proposed charter amendment will empower “everyday citizens” to “take back” their “government from big business and monied special interests.”  Their plan to achieve this goal: convert Columbus’s  council system with seven at-large seats to a ward system with ten districts and three at-large seats.

What the website doesn’t tell is that two of the key players in the push for a ward system are a failed former Republican candidate for Columbus mayor, and a current Republican candidate for state rep, both of whom have very tenuous ties to Columbus.

Republican Lawyer Bill Todd moved to Columbus in 2005 from Powell so he could run against Michael Coleman for mayor of Ohio’s capital city.  After losing, Todd moved to Bexley, where he still resides today.

The bulk of Todd’s mayoral campaign money came from White Hat charter school millionaire David Brennan.  Todd’s ties to Brennan and other bad actors in Ohio Republican politics are long and deep.

When Brennan illegally funneled money to Republican candidates in Ohio, Bill Todd defended him.  When Ohio Right To Life wanted to run illegal “issue ads” supporting Republican candidates, Bill Todd was there to help.

Bill Todd is the guy “monied special interests” call when they need someone to defend their shady dealings.  If he is supporting and helping raise money for this cause, I guarantee it has nothing to do with empowering “everyday citizens” and everything to do with wrenching power away from Democrats in order to push his own right-leaning agenda.

Speaking of Republicans from outside Columbus who are involved in the ward system proposal for their own self interest, meet Whitney Ellen Smith, co-chair of Represent Columbus and Republican candidate for Ohio’s 18th district, which covers a large swath of Columbus.

Until recently, the 30-year old Smith lived with her parents in their Westerville home (not in the 18th).  She is now supposedly living in a two bedroom house on S. 4th St. in Columbus. According to auditor records, the home is still occupied by the owner, who is receiving a tax credit for living in the house.

Documents submitted to the city clerk by Represent Columbus on May 3rd, 2016 show Smith was payed $6,571 to collect signatures and the check was mailed to her Westerville address.  However her signed circulator statement claims she lives on S. 4th St.  Falsifying a circulator statement is a fifth degree felony.

While it is unclear if Smith actually lives in the district she is running to represent, it is painfully clear that her ties to Columbus, Ohio are extremely limited, very recent and, like Bill Todd, very self-serving.


  • jr6020

    This is enough for me to vote NO on the charter question. The GOP sugar daddies want to slice up a strong DEM council government. Now, will an August vote with sparse turnout and just enough PR attacking the current system be enough to pass the thing? Watch the editorial position the CD takes on this…

  • annekarima53

    Empower? Empower? Oh yeah. One of those NLP words.

  • GOP still has a “self-interest” in Columbus City Council? I would have thought they’d lost interest by now. Aren’t most big cities run with a ward council system? Not sure if things are better now, but whatever y’all had over there a few years ago was a mess. (Wherein ‘Mess’ means the entire council was appointed in, and not elected, no real debate/discussion took place on the floor, constant unanimous votes, little to no responsiveness to the press, etc. etc.) I say shake it up. What could go wrong? It’s not like people are going to elect Republicans.The selection committee will just have to to pick from a certain geographic location.

  • Mark Shanahan

    This article suffers from narrow vision. Are there Republicans involved in Represent Columbus? Sure, they want a chance at power. But there are also a large number of progressives supporting this ballot initiative. Progressives who believe that more democracy is better. Progressives who believe that people need more political power that is accessible to them. Progressives who believe that the Columbus power structure completely controls the city administration and the City Council. Progressives who know that the opposition to this initiative is driven in large part by the current political leadership not wanting to surrender any of its power.
    The argument that we are all one in Columbus rings hollow in a city that has been ranked as the second most economically segregated large city in the country.
    The argument rings hollow as we watch City Council hand out large tax abatements to highly profitable companies and then expect us to make up the loss to Columbus Public School revenues.
    The argument rings hollow when the political and civic leadership suddenly decides it would be a good idea to study possible changes to the city charter and schedule that review to begin after the scheduled August 2 vote–a transparent attempt to persuade people to vote No so that more knowledgeable leaders can make a decision. (I’m guessing their recent poling was showing solid support for a Yes vote.)
    Might a Republican or two win a seat on City Council if the initiative passes? Yep. That’s the thing about democracy; if you actually let it run its course, those pesky voters don’t always do what the “leaders” think is right.

  • Red Rover

    In principle I think wards are good for representation, but who’s going to draw the lines? Is Columbus going to be the next “redistricting” scandal?

  • David

    I am such a huge fan of Plunderbund, which has published superb, groundbreaking articles on education issues thanks largely to Greg Mild, that I find this post doubly disappointing. It offers an incredibly narrow view of the initiative and the people behind it. I won’t make any assumptions about whether Plunderbund is guilty here of really shoddy, incomplete research or of dishonest partisanship. What I do know is that the Represent Columbus initiative arises from years of work by grass-roots organizers in some of Columbus’s poorest neighborhoods (and remember, for all the national acclaim Columbus has received recently, it has also attracted attention for being a city of inequality). Any article purporting to inform voters of the people behind the initiative loses credibility when it fails to mention the selfless efforts of community organizers like Jonathan Beard. Such a sloppy smear job by Plunderbund gives informed voters all the more reason to vote YES on Issue 1.

  • WildwestSide

    Normally I’d agree with many things here but this article is so far off base you can smell the stink from across the city.

    The main ones fighting against this issue are the ones for keeping the status quo. The status quo of keeping poor poor and the rich rich. The developers keeping the politicians funded so they get the nice kickbacks and abatements. The big contracts to build million dollar condos just blocks away from homeless camps. Continuing Columbus’ climb from 2nd in the nation in Income segregation to number one.

    The poor and forgotten zones are the ones leading this charge. The ones from Hilltop, Linden and the Southside. The ones who have seen their police and fire cut. Seen their code cut. Seen their taxes rise. Watched the city deliberately dump the homeless in these areas because they will be forgotten and out of the way on the new hip areas that contribute nothing in property taxes.

    The Dems in power should be scared. Scared of other Dems that haven’t been bought for 20k by Redflex, for OSU football tickets, for campaign cash, for scummy real estate deals. The likely hood of a republican getting elected is so slim it’s laughable and if they do it will be from areas that the city has neglected.

  • Pari Sabety

    This seems like a cheap shot. As a former Hilltop Area Cimmission member, I can assure you that the fate of neighborhoods is a long distance from the attention of a solely at-large city council. I urge people to consider the merits of a more democratic, representative system that might help funnel resources to support innovation and growth in our neighborhoods in a more balanced way. Take a look at the substance and consider voting yes.

  • workingclassprogressive

    I always thought of Plunderbund as one of the best sources for progressive takes on Ohio politics. Today I am reconsidering that opinion. I am a progressive Democrat that lives in Columbus and I am proudly supporting issue 1. I am not at all surprised to that there are Republicans involved with Represent Columbus, they have after all always described themselves to be a bi-partisan coalition. This is a weak hit job that silences the voices of thousands of Columbus Democrats who are ready for a modern city council with district representation. A more fitting title of this story would be “People who say they are Republicans are Republicans” What would be a far more interesting story would be an in depth look into Mayor Ginther’s machine’s connections to the mostly Republican club of 1% CEOs called the Columbus Partnership. The sad truth is that the top of the Democratic ticket is taking just as much dirty money from the big business as the Republicans are. I’m tired of having a city government that puts the demands of big campaign contributors over the needs of everyday people, That is why I’m voting yes on 1. Wards won’t solve all the problems with City Hall, but they are a step in the right direction.

    Thomas Lee
    Franklin County Democratic Party Delegate for Ward 16 Columbus

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