Oct 30, 2023 - News

Ginther, Motil face off in Columbus mayoral race

Illustration of Columbus City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Next week's election marks the first time since 2015 that Columbus has a contested mayoral race on the ballot.

Why it matters: Joe Motil's challenge is drawing attention to local social issues and forcing Mayor Andrew Ginther to make a public case for a third term.

Motil: "It's about the fight"

The Clintonville native's father was a union carpenter, while his mother's family owned a chain of candy stores around town.

  • He says this upbringing informed lifelong support for small businesses, labor unions and hard work. He went on to have his own career as a union laborer and construction safety professional.

Flashback: Motil previously served on local development and historic preservation commissions and has a reputation as a perennial candidate.

  • He has run unsuccessfully for City Council five times, most recently in 2019, along with two failed bids for state representative.

What he's saying: "To me it's not about losing, it's about the fight," he tells Axios. "You've got to continue fighting for what you believe in."

State of play: He believes Columbus is controlled by special interests ā€” namely, developers, leading to inequality and misshapen priorities.

On housing, Motil condemns "buy out" options for developers to pay to not build affordable housing units in new properties.

  • He generally dislikes tax abatements because he sees them as tools to benefit developers at the cost of public services.

The big picture: He takes a macro view of crime, saying Columbus must focus on underlying problems of housing, education, systemic racism, health care, jobs and infrastructure.

  • And he believes the city should continue developing its Right Response Program, which sends social workers to non-violent emergencies when appropriate.

Meanwhile, Motil promotes free COTA transit service, safer bike lane infrastructure and more funding toward growing Columbus' tree canopy coverage.

Ginther: Columbus is on the right path

Leadership was "lonely" at times during his second term, which featured intersecting professional and personal challenges, Ginther tells Axios.

  • The pandemic hit a few months after his re-election, as did widespread racial justice protests over the killing of George Floyd.
  • Over recent years, Ginther lost both parents, plus a a 21-year-old niece in a car accident.

What he's saying: "It's been my faith, it's been my family, it's been the people of Columbus that have prayed for me, supported me, sustained me, and grabbed me by the lapel collars from time to time and tell me when I messed up," he says.

Zoom in: Ginther acknowledges the city did a poor job interacting with peaceful protests in 2020.

Meanwhile: Ginther points to The Columbus Promise and CelebrateOne as two local successes going under the radar.

What we're watching: The mayor previewed other major initiatives coming in a potential third term.

  • Columbus plans to embrace density and height ā€” two key ways to help housing supply and affordability ā€” via a long-awaited zoning code rewrite.
  • "Sprawl is not a strategy," he says. "Sprawl has not served this community well for the last 30 years or so."
  • Ginther supports the Amtrak expansion proposal and noted the LinkUs initiative to fund major infrastructure improvements planned for the fall 2024 ballot.
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