Columbus City Council on Monday approved a controversial set of campaign finance reforms, and appointed Shayla Favor to fill one of two vacant seats.
Favor, an assistant Columbus City Attorney, was chosen from 15 finalists to fill the spot left open by Jaiza Page.
“Favor has been a transformative figure in the realm of housing and neighborhood blight in Columbus,” said Council president Shannon Hardin in a statement. “She is a civic leader with a deep understanding of what the community needs.”
At a public hearing last Thursday, Steve Dunbar of the City Attorney’s Office applauded Favor's work on an initiative addressing vacant and blighted homes.
“All the way back to training every stinking code enforcement officer, giving them checklists, so the first time they laid eyes on one of those they would start building exactly what needed to be done. So we would know exactly which way to send it and get it done most quickly,” Dunbar said.
Favor indicated in a statement that she'd continue pursuing those issues on Council.
"Columbus is one of the greatest cities in the country. However, rapid growth has the potential to create social and economic divides," Favor said in a statement. "The responsibility to mitigate the unintended effects of urban development on our vulnerable communities is crucial to the longevity of a thriving diverse economy for all."
Thursday’s hearing marked City Council’s first appointment hearing following a charter amendment passed in May that required public discussions of all such decisions.
Page won election in November to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. Council accepted applications for the vacancy, whittling down 56 applicants to a shortlist of 15.
Council plans another hearing February 21 for the vacancy left by Michael Stinziano, who won his race for Franklin County Auditor. Stinziano’s replacement will likely be chosen on February 25 from the remaining 14 finalists.
In the last two decades, only two Council members—Stinziano and Elizabeth Brown—joined first by winning an election. In that time, 18 members have received their seats through appointment.
During Monday’s meeting, Columbus Council signed off the city’s first ever campaign finance reforms. The measures set requirements for disclosing the sources of campaign advertisements and include a tax credit for small donations.
But the most-discussed part of the reforms are the campaign contribution limits: $12,707.79 per year. The limit is higher than any other city in Ohio.
City leaders decided on the dollar figure to correspond with state limits. But becuase the Columbus provisions apply annually rather than by campaign period, city officials could raise more money than state officeholders serving for the same amount of time. The measure applies to all municipal candidates including mayor, council member, auditor and city attorney.
Critics like Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio says the high limit renders any reforms meaningless.
“In other words, they established a limit, because right now the limit is 'the sky’s the limit,'” she says. “But it doesn’t actually limit their contributions in any meaningful way.”
For example, Mayor Andrew Ginther in his first mayor campaign received several donations worth more than $10,000. But he also raised almost $500,000 last year through 300 individual donations worth less than $10,000. Under the reforms, he would only have to turn down one donation.
Stinziano defended the contribution limit as a necessary compromise.
“There’s some members that think it could be lower, and so landing at this spot was something that we could tie it to, attribute and understand,” he said last week. “It’s something that’s been in place that’s worked in other campaigns across the state.”
The contribution limits will take effect in time for this year’s elections.