Against the wishes of dozens of activists gathered outside Columbus City Hall, City Council members appointed a realtor to fill the latest vacancy on the governing body.
Council members on Monday picked Emmanuel Remy to fill the seat vacated by Zach Klein, who left the body to become the next city attorney.
Remy, 45, is also the president of the Northland Community Council. He says that’s prepared him to work in city government.
“Northland is one of the most diverse areas in the city of Columbus," Remy told reporters after the Monday meeting. "We’ve got not only a large new American population of people coming in from all over the world, we have a lot of differences in socioeconomic standards throughout the community.”
In winning the job, Remy beat out 12 other finalists, including Jasmine Ayres. She came in fourth in last November's election, making her the first runner-up behind the three incumbents who won reelection.
Ayres was one of the members of the “Yes We Can” coalition that unsuccessfully challenged several council and school board members for their seats in last November’s election. The group campaigned on issues including improving public housing and more funding for public schools.
Members of the coalition and the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund have criticized how council appoints people to fill vacancies instead of holding special elections. That appointment process, in addition to the council's current system of at-large (instated of ward-based) elections, has been described as having an undemocratic and discriminatory effect.
"It's really a much larger issue than filling the current seat," said spokesperson Madeline Stocker. "Because the way it works in Columbus is people are moving up the political pipeline."
In the last several years, it’s become common for City Council members to step down midterm and have other members appoint their replacement. Critics of the process say it gives the newly-appointed member the benefit of incumbency in the next election, and ensures the new member will vote in lockstep with those who appointed them. Yes We Can has called for the abolishment of that appointment system.
Remy will be sworn into his seat January 22.