The 2016 primary can set in motion changes that will make a real difference for people living and working in Columbus − changes that seem out of reach when we look at the Ohio Statehouse or Washington.
New alliances are developing at the local level to fight for a future with more equitable wages, healthier neighborhoods and more accountable political structures. Yes We Can Columbus is an emerging political movement poised to replace government corruption with mass participation, starting right where we live.
Where We’ve Been: Municipal Reform and the Progressive Era
Over one hundred years ago, activists mobilized to stop child labor, take down political machines, and challenge the bonds of concentrated wealth and political power. And they did it starting in their cities.
Focusing on education, the workplace and purging government corruption, everyday people joined together and replaced their local politicians with new leaders who represented their interests. As reforms took hold in cities like Cleveland, Memphis and Los Angeles, millions of Americans saw these changes and organized to make similar demands of their elected officials. As momentum grew at the state and national level, the beginning of the 20th century came to be known as the Progressive Era. These reforms required mass mobilization from the ground up. They were won by people coming together and pushing for concrete changes to improve people’s lives.
In recent years, similar movements have been growing in cities across the country. While today’s activists are not struggling against the political bosses and monopolies of the Gilded Age, they are taking on multinational corporations, global agribusiness and the influence of dark money in the information economy. They are taking them on, and they are winning.
A Movement Moment: New Challenges, Coalitions and Victories
In places like New York, Seattle, Birmingham, Denver, Chicago, and Jackson, new coalitions of anti-racist, environmentalist, queer and labor activists are shifting the conversation and the political landscape. These groups are successfully winning paid maternity leave, free early childhood education and minimum wage increases to make sure working parents are able to spend time with their children and pay for basics needs. These new alliances are building momentum and shaking up the established political regimes in their cities.
We are in a movement moment. The Occupy movement illustrated the injustice of a political and economic system that bails out big banks but not communities. Black Lives Matter activists are pushing our racist criminal justice system into the public consciousness. The Fight for $15 is laying the foundation for a decent quality of life for all working people, refusing to accept the notion that paid sick leave and paid family leave are luxuries. LGBTQ people are demanding respect, safety, and full legal recognition.
These struggles are happening here in Columbus, whether or not it fits the story city officials are telling. Under the leadership of the Columbus Partnership, neighborhoods are being charted for development without the input of residents, and without investment in the social infrastructure needed to sustain growth. Major developers are carving up the city to feed a new appetite for urban living, while politicians enjoy generous campaign contributions for city contracts. But as the city grows flush with luxury apartments, Columbus remains one of the most racially and economically segregated metropolitan areas in the nation.
Columbus is at a Turning Point
It’s time for a change in Columbus.Yes We Can Columbus believes Columbus can be a city where all of our children to feel safe and where everyone has a good job and decent benefits. We can be a city where everyone has a good job and can pay for basics needs like food, housing, health care and transportation. Columbus can be a city with great schools, affordable housing, and health care. Columbus can be a city where everyone has a voice in the direction of the city. Yes We Can Columbus is committed to this vision.
Yes We Can Columbusis a coalition of passionate community members who believe that the people in our neighborhoods hold the keys to building a better city. We are community activists, small business owners and labor organizers, teachers and social workers, long-time residents and new community members who believe all voices matter in the political process. We are people who want to live in neighborhoods that thrive.
Yes We Can Columbusis supporting a group of candidates running for the Franklin County Democratic Party Central Committee. These are candidates who want to bring the voices from their neighborhoods into the local Democratic Party and into conversations about the future of our city. We value all the knowledge, experience and diversity Columbus has to offer, and we believe that diversity should be reflected in the tables of power that determine the direction of our city.
This primary election holds an incredible opportunity. This moment is ripe for the changes we want to see. Let’s make it the start of a new progressive era.
Will Petrik, Central Committee Candidate for Ward 18, Yes We Can Columbus
Original Source: Columbus Free Press, March 1, 2022