The Worst of Columbus

Alive staff
Jim Jordan

Worst politician: Jim Jordan

The U.S. Congressman from Ohio is a frontline mouthpiece for Donald Trump and his administration’s policies. His defense of the administration in the face of a DOJ investigation sounded more like a random sycophant on Twitter than an elected official. That he worked so hard to discredit Michael Cohen during recent House testimony is gross. Having such an individual associated with your state would be bad enough. But somehow Jordan has also managed to maintain his position of power despite being implicated in a sexual assault scandal that accusers say happened while Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State (Jordan has denied any knowledge of the alleged abuse). He blamed “Fake News” and the “Deep State,” heightening his Alex Jones-esque rhetoric. For real, though. He’s the worst. –Jim Fischer

Former Police Chief Kim Jacobs’ ‘Fund for Learning, Cultural Understanding and Engagement’

During former Chief Jacobs’ tenure, the police-involved killings of black residents Henry Green, Ty’re King (just 13) and Jaron Thomas devastated community members. After killing Green, Officer Zachary Rosen was caught on video kicking a restrained suspect in the head. In another blow to community members, he was reinstated after being fired. Additionally, during a heavily policed 2017 Pride parade, activists known as the Black Pride 4 staged a peaceful protest, and police responded by using force and issuing arrests. The police force has also faced claims of racism within the department, and many federal lawsuits. So, for City Council to honor the now-retired chief with a fund for cultural understanding is regarded as a final slap in the face to some community members. We can be hopeful that the training will foster change among remaining officers, but I somehow doubt a trip to the Holocaust Memorial Museum and National Museum of African-American History will be enough. – Erica Thompson 

Columbus Police Vice Unit

Technically this unit no longer exists, since Interim Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan recently disbanded Vice. Previously, former Chief Kim Jacobs placed the unit on pause while an FBI Corruption Task Force investigated the section, which had been embroiled in controversy over the “improper” arrest of Stormy Daniels at a strip club in July. Not to mention former Vice Officer Andrew Mitchell, who was recently indicted in federal court on charges he kidnapped women and forced them to have sex with him; Mitchell is also under investigation separately in the shooting death of Donna Castleberry (nee Dalton). All that to say, good riddance. —Joel Oliphint

The black infant mortality rate

To be black in America is to be acquainted with the word “disparity.” It is spoken in discussions about all areas of society, from education to housing to jobs. Not only are life expectancies lower among black adults, but an alarming number of black children don’t even make it to their first birthday. In 2017, black infants died nearly three times the rate of white infants. And while deaths of white infants dropped, deaths of black infants continue to rise. We are faced with this troubling reality despite the city’s efforts to tackle the problem through initiatives like CelebrateOne. I don’t know how we can be an “opportunity city” if certain communities don’t even have an opportunity to live. – Erica Thompson

Urban Meyer

Meyer was a great football coach, sure. But his legacy should forever be tainted by the way he handled the domestic abuse accusations that surfaced against former assistant coach Zach Smith. Rather than directly addressing the issue, Meyer back-pedaled, stonewalled and offered contradictory statements, expressing no regret and showing more concern for Ohio State’s reputation than the issue of violence against women. “I’m just sorry we’re in this situation,” he said in one presser, apologizing to “Buckeye Nation,” but not Courtney Smith, who claimed abuse by her husband. In making a case for the team to be awarded a spot in the 2018 College Football playoff, Meyer even cited the Buckeyes overcoming an “emotional year,” as though offering cover to an alleged abuser was just one more hurdle on the way to football glory. A December announcement that Meyer would co-teach a future “character and leadership” course at OSU only added to the ridiculousness of the situation, proving once again that irony is still alive and kicking. –Andy Downing

New Short North/Italian Village/Victorian Village parking rules

When I moved to Columbus in 2016, I quickly learned to avoid the Short North at all costs. Trying to find a parking spot in the neighborhood was the easiest way to induce an anxiety attack. Three years later, the city has managed to make the process even more stressful with the new parking rules in the Short North, Italian Village and Victorian Village. If you somehow manage to snag a meter, you must pay by using a smartphone app. If you find a space in a residential area, you must pay by app or by securing a permit, but after 10 p.m., non-permit-holders must move. The latter restriction has impacted me the most; if I’m out late covering a story and don’t find a meter or buy a permit, I’m out of luck. But I can’t help but think of people who don’t have smartphones or enough money to pay for parking in residential areas that were once free. I guess the city needed a new way to price people out of these neighborhoods. – Erica Thompson 

The affordable housing crisis

In some ways the city’s affordable housing crisis is a negative side effect of some positive things. Columbus is growing. The market is hot. Home prices went up 53 percent in the last five years. But thousands of families are on a waiting list for housing assistance vouchers. City officials are trying, but it’s not enough. One example: A Parsons Avenue apartment complex gets a 15-year, 100 percent tax abatement because eight out of 78 units are “affordable,” meaning tenants make 80 to 100 percent of the median income, which is around $60,000. People making $60K aren’t the ones desperate for housing help in Columbus. We need bigger, more creative solutions. —Joel Oliphint

Former Sgt. Dean Worthington

A shadow was already cast over the Columbus Police department due to high-profile killings of black men and boys and other acts of violence. But things got a little darker when former CPD spokesman Sgt. Dean Worthington pleaded guilty to four counts of child pornography. He was initially ordered to serve nine years in jail, but before the city could breathe a sigh of relief, his sentence was suspended to a mere 90 days. “It sends a horrible message to crime victims,” Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center Executive Director Cathy Harper Lee told NBC4. “It sends a disturbing message to offenders, it undermines the serious nature of the crime and it allows that industry to flourish.” –Erica Thompson 

Actual Brewing

In the days after Alive published a February cover story in which multiple women detailed claims of sexual assault against Actual Brewing founder Fred Lee, the brewery closed its newly opened Clintonville location. A week later the company filed for bankruptcy. And in late March it was reported by Columbus Business First that the brewery would be liquidated, never again to exist. The news was a small victory for the women who spoke up bravely, and a reminder that the national #MeToo movement still has work to do penetrating industries that have long been hostile to those who aren’t straight white males. –Andy Downing

Haunted Hoochie’s “Swastika Saturday”

Part of this is the community’s fault. The local haunted house has been hosting its “Swastika Saturday” night for years, and, to my knowledge, no one spoke out (or at least enough to cause a scene). I have no interest in going to haunted houses that promote racist symbols for shock value, but Haunted Hoochie was so insensitive that it didn’t cancel its apparently beloved event when 11 people were killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue that same day. The haunted house eventually buckled under pressure and admitted, “We screwed up big time,” in a Facebook post. But that didn’t stop an overwhelming number of unsympathetic people from complaining about “crybabies” in the comments. – Erica Thompson

Self-driving shuttles

Every day on the walk from my Broad Street parking lot to the office, I see one of the new self-driving shuttles parked in front of the Veterans Memorial and Museum. It’s a sad sight, this newfangled tech (with a driver, mind you) that’s supposed to be a beacon of Smart City Columbus. Three years after the city was awarded the $50 million Smart City grant, this fleet of free shuttles hardly feels transformative. The Smart City folks keep telling us amazing things are coming, but we’re still waiting to learn more about projects like helping pregnant mothers get to prenatal care. —Joel Oliphint

Worst rebrand: Sonic Temple Music Festival

Rock on the Range had run its course, we were told. Throughout its 12-year run, it had grown to a three-day event and sold out routinely, but it was time for something fresh and new. And so, Sonic Temple Art & Music Festival was born, complete with a new font, design elements and vibe. Festival producer Danny Wimmer promised “…a one-of-a-kind, world-class event that expands on the festival experience.” So when the lineup was announced, and it was largely the kind of lineup that rock fest fans had come to expect from… Rock on the Range… it felt like subterfuge. Wimmer’s former partner, AEG, felt the same way; the company filed suit against Wimmer in November, claiming Sonic Temple is an illegal copy. –Jim Fischer

Amazon 2.0 flirtations

Columbus was unable to convince Amazon to build its second headquarters here, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. In fact, according to the Dispatch, the city offered Amazon an incentive package full of property-tax abatements and income-tax refunds totaling $2.6 billion. It’s nice to be considered, and making the shortlist is a good sign for future economic investment in Columbus, but in this case the campaign to get Amazon felt less like wooing and more like obsequious begging. –Joel Oliphint

The conditions at Columbus Alternative High School

Find out the kind of work that students at Columbus Alternative High School are doing, in terms of quality and scope, and it’s impressive. Find out the conditions under which those achievements are attained, and it’s almost unimaginable. To think to oneself, “It’s a shame, the conditions at CAHS,” is just not strong enough language to describe the state the building is in. According to a story by WOSU, a student survey found that 75 percent of CAHS students feel anxious or uncomfortable due to the physical conditions at CAHS, which include bats and bat droppings, heating and cooling issues, plumbing issues, electrical issues… let’s just say there are concerns across the board. Speaking of the board, the district’s Board of Education has been kicking this problem down the road for some time now (and CAHS isn’t the only facility in dire need). In the words of Scott Woods in a recent Alive column, “…as a city we should be ashamed.” –Jim Fischer