Fair Cincy Response to Hamilton County Democratic Party
Below is Fair Cincy’s response to the Hamilton County Democratic Party's opinion of our plan to create districts in order to elect five of nine City Councilmembers.
HCDP: “This is a backroom deal that would limit the number of African-American officials, extend the influence of big business, and crowd out grass-roots candidates.”
Fairy Cincy’s Response: The Fair Cincy team worked with hundreds of residents to come up with this plan. We did not approach any of the “power brokers” of the Democratic or Republican parties prior to going public with our plan. This is a grassroots effort, which will make City Council members more accountable to the residents of our great city.
There is no evidence that this plan will limit the number of African-American council members. Our team spoke to many African American ministers and adjusted our plan from seven districts and two at-large seats to five districts and 4 seats after our discussions with these ministers. In fact, three of the five districts have more African American residents than white residents.
This plan will allow grass roots candidates to win a district seat on a limited budget so, candidates won’t have to rely on big business and wealthy donors to run a successful campaign. Candidate’s campaigns will be able to knock on the doors of all registered voters in a district. Wearing out shoe leather can win a seat in a district.
HCDP: “The plan and proposed map were cooked up behind closed doors with no community input. The public needs to be part of any plan that vastly reshapes how we elect our city representatives.”
Fair Cincy Response: As mentioned above, our team spoke to members of the community about this plan and chose not to include political parties because city council elections are unaffiliated. This is a grassroots effort. The map is based on 2010 census data and individual census tracts within the city limits were kept within the same district. There is less than a 3% difference between the population of the district with the most residents and the district with the least. With the 2020 census data forthcoming, a five-person panel will be formed, (two appointed by City Council, and one selected by each of the local Republican, Democratic, and Charter parties) to determine the layout of the 2023 district map.
HCDP : “Second, our current system has worked well to elect a council that is representative of who we are. Implementation of this proposed plan would make it harder for candidates of color to win more than two seats.”
Response: We believe we need change and do not believe that our current system has served us well. Strong minority candidates will be able to do extremely well in district elections with three of the five districts have a minority majority.
HCDP: “Finally, and most critically, this new plan calls for head-to-head races for each seat. This new scheme would allow money to have an oversized role in electing members to council while inviting in increased negative campaigning and messaging. These are both things that we, as Democrats, should be working against.”
Fair Cincy Response: Our team went back and forth on whether to have the four at-large seats elected via head-to-head races or have a field race. Approximately half of the responses we received preferred head-to-head and the other half preferred a field race. After going public with our plan it has become clear more residents prefer the at-large seats be a field race and we have altered the petition language to accommodate public preference before we begin collecting petition signatures.
HCDP: “The Democratic Party has not been approached by the organizers of this proposal for endorsement consideration, but on its face it seems to be contrary to our Party values. We urge Cincinnati voters to not sign the circulating petitions as we believe this newly proposed plan is not good for the City of Cincinnati and its voters.”
Fair Cincy Response: As stated above, Cincinnati City Council elections are not affiliated with any party, while the parties can choose to endorse a slate of candidates, the ballot will not include any party affiliation with any candidate. As such, we chose to go directly to the people to ask their opinion on this plan. Urging residents to not sign a petition to allow for a Charter amendment to be placed on the ballot for a vote by the people is undemocratic.
Fair Cincy closing statement: The majority of Cincinnatians we spoke with over the past 8 months support this plan. People prefer to have council members living in their area. Our current system has failed some of the vastly minority neighborhoods, such as Villages of Roll Hill, English Woods, Millvale, South Cumminsville, and East Westwood. Having a district representative fighting for our underrepresented neighborhoods will have great benefits for all Cincinnatians. We are disappointed in the HCDP for coming out against Fair Cincy without asking first to discuss our process. Fair Cincy’s goal is to work together to make this city better and we look forward to discussing this plan.
Henry Frondorf, Lesley Jones, Tamie Sullivan, and Matt Woods