The mayor of Columbus builds sidewalks. He makes sure trash is picked up. He gets a lot of grief when snow isn't plowed.
So why is one of the men running for the job this year spending so much time talking about schools?
Republican William M. Todd has called for a City Hall takeover of Columbus City Schools. He has sued the district over the amount of money it spends on students in different parts of town. He now is running an ad on radio urging parents to send their children elsewhere.
And he gets tears in his eyes sometimes when he talks about it.
"At this point in my life, it certainly would be easier to sit back and enjoy a comfortable practice of law," said the 54-year-old Downtown lawyer, longtime GOP insider and first-time political candidate.
Sitting in the Starbucks at Broad and High, he became misty-eyed again Thursday morning when asked why the issue moves him to tears. In two previous interviews and at a June news conference, Todd has gotten emotional when talking about children in poorly performing schools.
"It really doesn't have anything to do with personal ambition," he said. "You can sit back your whole life and complain about how things aren't as good as they should be, or you can step up and try to make a difference."
Democrats don't believe him for an instant.
Between January and June -- a time when education began climbing on his priority list -- Todd's biggest individual campaign donor was David L. Brennan, an Akron businessman who runs Ohio's biggest for-profit operator of charter schools.
Todd listed himself in a February filing with the state as assistant vice president of School Choice Ohio, a nonprofit advocacy group that shares a State Street address and registered lobbyist with Brennan's White Hat Management.
Todd earned $12,000 from School Choice Ohio when he helped incorporate the group in the state of Delaware.
In those ties, critics see sinister motives.
"Him bringing up education has nothing to do with bettering public education," said Columbus school-board member W. Carlton Weddington, who has fired back hardest for the Democrats. "It's an agenda he's pushing to help those who are donating to his campaign."
Mayor Michael B. Coleman's campaign has been more dismissive. Supporters of Coleman, a Democrat, point out repeatedly that Todd has never lived within Columbus City Schools boundaries -- his Northwest Side home is in the Worthington district -- and suggest the Republican might be more interested in a school-board seat than the mayor's office.
Coleman himself said he prefers "practical partnerships" to Todd's takeover. He talks about a "positive impact" that contrasts with Todd's legal confrontation. The Republican filed suit Sept. 17 on behalf of five district residents, saying that differences in per-student funding from school to school violate the Ohio Constitution.
"I would much rather spend money in a classroom than a courtroom," Coleman said.
The mayor of Columbus has no official role in Columbus schools or any of the other 10 school districts within city limits. Todd calls that an accident of history that needs to be corrected. The health of cities depends too heavily on schools for the two to be governed separately, he says.
Coleman, while opposing the type of involvement that would come with mayoral control of schools, has increased City Hall's role in education. He created an Office of Education that has spent more than $7 million since 2001. He created the Capital Kids network for after-school programs and helped fund training for its staff. He has directed Columbus police to help round up truants. . . . .
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
The White Hat Candidate for Columbus Mayor
Another crooked attempt to buy another crook. From the Columbus Post-Dispatch: