Columbus Mayor Robert Smith has never vetoed a city council decision. It’s time for Smith to use that power.
The council Tuesday voted 3-2 to select Oscar Lewis III as the city’s police chief.
We believe the mayor should veto that action.
Not because we do not like the choice — we want that clear. The position we take on this has nothing to do with the candidates for the job. Rather, it is about the people of Columbus having an opportunity to be heard.
First, if you are among the 3,175 registered voters who live in Ward 5, you had no representation in Tuesday’s decision. The Ward 5 council seat has been vacant since the beginning of the year, when Kabir Karriem resigned from the post to serve in the Legislature. The seat remains vacant, pending a Feb. 16 special election.
That means the city council, in voting to hire a new chief of police, made one of its most important decisions with roughly one-sixth of the city’s population having no elected representative to speak for them.
Second, while Ward 5 residents had no say in the matter, no Columbus resident had a real chance to be heard on the matter following the candidate interviews Tuesday. The council, immediately following the two-hour, public interview process, made its decision in executive session.
That’s a far cry from the posture city leaders embraced following the Oct. 16 officer-involved shooting death of Ricky Ball. The message we have heard from city leaders since then is that they are committed to building trust with the community, primarily through engaging citizens and listening to what they have to say. We are proud of how openly our leaders have acted since then.
But there was no opportunity for the public to weigh in on the chief of police decision.
Finally, the choice the council made came without lengthy deliberation. The council took just 10 minutes to reach its decision. That is not enough time to evaluate the interviews or to consider the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses.
We need our council to wait until Ward 5 has a representative on the council and until the public has an opportunity to weigh in before it makes the decision.
If the council won’t admit that, then Mayor Robert Smith certainly should, by vetoing the action.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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