On August 29th, OhioMBE, Ohio’s largest Black-owned business newspaper with a readership of 15,000, emailed an invitation to an October 18th virtual debate hosted by publisher Ronda Watson Barber to four certified Columbus City Schools Board of Education candidates and delivered a note to the home of the write-in candidate because she did not provide the Franklin County Board of Elections with an email address. In less than 24 hours, the emailed candidates replied.
Leading them off was a reply from Brandon Simmons saying, “Thank you for the invitation. The fifth candidate withdrew from the ballot and there are only four seats up this year. Leaving four unopposed candidates on the ballot. Our campaign does not feel this event is right for us at this moment. Please keep us in mind for future events that may be in a different format. I have copied my colleagues for visibility.” The rest followed his with declines for various reasons from having previous commitments to being interested when all candidates can attend.
Simmons must believe that his and the other three candidacies are a slam dunk for a seat, a colossal failure to realize that the Franklin County Board of Elections lists a certified write-in candidate in the mix. Interestingly, when they followed his reply, none of the other candidates sought to inform Mr. Simmons of his error.
So, Mr. Simmons does not believe that a debate “is right” for him “at this moment.” How arrogant and disrespectful that he doesn’t think that a debate works for him or he can’t find the time to allow a potential audience of Black and minority taxpaying business owners to hear what qualifies him for a position on the Board or what he plans for their children who attend the district’s schools, in a primarily African American district, while a $100 million levy request is staring them in the face. No accountability “at this moment” to explain himself to the parents and guardians of the children he could potentially swear to serve and protect. No time, huh?
We at OhioMBE believe that it is vital for our audience to hear from these candidates. Why do they believe they deserve our vote and more money? We want to know who they are. What makes them qualified for a precious seat on the Board? What do they stand for? How do they plan to address the significant issues that have vexed the Board and the District? Why is the district’s spend with Black vendors dismal? What do they have to show for the money we already gave them? What do they plan to do with the new levy money, especially when RIGHT NOW the District can’t figure out how to spend the millions they already have? Why can’t they figure out how to stop our children from fundraising instead of studying and fund the Linden McKinley High School Band’s trip to Memphis, where our children would have an opportunity to show what they can do? Their mere presence is a good look for Columbus City Schools! Where is the support? Where is the world-class education our children deserve and have been promised? How will these candidates plan to deliver?
Based on their invitation replies, we see that they collaborate. So, we will be gracious enough to ask them for a debate date and time that would suit them all. We are offering the opportunity for them to come to a virtual table because a debate is right for our community at this moment in time.