Tim Fulton  00:17

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the confidence cast presented by Columbus underground. We are a weekly Columbus centric podcast focusing on the civics, lifestyle, entertainment, and people of our city. I’m your host Tim Fulton. This week in anticipation of this fall’s election. The confluence cast is endeavouring to introduce Columbus voters to the 12 Council and two mayoral candidates in their own words. In this first interview, council president Shane unhardened, sat down to discuss the state of Council today. What successes and regrets he is reflecting on and his vision for what’s next in Columbus. You can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast.com. Enjoy the interview. Sitting down here with Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin, Shannon, how are you?

Shannon Hardin  01:12

I’m good. How are you, sir?

Tim Fulton  01:13

Good. I should also note that you are the unopposed Columbus City Council candidate for district nine. Yes. So you and I spoke last year, I will link in the show notes, that interview where you get into your background heavily talked about some of your philosophies about leading and I think we’re going to talk about some of that stuff. Again today. But I guess what I want to hear about first is talk about your time on council. How long and I apologize for not knowing how long have you been seated?

Shannon Hardin  01:42

So I’ve been on council? The nine years in October, okay, appointed October? Sixth, I believe. Okay, I’ve 2014. Okay. And I’ve been council president now for six years, became Council President, January of 2018.

Tim Fulton  01:55

How’s your time been?

Shannon Hardin  01:57

Depends on the day, okay. You know, I’ve been very grateful that the residents of Columbus have entrusted me with the responsibility. And I really do believe it’s an awesome responsibility to help lead this community and lead it in the mundane way of the making sure our streets are paved, making sure that folks are picking up trash, making sure that we are working to be the safest city that we can be. But also in the larger way of providing vision, and helping us get to where we all know we are going I think about the different types of leaders and like Mayor Coleman was that Mayor that got us away from calling ourselves cow town, and brought in injected this idea that we should have swagger. And swagger is like such an old word now. But like, it worked for us as a community gave us a bit of a confidence and, you know, to see, you know, current leadership who has gotten us through, you know, probably, I hope, the most challenging historical moments of our life of our generations life, the 2020 Right, we hope that’s not gonna work. I mean, very necessary, but also very painful. But, but we are still here. And so I start to think about the next. Okay, and like, like, where then does Columbus go from here? And what does it need in terms of his leadership? And those are the things that get me excited, truly, about my role now about the work that I do each and every day. And about the city and its future.

Tim Fulton  03:36

Talk about successes you’re proud of, you know, the other side of this coin is coming. Yeah, what successes over the past nine years are you proud of,

Shannon Hardin  03:44

you know, truthfully, is happened in the last year and a half? Okay. Wow. So a couple of years ago, my one of my former aide sack David sang brought to me this idea around doing something that was demonstrably for everybody, you know, we had been on the heels of Well, long ago, we literally dug up a river and created a vibrant riverfront created all this park space, millions, millions of dollars that we did that, then, you know, fast forward and we saved the crew and built out an arena millions and millions of dollars. We did that and folks are excited about these things. But the truth is that does not granularly touch everybody individually, and especially not the folks who need something out of their government need to be connected need to feel like the successes that they are seeing have real impact on their individual lives. And so he brought this idea that we have to do something for everybody. Okay. He had seen promise programs around the country. I promise programs as simple commitment that if you do X, that you get why you get to go to college for free. In Our situation we realize that Columbus was under credentialing under graduating. historic amount of folks, we were not keeping up with pace. I think the stat was that we needed 60% of our population credentialed by night by 20.

Tim Fulton  05:14

And when you say credentialed, are you talking about just a high school diploma, more than more than that,

Shannon Hardin  05:19

okay, or some type of specialty degree apprenticeship, trade, some type of credential that will allow them to go a step further and further into the mark into the job market, we were not hitting the mark by a lot, the pandemic hit, and then we fell even further behind. We started working on this idea of a Columbus Promise Program, pre pandemic, and truthfully, when the brand advocate we dropped it, okay. Everything’s became more important just keeping people fed and roof over their head, right? Halfway through the pandemic, the president of Columbus State who had talked about this idea with called me and said, if you thought we needed a Columbus promise, before the pandemic, you should see what our numbers are doing right now folks are not going to school, they’re not applying for the FAFSA. And if and if we thought we had a workforce issue in 2019, and 2022, or 23, when we come out of this, we will be in much worse shape. And so we rallied in 2020. And 2021. Worked with Columbus State org with Columbus City Schools work with the private sector, and create and work with I know I can who really was the secret sauce because they were already in our schools. We created a program probably about eight months of real work that invested $5 million from the city of Columbus raise another five ish from the private sector, Columbus State put in 1,000,000.5. And we were able to say that anybody that was graduating from Columbus City Schools would go to Columbus State for free, and they wouldn’t just go to stay for go to conversate for free, that we would give them $1,000 stipend so that they could stay in school, because we know that the number one reason that folks fall out of school is not tuition is because their car breaks down or they fall behind in, in rent. And so we have that program off the ground. The first year, there were 700 or so. Okay. Students that will participate a small number that a small number. Yeah, we just sent through the the second cohort that will start in August, and we’re about 700. Again. Okay, so to this point, you know, 1400 young people from Columbus City Schools that live in Columbus have have an opportunity, who are taking that opportunity or taking advantage of free college in their degrees that they want. And they are they’re having this type and stay in school. And the thing that knocks me off my feet right now, and it does happen once a week is either a grandma and Kroger’s, okay, or a young person will stop me and say, Hey, I’m going to the Columbus promise and I’m going to school for free. And it makes me instantly emotional. Okay, because it’s real impact singly granular for everybody.

Tim Fulton  08:01

Let’s flip the coin. Yeah, talk about things you’re maybe not so proud of, or things that you don’t haven’t been able to accomplish yet.

Shannon Hardin  08:08

Yeah. I mean, when you’ve been in office for nine years, for almost a decade, it’s crazy that

Tim Fulton  08:12

yeah, you you,

Shannon Hardin  08:15

you learn, you learn. And, and I’ve saw, I’ve learned one of the things and it was early on in my career as elected official. Actually, I think it was under the former mayor, my mentor, okay, um, there was a Somali young lady who was going through our police department, or our police academy, and she got all the way through and they towards the end, they asked her that she told her that she would not be able to serve with her hijab on. And when I heard that, I knew instantly that that was wrong, right. I knew how wrong it was, like sickening wrong. And because I was a newer council member, I didn’t say anything. Okay, and didn’t say anything, really, to anyone how sickening it made me

Tim Fulton  09:06

you may have discussed it with friends, but you certainly make a policy or a

Shannon Hardin  09:10

public state, you know, the action of it. And it was it was that that made me that really haunted me for so long. That not not the act that we as a as an institution or as a government would get something wrong, but that me as the elected individual felt something for someone who needed people to stand up and speak up did not stand up and speak up that haunted me for for a long time. And so I was proud. I was proud and happy. Several years later, when actually it was under this new police chief, so it was much later last year, where we officially changed policy to allow folks to wear their traditional attire. Mm. and be an active police officer.

Tim Fulton  10:02

Okay. Any other failures? You want to?

Shannon Hardin  10:05

Oh, I have several.

Tim Fulton  10:07

You want to know, I I’ve seen the pivot that you’ve made in terms of speaking out. Right. The statement from Council, President Hardin is a common email subject line I get Yeah. Right. And that is the bully pulpit that you have, right that you it’s these are statements you can put out as an individual. These are also statements that you can elicit or solicit from your fellow council members. pivot a little bit and talk about what sort of what change you’ve seen. Obviously, there’s a different Mayor than when you first came in. It was Coleman and now get there. Do you see the dynamics changed a little bit now? Between for everyone in City Hall? How are things different? Maybe not necessarily under different administrations. But externally? I’ve certainly seen the relationship between Council and the mayor’s office change. But

Shannon Hardin  11:08

yeah, I think that, you know, we are elected to do a job and two things. So one of the things that I try to protect now as leader of this body, is the ability to have different opinions come from different places, but but viscerally like in our bones still, like in respect and care for one another. It is something that I put over individual policy every day, that need to be to have some camaraderie ship or to be a unit to care together to be a Columbus thing that that in in general believes in the same thing. I would rather have a unified Council, big picture in terms of values, not not in beliefs, maybe not in action, right. Not an action at all. I have more split votes than any cuts?

Tim Fulton  12:09

Well, I know some historical context, right. First of all, we’re recording this the day after a three four vote yes. On some additional monies to go toward the build out of the North Market. Yes. I think, you know, the the folks voting in favor may have been interviewed, but the quotes were from the folks who were voting, right. Yeah, yeah. And so the historical context there is it in the old days, things would not be brought up to a vote if they weren’t going to get a unanimous vote right.

Shannon Hardin  12:47

Before I was Council President, right, it was only three years. I took one no vote. Okay. And we have no vote probably about once a week now. Like every council meeting, okay. Because it

Tim Fulton  13:01

literally just wasn’t done.

Shannon Hardin  13:02

It was purposeful. For me. When I became Council President, I think that people should see the government in action. I want them to see myself in Lourdes and Remi being friends, but also having deep policy debates on council floor. I think that that is healthy for our community. I think that that that the idea of of bringing forward only unanimous support things goes into especially and this was they were doing that back in the day where I think it was even more okay to do but now there’s so much distrust in institutions in general, that if that were the case of it doesn’t pass the sniff test. Right. And so I don’t mind, the democratic process. That just don’t mind. It’s what we’re supposed to do. Right, is to have the debate. And I mean, now I want to win my arguments, and I want to win the votes. And we did and you did. But it wasn’t by you know, but it literally was, it was a margin of what was on the margin. Yeah. But that’s okay. Because even the members that voted against it, we still have the same values of making sure that everything that we do, goes back to the benefit of the resident, making sure that things that are done, the big things still impact everybody, all the little folks throughout the community, we all believe that if if we invest in something that people that work there from Columbus should be paid and paid a living wage that can support themselves and their family. So they not only can work there, but they can come in fraternize there as well. These are general beliefs that this council gets to now does if every piece of legislation gets to the threshold for an Indian, any individual council member, that’s up to the individual council member but we I have leaned in over my time as council president and allowing the process to be seen so that folks can understand us as individuals elected officials, but also so they can understand the values of my collective Council, which is about bringing voice to the table, which is I run, basically the gathering spot for Columbus, where we all come together as a community hash things out, talk about the big shit, and then figure it out together. That is my job. That is City Council. It’s supposed to be messy. Yeah, it will accuracy, democracy. We’re the legislative branch, we’re the we’re the place where you can literally come and come to the microphone and say whatever crazy thing that you want, they do, and they do. But that’s, that is their protected and our protected. That is the space to do it. And so I enjoy it. I think what has changed over the my nine years in office is I’ve had different roles. As a council member, you know, I had a leader had a council president, then and I had, you know, and I was brand new. And so there was leadership given to you know, Mayor Coleman at that point, who really wasn’t mentor at that point, even though I was on council, then we had a new mayor and I still had a council president. And and, you know, I played my role as a council president very focused on the issues that I was working on, I was a public service chair, I love everything to do with mobility and transportation and those issues. So I was very focused on that. And I kind of played that role. When I became Council President, then I had a different role. I had to then think not just about myself as an individual elected in the things that I personally cared about, I had to think about a body of seven individually elected officials, and to make sure that our collective goals and our collective visions were met. And, and and you and then I think truthfully, 2020 changed me again, okay. Where I realized that, you know, especially being the highest ranking African American, in city government, and the time when we were talking about historic injustice against black people, I couldn’t just be even the second person in voice in leadership. At that moment, I had to be the first because I was the I was the most visible. And it was a space that not that I wasn’t not necessarily that I wasn’t comfortable in. But I had a new responsibility to be fully.

Tim Fulton  17:26

There. And vocal and

Shannon Hardin  17:28

vocal, yeah, had a responsibility. And I did my best to meet that. Yeah. And now I think that as we are transitioning as we continue to deal with the fallout of the pandemic, and what does our economy look like? What did our city look like? What do our downtown’s look like? What does education look like? What is the future of our city look like? I still feel a heightened now responsibility. I’m not a brand new council member. I’m not even a brand new council president any longer. I’m actually getting up there in the realm of longer serving Council presidents. And so I also now feel like I have a greater responsibility to speak. When I feel like things need to be said, there’s no checking in with Well, I do check in with six other people. Yeah, which are my colleagues, because I also want to make sure that, that I am speaking in at least broad enough values that that encompasses all of us,

Tim Fulton  18:28

right? Well, and they are your constituents, too. They remain razor joints,

Shannon Hardin  18:32

they elect you, they are my direct constituents, right? Yes.

Tim Fulton  18:36

Let’s pivot to the new districting system. You keep saying you’re, you know, seven, excuse me six colleagues, you’re about to have eight. Yeah. How do you feel about the structure of the new districting system?

Shannon Hardin  18:49

Well, I think that I’m doing the same thing would be easier. Okay. Having no change would be much more fun. We got this, you know how to run a seven pocket per person caucus. We know how to all be at large, we kind of like being able to live anywhere. We want it. But we’ve been doing that for 120 years, man, and rightfully so folks in our community. We’re asking for change. In this, this changes, it’s actually pretty big change. And it’s funny because a lot of folks were thinking, Oh, it doesn’t go far enough. It’s not X, Y and Z. But they’re you know, you this is an ever evolving thing a city and we have to find the best way to that we can Columbus can operate itself. And so I think that this is a fair next step and Columbus is evolution. Those folks who are arguing for Ward system and true Ward systems, I am not a believer in Ward systems in Ward systems. I will go to the tops of the mountains and the depths of the valleys and say a all Ward says Some counsel, I don’t believe and I don’t think that is healthy, for getting the larger things done for advocating and being able to collectively come together in a unified way and say, this is the direction we need to go in into the community. What I do believe in is proximity to people. Because I believe when people ask for, we want awards, so Mike, they have in Cleveland, actually think what they want to know who in hell represent who in the hell sees this street that has not been paid for, you know, three years? Who, who downtown New, Bob’s carry out that had been here for 40 years, but because of kids, you know, robbing them had to shut down last month, like who sees that they want to know that somebody downtown has a personal real day to day connection to their lives?

Tim Fulton  20:45

And do you think constituent services will change much I’ve had variable answers to this from current sitting council members. Yeah,

Shannon Hardin  20:53

I think I think that it naturally changes. Yeah, um, I used to talk about and I still do, but it’s funny because I talked about, you know, I don’t rely as much on polls, as I do on my Kroger caucus, because I am invariably stopped and people telling me how I’m doing. They’re asking for things. Well, that actually was a construct of a very specific Kroger’s on East Main Street. That was my Kroger’s. And their folks are very vocal and they knew me as an individual, but they also knew who I what I did downtown, right. And so they use that and I made I go to Congress every other day, literally, my husband hates it. So they use that opportunity. Very, you know, it was it was a thing, right? Well, now, I live in district nine, I am Far East. It actually still Mainstreet coders, but the farthest coders in our city, it’s a very different experience, very different conversation, very different people. And so already, what I respond to in terms of my day to day life as an individual, when I’m in the community is different than it was when I lived on the Near East Side. Because the issues are different. The people are different in terms of the specifics of what they are fighting for, or need in that moment. And I think that that will happen all around. There are things that are happening on the far northeast side, that you know, that are very specific to a couple of streets over there, that they will bump into their Representative Chris, why shoot up there, he doesn’t have an opponent. So I’m very confident he will be. He will be their representative, he will hear things that are specific to that neighborhood that he can and will bring downtown. And I think that’s healthy,

Tim Fulton  22:39

just so that we address it. You were living before when the districts were drawn. Yeah, were you and two other council members were living in the same district. One of them has decided to go take another job. One of them is currently running in that district. You move I did. Did you move for that?

Shannon Hardin  22:56

Um, I think that I would I assess was who has the did I wondered, I still want to serve on city council. Okay, that was the first question I had to ask myself to. If that if I answered that question, which was yes, I needed to still serve on council. Then how are we going to make this work and who had the ability to my husband and I had just had our child. And truthfully, we loved our house. We love living on the near east side, it felt like we were planning to leave when all the cool things were happening. The trolley barn had just opened up a little bourbon bar down there. It was just amazing. And yet we were new parents. And we were living on Long Street, which was a fast Street. And so we were already thinking about, you know, what is a better home for a infant?

Tim Fulton  23:46

Is it fair to say it informed your mind 100% 100%?

Shannon Hardin  23:50

What I have chosen the farthest east of our city? Maybe not. But we were needing to find a house that was more suitable for a young person.

Tim Fulton  23:58

Can you talk me through the process for how those to you? It was apparent from a social media perspective that a choice had been made about who was going to fill those remaining two seats? Sorry, three, three, who is going certainly these are the non incumbent folks running, but that are basically being supported by what we what what I think of in just to myself and frankly, here at Columbus underground. We call them the slate. Yeah. Right. How were those folks chosen?

Shannon Hardin  24:33

So the political side of us as candidates, the folks that were running run for election for city council, the council members? Yeah, we decided as a group that, you know, we weren’t gonna just leave it up to chance. So much of governing is about having folks with like minded interests, belief in the big things about who we are as a city and where we should be going, understanding of the housing crisis. Would it will take to build more housing, understanding around transportation and transit understanding about workforce and development, understanding about diversity. And we weren’t just gonna let you know, let that just happen happen by chance. And so in terms of who we wanted to run with, right, and that’s the big thing that I think is really important. Some folks think, Oh, that’s really heavy handed of you guys to pick. But I mean, when a president runs, no one says, Oh, can’t believe he picked a vice.

Tim Fulton  25:28

He picked a vice president without without discussing.

Shannon Hardin  25:31

I’m like, What are you guys talking about? Democracy? What I said is, this is the team that I want to run with. Yeah. And we worked hard as a QA as a as a Council of Canada of candidates, right, and as an official body to talk to anybody who was that we knew that was interested. And, you know, and we started and look through the Democratic Party, we are Democrats, do you

Tim Fulton  25:52

think it’s fair to point to in the past for the most part, but it still does sometimes happen, that the folks would get reelected, then resign, then there would be an appointment process, you

Shannon Hardin  26:04

know, who stopped that?

Tim Fulton  26:06

I literally fall.

Shannon Hardin  26:11

under my leadership, I hate the appointment process.

Tim Fulton  26:14

I know, there’s a reason why Mitchell Brown is back on council, right, because he knew he wasn’t going to run

Shannon Hardin  26:20

in that. And I and we, as a caucus made that decision that we are not going to put somebody in, that has a just a cakewalk into being you know, that it’s not that it’s unfair, it really is I tried to fundamentally change the process. And you look around the country around how people fill vacancies and you find out, they all kind of suck.

Tim Fulton  26:42

Yeah. So I didn’t want to spend too much money.

Shannon Hardin  26:46

No, didn’t make sense. And so, but I don’t believe in long term appointments, if we have to do them in the future. And I’m still here, I will always advocate for what’s called placeholders, okay, where put someone in who’s a trusted person who can just govern until there’s a next election in less than have somebody run. I think that where democracy is in full effect is when folks have options and choice and are able to kick the tires and then make a vote. And us picking about who we wanted to run with still allows everyone to do all of that, to ask the questions to to compare them with whoever they’re running with, and then to vote for that person or not.

Tim Fulton  27:28

And just to be clear, and I’m assuming this do you plan on running for council? President again? Yes. Got it. And that happens after every election every two years? Yep. Got it. Okay. And you hope to draw the longest lat?

Shannon Hardin  27:43

I have, sir. I wish we would have written that in some seniority. Like,

Tim Fulton  27:47

right. Bankston would have been very happy to Yeah.

Shannon Hardin  27:50

Do you have to explain to them how that will work?

Tim Fulton  27:53

Yeah. Just we discussed in a couple of different episodes that after you guys are elected that the city auditor No, not on clerk, the city clerk will draw lots. Yeah. That is a incredibly vague term. Yeah. And I don’t think that’s even been properly defined. It’s not going to be straws in a hand. It’s not going to be a random number generator. But a certain amount of you will be have a what a while some have a six year term for into foreign to so half and it’ll be five we’ll have a four year term for we’ll have a two year term. Got it. And so those four will be running, running right again, and 25. So I want to be fair about your time in respect to the other folks. Talk about one big goal that you have for the next term. And then I’m going to ask you the same question. I asked you every time.

Shannon Hardin  28:46

Yeah. So my big goal is next term is Linkous. It’s tricky. It’s transportation. I talk about this often, the big issue of our time for the rest of our professional careers. And what we will watch our children and grandchildren experience is the growth of our city. We will go from what we are, which is a 1 million person in the city 2 million person in MSA to a two and a half 2,000,002 and a half million in city 3 million. So MSA in our lifetime, that will happen. And the thing that that I why I think it’s so important to focus on this now is and I’ve been talking about this metaphor of a tsunami, we have a tsunami of people that are coming to talk to us. And my concern is right now we’re kind of all on the beach frolicking doing the thing that folks do and there’s a tsunami, like, oh, the water is actually not even that bad. It’s like going out, not realizing that right past our vision point is a wall and every day that we don’t prepare every day that we don’t get on that boat or build that boat that will allow the wave to lift us all is a day closer to the day when we all get wiped out that our quality of life changes and So what does that mean? That means that we have to build a transit system that serves everybody right now. Now I’m gonna, we talked about this all the time 80% of our community drives single occupancy vehicles to and from to work. A million people 100,000 cars, if we’re going to add another million people, there’s no way that we can add 800,000 More cars to our community doing the same thing the same way. Without drastically changing the quality of life. We are growing at a pace where overnight every every night 44 People will come to our community. Every year we’re building where you are creating 15 or so 1000 jobs in our community, but building seven to 8000 units, which means that supply demand, we are accessing ourselves into failure around our housing issue, because we’re bringing more people than we are preparing the housing to incorporate. So we have this amazing opportunity next year to invest in our future to link us which is our communities. Investment in mass transit, we get to do what no other community done. I call it the great experiment. Can we do all of these things and do it in a way that really lifts up everybody? Other communities have said, alright, we need to do transit, we’ll do one line, we’ll do we’ll do a light rail. And they will go to their voters ask them for $4 billion to build one line of light rail. Their voters are kind of excited who are getting a light rail. Yeah. And then they realize it’s one line down their business corridor, and all the other folks on if different parts of the town were like, what, what does this mean for me, right, but how did this help me get from home to daycare to work, we don’t have the luxury or the time to build one line of light rail, what we are endeavoring on is building five corridors at the same time. Five corridors, it will not be light rail, but it will be something I can’t do. And I believe better. It’ll be bus rapid transit, something that we’ve never seen here in Columbus, it will have raised platforms, it will have center loading, it will be reliable as light rail at 2:32pm. If at the you know, broad Third Street terminal, it will be there because it’s the it will have a dedicated lane for it’s only that thing to be on. And so we don’t again, we don’t have time to build one, we’re going to build five at the same time. And that’s what we were funding. The cool thing about it is not just about the transit, it’s about the housing and the density that will come along it. It’s about the life and the energy that that will happen around those five corridors. We have three of those corridors identified now. Okay, but hopefully, around the time that this airs are on election or whatever, we should have the other two we’re working on have another two by the end of the year. Okay. identified. This will be on the ballot next year. Next election presidential election, we will as a community have a chance to vote for our future. And I will be out talking about this any chance I get?

Tim Fulton  32:53

Got it. You’ve answered this before. Yeah. What do you think Columbus is doing? Well, and what do you think Columbus is not doing? So well. I guess I would encourage you to have the least political answer that you could.

Shannon Hardin  33:05

Um, I think Columbus is starting to feel itself in a new way in a good way there. There’s a pride that is authentic. I mean, once your crew game last weekend, it was alright. And it was just like kind of blown away just by how cool we are. Yeah, we like ourselves. Yeah. And that is so important. And like, it’s dope.

Tim Fulton  33:28

What are we doing? Not so well.

Shannon Hardin  33:30

Um, I still think that we, we don’t know yet how much we’re about to change. And so we’re not preparing for the change. Right? As earnestly as boldly as we need to. And that is scary to me. That is about to happen to us. If we don’t, it’s going to happen. Regardless, we can either shape it or not. And I feel like we still are kind of going along. Fair.

Tim Fulton  33:58

Shaman, thanks for your time.

Shannon Hardin  34:00

It’s a pleasure.

Tim Fulton  34:13

Thank you for listening to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. Again, you can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast.com Please rate, subscribe, share this episode of The confluence cast with your friends, family contacts, enemy’s your favorite politician. If you’re interested in sponsoring the confluence cast, get in touch with us. We can be reached by email at info at the confluence cast.com Our theme music was composed by Benji Robinson. Our producers filled Cogley. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. Have a great week.