Letter: Mayor shows intolerance for different opinions

From: Phil Weick


I’ve been a resident of Columbus for approximately 25 years. There are many great people in Columbus, great churches, organizations, restaurants and community involvement. In the Oct. 18, city council meeting, Mayor Lienhoop verbally abused a group of residents who voiced opinions and presented a petition that requested clarification to his budget. His defensive behavior was a smear to free speech and a slap in the face of anyone willing to take a position different from the administration’s. I was one of the signers of this resident-led petition, simply seeking clarification and deeper understanding of the city’s proposed budget.

When it came time in the meeting for discussion of the petition, finance director Jamie Brinegar read a four-page document containing what I consider false and misleading statements. It was a rambling missive of what the “old administration” did and did not do. His statement had little to do with addressing the residents’ petition but was directed at the “old administration,” specifically Kristen Brown.

After reading his statement, the mayor gave opportunity for anyone to make comments. Several residents came forward, addressing the council. Brinegar never turned from his seat to acknowledge any of the speakers; he faced the mayor and council, with his back to the speakers, showing no courtesy to those speaking. Talk about intolerance; I call for his resignation and an apology to those speakers.

His statement was confusing, overly wordy and not directed to the issues of the residents’ petition. Several of his statements were refuted and challenged by several speakers. Even city council member Laurie Booher requested clarification, asking if his statement could be reduced, rewritten. Though she requested clarification, no clarification was given. There was a pushback by the council to accept Brinegar’s statement “as is” for the record. The council voted in favor of accepting for the record Brinegar’s statement, with the exception of Booher. Brinegar’s statement was pushed through and added to the record.

After the circus act on the petition and Brinegar’s statement, Lienhoop read a previously prepared, written document directed to ex-Mayor Brown and to those whom he perceived as “her followers,” the individuals who signed the resident-led petition. His prepared statement was published in The Republic on Oct. 20, captioned “Jim Lienhoop statement to former mayor, backers: Time to move on.”

His statement was an insult and a personal affront to residents who dared to state an opinion or voice concern. He was rude, disrespectful, condescending and insulting to hard-working taxpayers who pay his salary and whom he does not even know, because he perceived us as “just Brown followers”, which is not true. We felt summarily dismissed, attacked, abused and disregarded. He showed disgraceful contempt for “we the people,” which tells the people we cannot voice our concerns or opinions under this administration without fear of reprisal. Lienhoop’s leadership is disgraceful.