Tuesday, Colerain Township will have the most diverse ballot in its history.
For the first time, there is an African American running for township trustee. Theresa Harper-Kolodik is breaking through the glass ceiling and challenging the status quo. However, the focus of her political race isn’t about the color of one’s skin – that’s just happenstance – she is running to put the focus back on all the residents who feel disenfranchised from the township’s priorities.
Bridgett Brogden is running for Fiscal Officer. She is the first “Eastsider” on the township ballot in almost 50 years ago.
While the trustee and fiscal officer races are supposed to be non-partisan, it is notable that the township hasn’t had a Democrat on the ballot since Joe Wolterman ran his last race in 2011. Now, there are 2 Democrats running for local office.
Candidates are coming forward and breaking the mold on Colerain politics.
Colerain’s greatest strengths are in its diversity: geographically, economically, and racially. However, Colerain Township’s elected officials have become monolithic over the last 20 years. Despite growing racial diversity, elected officials have remained white, Catholic, Republican, -- and all of them, from the west side of Colerain Avenue. That works out very well for half the township.
Not so much if you live on the east side of the Colerain Strip.
The division is real and intentional.
Since the advent of Northgate Mall in 1972, the township’s focus shifted away from its original hub in the highly populated and bustling areas of Groesbeck and the Northbrook community, to the more affluent, sparingly diverse, west side of Colerain. In the 1970s, the YMCA and Senior Center projects were originally slated to be built in the center of Colerain at Groesbeck Park, both were moved to the west side.
This political move killed the community spirit of Colerain. It marked a drastic shift in the power structure of the township. When Colerain Park was built and became the township’s flagship recreational facility, Groesbeck Park, which once housed the Youth Services Bureau, the scouts, a community center, and youth athletic fields for baseball and football, was defunded and taken away from the most populace areas of the township and moved across town or were canceled altogether.
The community division was further exasperated when the school district built a second high school in 1973, primarily attended by east-side residents. What should have been a friendly inter-district rivalry turned into a competition for resources that mimicked a growing township-wide disparity between the east and west sides in funding and services for everything from roads, to parks, to police patrols. For example, while the township is putting in a new playground at Colerain Park on the west side; they are bulldozing the only public football field at Groesbeck Park in order to fund fire services.
This division within Colerain Township was compounded by the fact that candidates hailing from the wealthier Catholic parishes on the west side of Colerain were far better funded than the east side and thereby, supported by the county GOP, virtually making it uncompetitive. The strangle-hold is so tight that even GOP incumbents from the east side of Colerain who were running for the school board were not endorsed and were hung out to dry in favor of new candidates.
The end result of leadership that promotes and sustains this type of internal division encouraged by their political actions shores up the ability of the west side to lock out the east side from holding office. The consequence is creating a segregated community by wealth, race, and, through the denial of services, the disparate quality of life of residents. It is the death kneel of any community.
It is an ambitious move for candidates to step forward and run for office who do not fit the political mold created almost 50 years ago to insure that the minority of residents on the west side of Colerain control the resources and direction of the entire township. This Tuesday, voters have an opportunity to break the mold.