Facing a change in the way Columbus City Council represents its citizens, City Council President Andrew Ginther has come out in staunch defense of the current at-large system.

Facing a change in the way Columbus City Council represents its citizens, City Council President Andrew Ginther has come out in staunch defense of the current at-large system.

Ginther, speaking to the Northwest Civic Association April 18, said a proposal to change the structure of council to a combination of wards and at-large membership could lead to endless stalemates and "horse trading."

"It becomes, in essence, a free for all," Ginther said.

The Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government is pushing for a charter amendment that would alter the arrangement from seven at-large members to a total of 11 - seven wards and four at-large positions.

The discussion arose after Marilyn Goodman, a former member of the NWCA, reproached Ginther for the way new council members were appointed, with the timing usually favoring the incumbent for an easy general election victory.

That grew into a greater discussion about the general election ballot initiative, which could reach the fall ballot, providing the group's petitions have the required number of valid signatures.

Goodman said there was a perception that the needs of the Northwest Side were not being met and that neighborhoods, perhaps, could be better served by ward membership.

"It's a feeling people have sometimes," she said.

Ginther countered that Columbus has been successful with its governing methods where other cities with ward systems - Cleveland and Detroit, for example - have languished.

And the ward system has twice been rejected by Columbus voters, mostly recently in 1975.

"Sometimes the grass is always greener, until you see what's on the other side," Ginther said.

Columbus is fortunate enough to have good relations with its community groups, he said.

"The only way an at-large system works is when you have strong area commissions and civic associations," Ginther said.

Jonathan Beard, spokesman for the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government, said he's not surprised by Ginther's position.

"He's doing what politicians do, which is defending their turf," said Beard, who was not at the meeting.

"What we would say is the turf belongs to us citizens."

Beard called his group's proposed amendment "moderate."

Goodman said that while she isn't necessarily supporting the charter change, district representation has worked for many governments.

"It seems to me you could have a hybrid," she said.