Harold Mosley didn’t intend to step up to the podium in Toledo City Council chambers on Monday, but after listening to several citizens address their elected officials he decided to say a few words.
“This is not about them, this is about us. If you want change, vote,” he said, turning his back to the councilmen and facing the audience of about 40. “I assure you, if you vote, if you vote, you will send a message to not only politicians but corporations.”
Mr. Mosley was among more than 20 citizens to speak at a public hearing for Democracy Day. The annual event is mandated by a 2016 voter-approved ordinance that made Toledo officially in favor of amending the U.S. Constitution to say corporations do not have the same rights as individuals and thus can’t be protected by campaign finance restrictions.
The Toledo chapter of the national group Move to Amend, which aims to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ruling, successfully circulated petitions to get their ordinance on the ballot two years ago.
Only three of 12 council members were in attendance Monday afternoon — Nick Komives, Yvonne Harper, and Tyrone Riley. Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz arrived about 30 minutes into the meeting after attending a listening session with the city’s inspection department.
Citizens talked to the group about racism, health care, water quality, affordable housing, and federal and state laws that negate local policies.
Physician Johnathon Ross advocated for health care reform. He said he wants to see a system where every Lucas County resident has access to affordable, comprehensive health care and asked that Toledo’s elected officials bring ProMedica, Mercy Health, St. Luke’s Hospital, and University of Toledo together with the public sector to find a solution.
“Why don’t we have health care as a human right in this country? It’s because we have the best government that money can buy, and in that best government that money can buy, the power goes to the powerful corporations who now currently can fund the campaigns that lead to a legislature that is more concerned about their profits than about people,” he said.
Joseph Moran, treasurer for Toledoans for Prison Awareness, called for reform to the criminal justice system. Dan Rutt wished for racism to be eliminated from the city. Ariel Grube, with Toledoans for Safe Water, advocated for a Lake Erie Bill of Rights to help keep its water clean and safe. Toledo attorney Terry Lodge encouraged city council members to push back against state and federal legislation that invalidates local ordinances.
Sheena Barnes talked about the need for affordable housing in Toledo, particularly for those who identify as LGBTQ and young adults who are struggling to make ends meet.
“We have to stop just hearing people who are homeless or facing home insecurities and actually help change their situation with local power,” she said. “Or, we have to change our slogan from ‘You will do better in Toledo’ to ‘If you can afford to live here, you will do better in Toledo.”
Council member Komives chaired the meeting and offered brief responses to all speakers, thanking them for their comments. He told the audience that city council is working on several initiatives that fit with the public hearing’s topics, including legislation that would ban discrimination in the city based on source of income.
Council member Harper also reassured the speakers that she was listening to their recommendations and concerns. “It’s not falling on deaf ears,” she said.
For Toledoan David Neuendorff, seeing only one quarter of council members show up to the Democracy Day hearing was unacceptable.
“The ghost councilman, I don’t know where they are but I decry their cowardice,” he said. “You can see that the citizens showed up.”