Voters Tuesday ushered in the era of "Democracy Day" in Kent.
Issue 43, a proposed charter amendment, was approved by a vote of 2,807 to 1,570, according to complete but unofficial returns from the Portage County Board of Elections.
The amendment proposed by Kent Citizens For Democracy calls for Kent City Council to conduct a public hearing every October before a general election as an expression of support for an amendment to the Constitution stating that "corporations are not people, and that money is not speech." A summary of the hearing will be sent to local, state and federal officials.
Kent joins six other Ohio communities -- Brecksville, Newburgh Heights, Defiance, Cleveland Heights, Chagrin Falls and Mentor -- with Democracy Day measures on the books. More than 500 communities nationwide have passed either citizen initiatives or council resolutions as part of the national Move to Amend movement.
"The idea is that if enough cities do this, we will reach a tipping point and get a constitutional amendment that says that corporations are not people, and that money is not speech," said Kent Citizens for Democracy spokesperson Lee Brooker. "Until that happens, the voters of Kent will have gone on record as rejecting the unacceptable, corrupting notions of corporate personhood and money as speech."
The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed placing Issue 43 on the ballot after a challenge by the citizens group, which took the matter to the high court. Although the petitions fell short of the city's charter requirements for initiatives, the court ordered Kent to proceed with the vote because they met the standards outlined in the Ohio Constitution.
There were three other charter amendments on the Kent ballot.
Issue 30, to put the city charter in line with the state constitution on the matter of petition signatures,won 2,090 to 1,910.
Issue 29, to remove term limits for board of health members, failed 2,450 to 1,795.
Issue 32, to remove term limits for planning commission members, won 2,813 to 1,173.