In our January column, we wrote about the history of Democracy Day in Cleveland Heights. Since we were writing for the Heights Observer, we kept our focus local. However, Robert Shwab’s letter to the editor in response to that column, published in the February issue, takes a national view. That letter contained some misconceptions, which several readers have asked us to address.
On Thursday, Jan. 25, Cleveland Heights City Council will convene the city’s fifth annual Democracy Day, and you, dear reader, are most cordially invited.
For the uninitiated, Democracy Day gives the public an opportunity to address council about how the political influence of corporate entities, added to obscene amounts of money spent in the political process, is degrading the democratic institutions of our city, our state and our nation. Following the hearing each year, a letter stating the reason for the event and summarizing citizens’ remarks is sent by council to our U.S. senators, our U.S. congress member, and the presidents of the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House. That letter, the full text of the petition, plus written minutes and a video, can be viewed on the city’s website under Government, Archived Agendas and Minutes, Public Hearings.
"The problem isn't that the government is broken," Greg Coleridge says, whipping out one of many activist slogans he's been repeating so long they're inextricably threaded into the fabric of his speech. "It's that it's fixed."
"Fixed as in rigged," he says, leaning in, making sure the message is clear. Coleridge's central issue is corporate power and the insidious effects of money in politics. He is a man who has known that corporations aren't people since long before Citizens United.
From the local to the global, the ability of people to govern ourselves has been under assault for many decades. We can expect this to intensify for multiple reasons, including:
Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that corporate entities are “persons,” entitled to the constitutional rights originally intended solely for human beings. On Jan. 25, Cleveland Heights held its fourth annual Democracy Day public hearing, created by the 2013 ballot initiative that called for a U.S. constitutional amendment stating, “Corporations are not people and money is not speech.”
SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio -- More than five years after the controversial "Citizens United" decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, local voters have the opportunity to push for a constitutional amendment to attempt to strike it down with Issue 95.
Having collected 1,575 signatures from residents to get the "Move to Amend" initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot, Shaker Heights could join about 500 other communities in what organizers call "a grassroots effort to reclaim democracy."
On Sept. 14, State Representatives Kent Smith (District 8) and Nickie Antonio (District 13) announced their primary co-sponsorship in the Ohio House of Representatives of a resolution calling on “legislators at the state and federal level and other communities and jurisdictions to support an amendment to the United States Constitution that would abolish corporate personhood and the doctrine of money as speech.”
SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio -- City Council wants to educate residents as to the city's need for additional revenues, and it will need to campaign for passage of a safety levy coming to the ballot Nov. 8, but undertaking these things requires money.
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In other City Council news:
-- At its meeting Monday, council passed an ordinance that will place on the Nov. 8 ballot the question as to whether residents will support a movement to amend the U.S. Constitution to establish that corporations are not people, and that "money is not speech."
To truly address America's corruption problem, we need a constitutional amendment saying that corporations are not people and that money is not speech.
Is amending the U.S. Constitution a local issue, and, if so, how?
Ever since an initiative by Cleveland Heights citizens placed Issue 32 on the November 2013 ballot, some residents have asked that question. Two city council members expressed opposing views on it at a Jan. 21 public hearing, where residents testified about abuses of corporate power and the corrupting effect of money in politics.