A standing-room-only crowd of more than 60 people filled Mahall's Twenty Lanes on February 1 to celebrate "We The People" Day in Lakewood and to question prominent elected officials about money in politics. The public forum was sponsored by the Lakewood Move To Amend Committee and featured Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, State Representative Nickie Antonio and At-Large Lakewood City Council Member Tom Bullock.
In her prepared remarks, Congresswoman Kaptur reflected on the shift of power from a democracy that serves the people to a plutocracy where those with the most money have the most influence. Congresswoman Kaptur described "a critical moment" for the United States when the American people are beginning to lose faith in public institutions because of the way politics is being conducted. She urged people to "take back our democracy." She said, "you are about saving this republic...I think it is that important!" Kaptur called on Ohioans to be smarter and more patriotic than other sections of the country by demanding campaign finance reform.
State Representative Nickie Antonio, who serves House District 13, called the discussion of money in politics, "thoughtful and troubling." She said that it is difficult to find democracy in the face of gerrymandered districts, anonymous money and voter suppression.
The panel of speakers was introduced by Greg Coleridge of the American Friends Service Committee who detailed the gradual encroachment into the democratic process by non-human entities who have gained never-intended personal liberties guaranteed to people by the US Constitution. Coleridge outlined the nationwide Move To Amend campaign that seeks a constitutional amendment that declares that:
A) Only human beings, not corporations, are legal persons with constitutional rights
B) Money is not equivalent to speech and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.
The Lakewood Move To Amend campaign is a citizen initiative that calls on Lakewood City Council to pass an ordinance that supports the constitutional amendment. Lakewood City Council Member Tom Bullock observed that, "one of the most democratic (small "d") things that we can do is to initiate a petition to propose a law." Bullock told the group that he supports the Move to Amend campaign and its goal to reform the current campaign finance system that converts financial advantage into political influence.
Lakewood resident Jane Hall attended "We The People" Day and said that, although she did not feel there was enough time for questions from the audience, she was inspired by the speakers' remarks and thought their ideas could result in, "making the democracy do what it is intended to do."
Maureen Dostal said that she learned things at the forum, especially about how the current system does not reward the best and the brightest and how money in politics is hurting our democracy. Dostal compared the goal of the constitutional amendment to other social movements and observed that all such movements had seemed like a lofty goal. She urged people not to be apathetic.
Newly appointed City Council Member Sam O'Leary described the forum as an informative community conversation that gave citizens a comprehensive look at the issue.
All of these individuals agreed with Sam O'Leary that, "This is not a partisan issue. It affects all people in a profound way."
After the program, the group adjourned to enjoy a skyscraper cake, baked by the Root Cafe, that was frosted with the message "Let's Cut Corporations Down To Size."
A follow-up meeting for the Lakewood Move To Amend petition campaign will be held on Feburary 22 at 10:30 am at Panera in Lakewood.