Issues ranging from the climate and corporate malfeasance, to health care and the health of Lake Erie, were front and center at One Government Center in Toledo Thursday for the observance of Democracy Day 2023.
The day was established by voter initiative in 2016 and requires the mayor and city council hold a public hearing and let the citizenry voice its concerns on the impact of political contributions from corporations, unions, and PACs on the city and the U.S. Supreme Court landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC. That decision held that corporations and other associations are protected by the First Amendment and election spending is the equivalent of speech.
Within two weeks after the Toledo hearing, the mayor is directed to send a letter to the Toledo members and leaders of the state legislature and Toledo’s congressional delegation, calling for a constitutional amendment to eliminate what some activists call “corporate personhood” resulting from the Citizens United decision.
“We now have a situation where corporations now have the ability to, in effect, write the laws and then pay the legislators to pass them. That’s where our concerns are,” said Dennis Slotnick, a Genoa resident and the treasurer/secretary of Toledo Move To Amend, the organization that started the initiative petition locally. “We now have a country of oligarchs where a few people are deciding the fate of nearly everyone. From health care to drugs, now it’s working its way into education.”
Democracy Day is also an opportunity for addressing other concerns, Slotnick said. At the top of his list right now is what he calls “climate disruption.”
“The United Nations has finally declared what scientists have been saying all along. We are at a critical point on the planet for putting more carbon into the atmosphere. We must take action. That goes to the top in my opinion because, if we don’t reduce our carbon output, we will increase the temperature and Lake Erie will not tolerate higher temperatures,” he said.
A group called the Climate Reality Project provided an informational booth for the event.
This past January, members of the Northwest Ohio Climate Reality Project submitted a letter to city council applauding the council for allocating a percent of the city’s budget for energy sustainability goals, including carbon reduction.
The letter calls for council to hire a director of sustainability and to develop a job description for the position.
While the city has taken some steps to promote sustainability, “there is much more to do to lay the foundation for a sustainable city,” the letter says.
“None of the money set aside has been spent. No director has been determined. There isn’t even a job description for a director. Our letter to city council was to point out that they’ve not come through with their promise of 1 percent or taken action on climate much at all. It’s going to be brought to council they’ve been given this letter and we’ve not had any response about what is happening with the 1 percent. (Slotnick estimates the percent equals about $340,000.) It’s been sitting there for a year,” he said. “We at Climate Reality need an answer from council about what they are doing with $340,000 of public money toward reducing the carbon load in Toledo.”
Editor’s note: Slotnick said after the interview with The Press he has learned some members of council are meeting about a request for proposal on a carbon plan for Toledo.