SUMMARY OF TESTIMONIES SHAKER HEIGHTS DEMOCRACY DAY
September 11, 2023
With passage of Issue 95 in Shaker Heights in November 2016, the voters of Shaker Heights supported a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution saying that money is not speech and that corporate entities do not have constitutional rights which were intended for natural persons only. Passage of the issue also established a biannual public forum called Democracy Day where individuals could speak before the mayor and city council of Shaker Heights about how money in politics and the construct of corporate personhood are undermining our democracy with the purpose of informing our state and congressional legislators of the will of Shaker Heights voters to establish the We the People Amendment.
Updated: Sep. 19, 2023, 7:23 p.m. | Published: Sep. 19, 2023, 6:21 p.m.
By Thomas Jewell, special to cleveland.com
About 10 people spoke at Shaker Heights Democracy Day Sept. 11, including Sheila Smith with the League of Women Voters, shown here at the podium. Smith and the league urged support of the "Citizens, Not Politicians Amendment" aimed at putting an end to gerrymandering in Ohio.Tom Jewell/Special to cleveland.com
SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio -- City Council hosted its biennial Democracy Day earlier this month -- which Shaker residents overwhelmingly voted into existence back in 2016 -- seeking to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens vs. United ruling.
This in turn led to the “Move to Amend” initiative, seeking a return to the days when corporations were not considered people and money was not equivalent to free speech -- meaning that political campaign contributions could again be regulated.
It’s an opportunity to speak out in recognition of our democratic heritage and principles,” protesting the landmark 2010 decision “as well as other rulings opposed to our democracy,” Mayor David Weiss said before turning the floor of council chambers over to Organize Ohio Executive Director Larry Bresler, serving as emcee.
We celebrate with many Ohioans the defeat of Issue 1 on August 8, but efforts to create an authentic democracy are ongoing.
While it is true that Issue 1 was an indirect vote on abortion, the Ohio legislature’s proposed amendment was first and foremost an attack on direct democracy, the process by which citizens can use ballot measures to create (i.e. initiatives) or reverse (i.e. referendums) laws or recall (remove) elected officials as a means of holding state officials (i.e. legislators and the governor) accountable when they fail to govern in the best interests of the people.
But it is also true that, as both supporters and opponents of Issue 1 pointed out, ballot measures can be—indeed, they are—manipulated by big money from the ultra wealthy and large corporations.
This is why the concept “one person, one vote” can never be a truly legitimate exercise of democratic principles until we abolish once and for all the misguided doctrine “one dollar, one vote,” established by U.S. Supreme Court decisions that money spent on political campaigns is a protected form of First Amendment free speech rights, first established in the 1976 Buckley vs Valeo decision.
June 7, 2023 in Council Chambers
Cleveland Heights City Hall
40 Severance Circle, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
Carla Rautenberg, Cleveland Heights – Introductory Remarks
WELCOME to the 10th Annual Cleveland Heights Democracy Day. Many thanks to City Council and Cleveland Heights voters who made this annual public hearing possible. In a happy coincidence, with moving our Democracy Day to June, we now share the celebratory spirit of Pride Month and Juneteenth!
One update about the progress of our proposed Constitutional Amendment in the U.S. Congress. Rep. Pramila Jayapal reintroduced the We the People Amendment stating that corporations are not people and money is not speech, in the 118th Congress, with one important change: it is now House Joint Resolution 54. You will need that number, HJR 54, to track the resolution’s progress in the U.S. House. It was only re-introduced in April, and there are already 49 cosponsors. Please contact Congresswoman Shontel Brown and ask her to be the 50th co-sponsor of HJR-54!
Back by popular request this year, we have a Ohio Democracy vs. Corporations Quiz. This is not a “gotcha” quiz. It’s a more of a “teaching” quiz, so the answers are given on the back of the sheet. I’ll read the first question now, then we’ll have five more interspersed with public testimony. I hope you find them interesting. This first question actually is a repeat from last year, so a few people might recall it and remember the answer.
- Early legislative acts in Ohio created corporations one at a time, through petitioning the General Assembly, and stipulating rigid conditions. These privileges, not rights, included which of the following?
- Limited duration of the charter or certificate of incorporation
- Limitations on how much land a corporation could own
- Limits on capitalization, or how much owners could invest in the corporation
- Charters were restricted to specific, stated purposes, so a new purpose required a new corporate charter.
- All of the above.
And the answer is: e. All of the above.
Full report -- https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jFhbSQam4-Gcq0XRX9c_1tR-50u4jhHt/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=103004605604714750559&rtpof=true&sd=true
Move to Amend has used ballot initiatives across the country to promote abolishing corporate constitutional rights and money defined as free speech – the core components of the We the People Amendment, HJR54.
Citizens from coast to coast for more than 10 years have collected signatures to place on local and state ballots initiatives calling on Congress to take action. Ohio could possibly do the same in the future.
Citizen-driven ballot initiatives are examples of direct democracy – people taking charge in creating laws that bypass elected representatives.
However, the ballot initiative as a viable democratic tool for direct democracy (including holding elected officials accountable), as currently defined in the Ohio Constitution, is under direct assault.
Issue 1 would raise the bar in significant ways to make it nearly impossible to pass ballot initiatives – which are already difficult.
State Issue 1 would gut our citizen-initiative rights and make it harder to promote abolishing corporate rule.
Please take action in these 2 ways.
1. VOTE NO ON ISSUE 1. The election is August 8. Early voting begins on July 11.
2. Spread the word. Here’s a link to a sheet to distribute to friends, neighbors, anyone. Each sheet, when cut, produces 4 fliers. Please share far and wide!
Thank you for taking action to send this anti-democratic measure to a well-deserved flaming defeat.
Vote NO on Issue 1 and distribute the flier to everyone you know.
Eighteen people testified before Cleveland Heights City Council and the public, with Council President Melody Hart presiding in council chambers at city hall. Mayor Kahlil Seren and Councilors Anthony Maddox, Davida Russell, Craig Cobb, Tony Cuda and Gail Larson were also in attendance. Councilor Janine Boyd was absent.
U.S. House Joint Resolution 54, “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing that the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only,” and also establishing that money is not speech, was introduced in the 118th Congress two months ago by Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and a number of co-sponsors. Attendees were urged to contact their Congressperson, Rep. Shontel Brown, asking her to co-sponsor HJR-54. (Update: on the date of the hearing, June 7, the resolution had 49 co-sponsors. As of June 13, HJR-54 had 53 co-sponsors. Rep. Brown was not among them.)
A strong theme this year was the preemption of public goods and public functions by corporate actors for profit and other forms of private gain. In Ohio, this extends to state government preempting local laws to serve the interests of corporations and entire industries.
South Euclid Democracy Day organizer and emcee Madelon Watts speaks to those assembled for the biannual event Tuesday at the South Euclid Community Center. (Jeff Piorkowski, special to cleveland.com)
by Jeff Piorkowski/special to cleveland.com
SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio -- In 2016, 77 percent of South Euclid voters approved Issue 201, which called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring that only human beings, not corporations, are legal persons with constitutional rights, that money is not equivalent to speech and that regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.
Issue 201 also stated that, in order to see through the potential 28th Amendment to the Constitution stating the above goals, a Democracy Day Public Hearing event would be held every two years, during which residents would make their claims as to why corporations are not people.
TOLEDO CITY HALL | MARCH 23, 2023
Today we are gathered to proclaim that a for-profit Corporation is not the same as a person and that money is not the same as free speech.
I speak for all the members of the two cosponsoring groups: Our Revolution in Northwest Ohio and Toledo Move to Amend. Thank you City Council for the recent passage of Move to Amend resolution and Medicare for all Resolution coming partly as a result of Democracy Days 2021 and Democracy Day 2022. You now join 22 states, and 800 cities and towns, who have also passed Move To Amend resolutions.
These communities understand what President Jimmy Carter declared. Let us take a moment to honor President Carter as he has just entered hospice care in Georgia. These are some of his words about the Citizens United 2010 Supreme court decision:
Citizens United has turned America into an “oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.”
Citizens United “violates the essence” of our democracy and represents “the biggest change in America” since he was elected in 1976.
Citizens United has left everyday Americans “cheated out of” the chance to make their lives better.
Citizens United has led to “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.”