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Testimony -- Cleveland Heights 10th Annual Democracy Day Public Hearing

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.

  1. 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?
  2. Limited duration of the charter or certificate of incorporation
  3. Limitations on how much land a corporation could own
  4. Limits on capitalization, or how much owners could invest in the corporation
  5. Charters were restricted to specific, stated purposes, so a new purpose required a new corporate charter.
  6. 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

Ballot initiatives are important tools to promote ending corporate rule: Vote NO on Issue 1

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.

Summary of Testimony from Cleveland Heights’ 10th Annual Democracy Day

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.


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South Euclid holds fourth biannual Democracy Day while striving for elusive 28th Amendment

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)


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.

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OHIO: Democracy Day Public Testimony | Toledo


Dennis Slotnick

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.”
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Democracy Day: Activist targets climate, corporate personhood

By: Larry Limpf News Editor

[email protected]

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.

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OHIO: RELEASE: Citizens Testify at Local Public Hearings in Ohio to End Corrupt Elections & Corporate Rule


For immediate release, March 23, 2023

Contacts: Greg Coleridge, [email protected], 216-255-2184 | Dennis Slotnick, [email protected], 419-704-1863 | Brad Deane, [email protected], 440-488-1109 | Madelon Watts, [email protected], 216-291-4450 | Robert S. Belovich, [email protected], 440-503-8770 

Citizens Testify at Local Public Hearings in Ohio to End Corrupt Elections and Corporate Rule

Twelve public hearings are taking place in Ohio this year on the corruption resulting from the explosion of money spent in political elections and multiple harms due to increasing corporate power to influence elections and public policies.

The hearings are a result of citizen-driven ballot initiatives organized by supporters of the national Move to Amend Coalition working to pass the We the People Amendment (HJR48), introduced again this year in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D, WA).

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East Palestine train catastrophe shows why corporations aren't 'people'| Opinion

Sandra Bolzenius
Guest Columnist, March 7, 2023

If ordinary people had a say on the factors, would last month's train derailment in East Palestine have happened?

Who among us would exempt companies from fully disclosing the contents of their toxic cargo?

Who would permit a train of 150 cars to operate with a crew of just two — and then deny railroad workers paid sick days? Which of us would even consider reversing a safety mandate to install new brake systems?

My guess is that nary a soul would agree to these or any conditions that put others at risk. That is not what people do.

Empowered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s stance that they are “people,” corporations push policies that reflect values very different than ours. Real people care about family, communities, the environment, and a sustainable future.

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VOICES: Protecting the public from corporate harm

Protecting public welfare is a primary function of government, right?

When professionals such as doctors and lawyers break the law or violate standards of acceptable behavior, they aren’t just slapped with a fine, told to replace their office managers, and allowed to go back to business as usual. In the interest of public safety, state regulators hold these professionals accountable by suspending or revoking their license to practice.

But how do we hold a multibillion-dollar corporation accountable for misconduct or criminal activity in a way that also protects the best interests of the public?

I’m talking about FirstEnergy, the Akron-based utility company behind the largest public corruption scandal in Ohio history. The scandal involved Larry Householder, former speaker of the Ohio House, and Generation Now, a 501(c)(4) “social-welfare” nonprofit that can keep its donors hidden, or “in the dark.”

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OHIO: Move to Amend "Democracy Day" Public Hearings - 2023

Mandated municipally-sponsored public hearings following the passage of ballot initiatives organized by Move to Amenders. The initiatives had two components. [1] Municipalities were required to sponsor a public hearing, dubbed "Democracy Day" hearings, inviting residents and/or anyone to testify on the impact money in politics and corporate rule on their lives, communities or world. Congress that voters in these communities, and [2] Municipalities were required to send a letter to all state and federal elected officials representing their area summarizing the hearing and informing them that the voters of that municipality voted in support of a Constitutional Amendment to abolish all corporate constitutional rights and money defined as free speech. Several communities were considered more politically "conservative" or "moderate." 

Below is a schedule as of this date of hearings that have already taken place or are planned.

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