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Toledo Democracy Day Statement

by Mike Ferner  |  March 30, 2022

Why are we here today?

The short answer is that in 2014, Toledo’s Move to Amend chapter collected 10,000 signatures, led by the tireless Doug Jambard-Sweet, to place an initiative on the 2015 ballot. It passed overwhelmingly and did two things:

  • First, Toledo joined over 600 towns and cities telling Congress to pass an amendment to remove constitutional protections like free speech and equal protection from corporations and rule that money is not the same thing as speech.
  • Second, it established Democracy Day in Toledo – something that was a first among cities endorsing the amendment

 

The longer answer is from a special page in Toledo history.

Our Waite High School was named after a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Toledo attorney, Morrison R. Waite, appointed by his fellow Ohioan, President Grant.

Just like Amazon and other trillion-dollar corporations of today, after the Civil War, railroads were the Big Kahunas…so much so that a majority of Supreme Court justices were railroad attorneys or directors, including Waite himself.

Flush with war profits, railroads tried repeatedly to win constitutional protections intended for human beings, but state and federal courts swatted them away, insisting that corporations were paper creations of state legislatures and not entitled to any rights beyond those lawmakers wished to extend.

In 1886, Southern Pacific Railroad appealed a taxation decision by Santa Clara County, California, claiming a violation of equal protection under the 14th Amendment. This time Waite and his court agreed, opening the floodgates.

We should note that the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868 to protect the rights of newly freed slaves. But as Justice Hugo Black wrote, 50 years after its adoption, “Of the cases in this court in which the 14th Amendment was applied…less than one half of one percent invoked it in protection of the Negro race, and more than fifty percent asked that its benefits be extended to corporations.” And that, if we needed it, is proof that enough money will buy clever enough attorneys.

After Santa Clara, corporate attorneys won other protections meant for people, such as the 4th Amendment, so they could refuse government demands for documents or OSHA inspectors without a warrant; like the 1st Amendment, as recently as the late 1960’s, early 1970’s and up to Citizens United in 2010, all of which equated money with speech, allowing nearly unlimited corporate influence over elections…to say nothing of the unlimited “free speech accounts” of Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed-Martin corporation lobbyists who know better than anyone that even losing wars make money.

For decades, battles raged in legislatures and courtrooms to determine if corporations would remain subservient to the public. People expected their public officials to do so and when they did, they generated decisions like this one in a case brought by Ohio’s Attorney General against a company that wanted to put lord-knew-what into margarine and sell it in stores. The Ohio Supreme Court revoked the company’s charter and wrote:

(Monnett vs Capital City Dairy Co.)

"...It could not have been the intent of the general assembly, in enacting laws permitting the formation of corporations, to give them power to override the state...The time has not yet arrived when the created is greater than the creator....In the present case the acts of the defendant have been persistent, defiant and flagrant, and no other course is left to the court than to enter a judgment of ouster (of the company charter) and to appoint trustees to wind up the business of the concern."

In a local example from 1992, Toledo City Council placed proposed charter revisions on the ballot to establish districts and eliminate the city manager position. From where you’re sitting, I also proposed a limitation on campaign contributions, and received my first lesson on the Buckley v Valeo decision that struck down the ability of government to do that.

Corporations use constitutional protections to force local governments to accept toxic waste dumps or big box chain stores, or the transport of radioactive waste, or to deny the 60% of Toledo voters who approved the Lake Erie Bill of Rights. Law Director Dale Emch could give you many more examples of what’s politely called federal preemption.

By the mid-90’s, a few environmental activists realized we were getting nowhere fast. We might win a limited victory over some single harm, but corporations’ power never lessened. Their political power increased with their economic power.

We needed to think and organize differently. The regulatory agencies set up through the 20th century were there to regulate citizens, not corporations.

So, we decided to learn how corporations came to rule. Led by a visionary researcher and activist, Richard Grossman, a number of us formed the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy.

That spun off the Community Environmental and Legal Defense Fund, which began by organizing against a Pennsylvania hog feeding factory – not on narrow EPA or zoning regulations, but by asserting a township’s right to determine what kind of industry it would accept. That led to international organizing for the rights of nature which continues to this day.

Also spun off of Grossman’s work was Move to Amend, which brings us to today’s hearing.

Move to Amend’s goal – to strip corporations of constitutional protections and rule that money is not speech is now House Joint Resolution 48, with ninety co-sponsors in the U.S. house, including Marcy Kaptur and Cleveland’s Tim Ryan.

Today, we celebrate the opportunity voters created to learn from history, discuss what corporate rule means today and think about how we can use the power of democracy to create the kind of life we and the planet deserve while there’s still time.


TOLEDO, OH: Democracy Day returns to Council Chambers

Citizens, elected officials and more are invited to take part in this year’s Democracy Day event, taking place on Wednesday, March 30 in Council Chambers at One Government Center, or via Zoom.

The annual event, presented by the City, Toledo Move to Amend and Our Revolution in Northwest Ohio, is held by City Council to discuss the corrupting influence of corporate interests in politics. Speakers address a wide variety of topics related to the public interest during the event.

Read more

OHIO: Launching Pledge to Amend Campaign

Watch this one hour virtual, kick-off program and learn how to target candidates for local, state and federal office across Ohio to get their positions on record for the We the People Amendment and make this an election issue. Get Pledge to Amend signups -- at least 50% of candidates elected on election day. -Find out about Move to Amend's Pledge to Amend Campaign -Learn how and where to reach out to candidates running for office -Hear and see the resources available.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Hwsi5A0zV8

 


GrassRoot Ohio - Move to Amend with Greg Coleridge and Sandy Bolzenius

Carolyn Harding with Greg Coleridge and Sandy Bolzenius organizers with Move to Amend, a movement to Amend the US Constitution to codify that Corporations are not People & Money is not speech.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2x1IgL95_GA


Beatty must show she cares about saving the climate by backing HJR 48

November 17, 2021 | Columbus Dispatch

https://www.dispatch.com/story/opinion/letters/2021/11/17/letters-mandel-not-focused-ohioans-values-and-best-interests/8623040002/

Governments need to leave the U.N. climate talks with a clear commitment to keep all remaining fossil fuels in the ground ASAP to avoid climate catastrophe, as climate scientists have long warned. Burning oil, coal and gas is the number one contributor to the climate emergency.

I applaud Rep. Joyce Beatty’s 95% League of Conservation Voters 2020 voting record on environmental issues, including climate change-related legislation

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Adoption of We the People Amendment would help achieve green agenda

Letter to the Editor

Nov. 16, 2021 

https://www.cleveland.com/letters/2021/11/adoption-of-we-the-people-amendment-would-help-achieve-green-agenda.html

Governments needed to leave the U.N. climate summit committed to keeping remaining fossil fuels in the ground as soon as possible. Climate scientists have long warned that burning oil, coal and gas is the No. 1 contributor to the climate emergency. President Joe Biden must use his executive authority to stop federal fossil fuel expansion and dangerous pipeline projects. Congress must end fossil fuel production as soon as possible in ways that provide for workers and communities, and dramatically fund renewable energy technologies.

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Kent "Democracy Day" Public Hearing Testimony

PUBLIC HEARING DEMOCRACY DAY” WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2021

Video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGRj1X96IiQ

 

Mayor Fiala called to order the Special Meeting of Kent City Council for purposes of a Public Hearing for “Democracy Day” at 6:00 p.m. A quorum was present.

PRESENT: 

Mr. Jack Amrhein; Mr. Michael DeLeone; Mr. Garrett Ferrara; Mr. John Kuhar; Ms. Gwen Rosenberg; Ms. Heidi Shaffer Bish; Mr. Roger Sidoti; and Mr. Robin Turner.

ALSO PRESENT:

Mr. Jerry T. Fiala, Mayor and President of Council; Mr. Dave Ruller, City Manager; Ms. Hope Jones, Law Director; Ms. Bridget Susel, Community Development Director; Mr. Jim Bowling, City Engineer; Ms. Rhonda Hall, Budget and Finance Director; Ms. Melanie Baker, Service Administration Director; Mr. Gary Bishop, IT Manager; Ms. Joan Seidel, Health Commissioner; and Ms. Amy Wilkens, Clerk of Council.

ABSENT:

Ms. Tracy Wallach

Mayor Fiala welcomed everyone and read portions of the Charter as outlined below:

In accordance with the Kent City Charter Article XII, Section 12.05 titled “DEMOCRACY DAY PUBLIC HEARING/POLITICAL INFLUENCE”:

“Beginning in 2016, City Council shall designate one day a “Democracy Day” during the first week of October each year in which a local, state, or national election is held in Kent. On this day, the Mayor and City Council shall sponsor a Public Hearing in a public space within the City. The public hearing shall be held during the evening or weekend time. The City will publicize the public hearing on its website and in area media at least one month in advance. The Public Hearing shall examine the impact on our City, our state and our nation of political influence resulting from campaign contributions by corporate entities. Corporate entities include business corporations, Political Action Committees, PACS, Super PACs, 501(c)(4) groups and unions. Members of the general public in attendance shall be afforded the opportunity to speak on these matters for up to five minutes per person. The City shall record the minutes of the hearing and make them available to the public no later than November 1 of each year in which it is held by posting them on the City’s website.

Within one (1) week following the annual Public Hearing, the Clerk of City Council shall send a letter to every elected state-level representative of the citizens of the City, to the leaders of the Ohio House and Senate, to our U.S. Congressional Representative(s), and to both U.S. Senators from Ohio. The letter shall include a brief summary of the Public Hearing and will state that the citizens of Kent in November 2015 voted in support of a Citizens’ Initiative calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring the following principles:

  1. Only human beings, not corporations, are legal persons with Constitutional rights, and
  2. Money is not equivalent to speech, and therefore, regulating political contributions and spending does not equate to limiting political speech.

The annual Public Hearings will no longer be required if and when a Constitutional Amendment reflecting the principles set forth in Section 02 is ratified by three-quarters (3/4) of the state legislatures.”

Mayor Fiala then referred to Clerk Wilkens to read each name, in turn, of the Visitors who signed-in. There were eight (8) visitors who wished to speak.

Mr. Bill Wilen of 867 Stonewater Dr., Kent read from a prepared statement. (See Attachment #1)

Ms. Deborah Barber of 7531 Diagonal Rd., Kent read from a prepared statement. (See Attachment #2)

Mr. Greg Coleridge of 3016 Somerton Rd., Cleveland Heights, read from a prepared statement. (See Attachment #3)

Shawn Schreckengost of 250 River St. Apt. A16, and Alex DiDonato of 330 Lincoln Ave., Cuyahoga Falls, read from a prepared statement (See Attachment #4)

...

Mr. Andrew Rome of 2063 Conwill Rd., Stow, read from a prepared statement (See Attachment #6).

Mr. Lee Brooker of 814 Hudson Rd., Kent, read from a prepared statement and did not submit his comment to Clerk Wilkens.

Mayor Fiala thanked everyone for coming. Meeting adjourned at 6:18 p.m.

Amy Wilkens Clerk of Council

Jerry T. Fiala

Mayor and President of Council

THE CITY OF KENT, OHIO SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING for

“DEMOCRACY DAY PUBLIC HEARING THURSDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2021

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Video of Great Constitutional Hijacking

Video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0Z01dRbIBs

 

Chat: 

10:49:00 From Move to Amend to Everyone : CORPORATION AS ‘CITIZEN’ IS THE NEXT ANTI-BLACK, ANTI-DEMOCRATIC MODEL THAT NEEDS TO BE TORN DOWN
https://religiondispatches.org/CORPORATION-AS-CITIZEN-IS-THE-NEXT-ANTI-BLACK-ANTI-DEMOCRATIC-MODEL-THAT-NEEDS-TO-BE-TORN-DOWN/
10:50:17 From Charles Peterson to Everyone : Carol Anderson The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America
10:51:08 From Charles Peterson to Everyone : Charles Mills The Racial Contract
10:51:57 From Robert Williams to Everyone : Robert Williams. Garrison State Hegemony in U.S. Politics
10:53:08 From Robert Williams to Everyone : in reparations discussions, white working and middle classes are seen to have benefited from slavery, etc and therefore, in part, responsible too.
10:53:57 From Robert Williams to Everyone : sociology departments also teach critical race theory
10:55:14 From mike ferner to Everyone : “We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. . . .” — Ursula K Le Guin
10:56:19 From Robert Williams to Everyone : the Queen of Australia, Canada, England, etc, etc, etc, did send Canada's Parliament home about 12 years ago.
10:56:58 From Robert Williams to Everyone : Cynthia Brown, what is the name again of your group?
10:57:32 From Robert Williams to Everyone : I wish to contribute funds.
10:57:59 From Cynthia Brown to Everyone : HeartbeatMovement Inc
10:58:05 From Cynthia Brown to Everyone : https://www.ohiocoalitiontoendqualifiedimmunity.org/
10:58:17 From Greg Coleridge (he/him) to Everyone : Move to Amend petition
https://www.movetoamend.org/petition

Corporate Constitutional Rights Resources
https://www.movetoamend.org/corporate-constitutional-rights

REAL Democracy History Calendar
https://realdemocracyhistorycalendar.wordpress.com/about/

Toward a People's Constitution
https://www.peoplesconstitution.us/
10:59:56 From Bill Davis to Everyone : To support MoveToAmend.org https://www.movetoamend.org/donate
11:01:58 From Bill Davis to Everyone : What is the website for HeartbeatMovement Inc?
11:03:30 From Cynthia Brown to Everyone : Bill let me send go you. We are Friends on Facebook.
11:04:26 From Bill Davis to Everyone : @cynthia - THX
11:05:40 From Bill Davis to Everyone : Is this it:? https://deescalateohionow.wixsite.com/website?fbclid=IwAR1_65_M3nlKluyHVL-TBHnqQ1IgsrmM582ZYK2kGpq3tN_g3qun0Pfc78s
11:06:08 From Cynthia Brown to Everyone : Yes Bill.
11:06:40 From Cynthia Brown to Everyone : our new website is Ohio Coalition to End Qualified Immunity. https://www.ohiocoalitiontoendqualifiedimmunity.org/
11:09:13 From carla to Everyone : Maybe we need a website called UNLEARN.COM !
11:10:30 From Bill Davis to Everyone : Just thought of a question. Do any of our panelists have a feeling about how good or bad it is that many LEOs are resigning/being fired for not being vaccinated for Covid-19?
11:13:10 From Bill Davis to Everyone : @Carla - unlearn.com already exists!
11:14:35 From Greg Coleridge (he/him) to Everyone : An upcoming talk by Charles, https://oberlin.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_RD2FLAeYRMmqICSCMKvQFA
11:19:12 From Greg Coleridge (he/him) to Everyone : https://www.movetoamend.org/striking_down_democracy_how_our_rights_are_hijacked_by_corporations_in_our_communities
11:19:32 From Greg Coleridge (he/him) to Everyone : STRIKING DOWN DEMOCRACY: How our Rights are Hijacked by Corporations in our Communities
11:20:57 From Cynthia Brown to Everyone : My contact number is 480- 936-9159.
Perfect Example, Larry Householders. 60 Million Dollars. ALEC
11:22:50 From Charles Peterson to Everyone : Charles Peterson “Beyond Civil Disobedience: Social Nullification and Black Citizenship” (Palgrave McMillan, 2021)
11:24:14 From Deborah Hogshead to Everyone : Thank you to everyone!
11:28:45 From Robert Williams to Everyone : Association of Former British Colonies, founded by James Boston
11:32:18 From Robert Williams to Greg Coleridge (he/him)(Direct Message) : who is the cable doc maker?


Shaker Heights Democracy Day Public Hearing Testimonies

TESTIMONIES AT SHAKER HEIGHTS, OH, DEMOCRACY DAY

Shaker Heights City Hall and via Zoom | September 13, 2021 

Summary

Those who testified provided examples of how big money in politics and the granting of Constitutional rights to corporate entities are corrupting our democracy:

• Ohio citizens and municipalities are losing their right to self-governance because of the collapse of home rule. This situation is increasingly important because the Ohio General Assembly is more and more the tool of corporate interests, especially the oil and gas industry. A prime example is that municipalities and counties lost the right to ban or levy fees on plastic bags, which are made with a byproduct of the state’s vast fracking interests. Although the ban is set to expire in January 2022, many in the majority want to make the ban permanent, without regard to environmental harms.

• Dark money from 501c4 organizations lines the coffers of candidates and issues up for a vote by Ohioans and the General Assembly. Not only did First Energy dump massive amounts of money into the campaign to push through HB6, but a 501 © 4 organization known as Ohioans for Energy Security sought to squelch the signature collecting effort to put the bill on the ballot and place ads to scare people away from signing signatures or voting for the bill by claiming that the Chinese government would take over our energy grid.

• Nowhere is Big Energy’s power more obvious than in the oil and gas industry’s desire to put lipstick on the pig that is their uncontrollable production of radioactive waste that they call “brine” and promote as a viable substitute for road salt.

If we had a truly representative democracy which demanded full disclosure of the dangers of products and enacted laws that benefit the health, safety, and welfare of people, nature, and future generations, how could this toxic, radioactive waste be spread in our environment? It is the power of corporations which have been granted constitutional rights– and the corrupt officials who advocate policies that benefit them (in this case oil and gas companies) – that allow this to happen. Things are even worse with this issue because there are currently two bills in the legislature – HB 282 and SB 171 – which are designed to grant ‘processed’ oil and gas brine as a‘commodity’.

• County governments and private companies profit from the incarceration, monitoring, and deportation of immigrants legally seeking asylum. Profits are also made through mark-ups on food, clothing, and bedding in jail commissaries; exorbitant fees for phone and video visitation; high immigration bonds that must be paid in their entirety and surcharges on lending services; charges on individuals for remote monitoring and ankle bracelets if they win release; and charter deportation flights or commercial plan tickets if they lose their cases. It is wrong for governments and private companies to profit from inflicting pain and misery.

• Partisan gerrymandering supported by PACs, SuperPACs, and dark money groups has silenced the voices of thousands of Ohio voters – and continues to do so to this day. In the 2010 election, 53 of Ohio’s 99 state House districts were Democratic and 44 were Republican. After the November 2010 election, Ohio lost two House seats due to population loss, and the state legislature shifted to a Republican majority, which redrew maps in 2011 to produce 40 Democratic and 59 Republican districts. This map was ruled unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering, and state Republicans were told to redraw the maps in 2019. Despite years of effort by the LWV, Common Cause, and other civic groups, the 5 Republican members of the 7-member redistricting commission produced maps in September 2021 that virtually define gerrymandering, creating a 2/3 majority in both houses.

Is it mere coincidence that 2010 was the year that the Citizens United ruling opened the floodgates for virtually unlimited campaign contributions? It’s not hard to believe that money from PACs, SuperPACs, and dark money groups has inclined the supermajority in the General Assembly, and the majority on the redistricting commission to listen more closely to their big donors – many of them oil and gas interests – than the people of Ohio.

• As gerrymandering and attacks on home rule close off avenues for Ohioans to have their say through legislation, laws are also being instituted to quash protests. SB 33 makes it a felony to commit, aid, or abet any protest at “critical infrastructure” and/or pipelines anywhere in the state. The bill is modeled after ALEC’s “Critical Infrastructure Protection Act” which was intended to suppress the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline 5+ years ago. Oil and gas interests have decided that the best way to avoid criticism for using disproportionate force is to snuff out the spirit of activists before it can become a flame.

• The use of the “red box” thwarts the intent to prohibit the coordination/communication between campaigns and SuperPACs which was incorporated into the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling to brush aside concerns about the corruption of democracy by unlimited campaign contributions. The red box was used in the campaign of Shontel Brown for the nomination to take the position of former US representative Marcia Fudge. On Ms. Brown’s website there were quotes by three SuperPACs, and next to the quotes was a red box with a link directing the SuperPAC and anyone else to documents about how to fund her campaign. The SuperPACs, funded in large part by people connected to the fossil fuel industry, spent $2 million to amplify the messaging in the quotes. She came from behind to win the nomination.

• The rights of citizens and municipalities may continue to be extinguished unless all corporate constitutional rights are abolished. For example, a lawn care service could refuse to disclose toxic chemicals in their lawn treatments by appealing to its First Amendment right NOT to speak. Efforts by Shaker Heights city council or residents (or those of any another community) to require city inspection of a corporation to protect workers and the environment could be challenged as a violation of that corporation’s Fourth Amendment privacy rights. Efforts to protect homeowners from a company digging or drilling under private homeowners could be challenged in court as a violation of the corporation’s Fifth Amendment takings rights to lost future profits. Efforts to provide preferential treatment of locally owned businesses over a chain store that sends profits outside the community could be challenged in court as a violation of that corporation’s Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights.

• Ohio pension funds invested with private equity funds are subject to high fees and deliver poor performance. Problems linked to private equity include rising rent and evictions, increasing toll roads, killing a national $15 minimum wage, surprise medical bills, and fueling climate change.

• Employer-based health insurance is not only an issue of the unemployed. Employed people deal with high expenses and the constant changing of health insurance plans. And how much money could the U.S. government and taxpayers save if we could eliminate the overhead of Medicaid and Medicare by allowing a system of Medicare for all who want it or simply universal health care coverage. Although the Affordable Care Act plans will remain an option under the Biden administration, it may be attacked in the future.

All the above point to the loss of representational democracy because of the principle that money is speech and the granting of constitutional rights to corporate entities. Complete testimonies are below. 

Read more

Democracy Day in Kent will examine corporate control of our democracy

Letter to the Editor
Cleveland.com
October 1, 2021

The city of Kent will be holding Democracy Day next week, on Oct. 6. I imagine your first impression of the Democracy Day label is that it may be a holiday to celebrate our form of government because of what the United States has achieved. No! It is not a day of celebration but a day of mourning.

This public hearing before City Council will be about how corporations have abused democracy and taken control of our political and financial lives in the name of capitalism, renamed corporatism. Why? Because corporations control democracy. They are the winners and we are the losers. Capitalism is about making “big and dark money” that is accumulated by the plutocrats at the top and not shared with “we the people.” For more background, read New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer’s books and articles.

Democracy Day is an invitation to listen to how our corporations have acquired personhood and how their money has been ruled a form of speech. If “we the people” don’t act, the next presidential election could further erode our democracy toward an autocracy. For more information on the event, Google “Kent Democracy Day”.

Bill Wilen,

Kent