Shaker Heights Democracy Day Public Hearing Testimonies


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


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. 






Pursuant to Section 113.10 of the City’s Ordinances

September 13, 2021


Respectfully submitted by Kathy Hazelton

Cleveland East Move to Amend




Shaker Heights Democracy Day

September 13, 2021

Testimony of Madelon Watts


As citizens of Ohio, we are gradually losing our right to self-government due to the collapse of Ohio’s Home Rule authority. Home Rule is Ohio law that permits citizens to make laws for their own cities and towns as granted by the Ohio Constitution, which explicitly states: “Municipal Corporations have authority to exercise all powers of local self-government and to adopt and enforce within their limits…regulations as are not in conflict with general laws.” This was passed in 1912, when Ohio voters approved, by a Constitutional convention, our Ohio Home Rule amendment.


But since 2013, the Ohio General Assembly has prohibited local governments from enacting local laws on issues such as gun controls, minimum wages, fracking permits, predatory lending, wind farm sites, municipal taxing authority and much, much more.


The term “general laws” seems quite elastic, enabling the General Assembly to include whatever it chooses, allows the state legislature with the help of the courts, to ride roughshod over our unique city ordinances in Ohio. Two years in a row, the General Assembly violated Home Rule once again by preempting Cuyahoga and other counties’ ability to ban plastic bags.


This situation is increasingly important because the Ohio General Assembly is more and more the tool of corporate interests, allowing an end run around local city ordinances and defying Home Rule rights. In each case the General Assembly has done the bidding of some corporate interest. Take the example of the plastic bag ban in Ohio. It shows how corporations have highjacked our local Home Rule.


In 2020 the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 242, restricting local municipalities from being able to charge taxes for single-use plastic products, include plastic bags. The originator of this law is George Lang, stated, “My priority serving as a member of the Ohio House is to put business first.” He did this by introducing legislation for the entire state requested by one business in his district that manufactures plastic bags, which is in turn a part of a giant South Carolina corporation called Novolex.


Novolex is a member of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which is an offshoot of the Plastics Industry Association, a corporation that has spent millions of dollars to defeat local bans and support preemption legislation across the country, often using model legislative language provided by the American City County Exchange, an offshoot of the corporate advocacy group the American Legislative Exchange Council — better known as ALEC. Clearly, the battle over plastic bags does not take place on a level playing field.


Ohio Municipal League Executive Director Kent Scarrett voiced opposition to HB 242, stating “When the state Legislature passes bills preempting municipal local control authority, the ‘will’ of a majority of 132 legislators essentially trumps the ‘will’ of 8.5 million Ohioans who call an Ohio city or village home.”


Keary McCarthy, executive director of the Ohio Mayors’ Alliance, noted when there’s a disagreement on policy, the first place the Ohio legislature turns is to undermine Home Rule rights of cities instead of discussing why this policy represents an encroachment on Ohio’s Constitutionally protected Home Rule authority.


Increasingly, the philosophy of Keith Faber, former President of the Ohio Senate, seems to be the norm. In fact, several years ago he bragged, “When we talk about local control, we mean state control.”


With contributions by supporters to Ohio House members totaling nearly $600,000, HB 242, passed by a vote of 58-35. Groups opposed to HB 242 contributed less than $5,000 to House members, even though twice as many spoke against HB 242.


In 2020, Governor DeWine signed HB 242 into law, with a temporary, one-year ban on cities taxing “auxiliary containers” such as plastic bags. The Senate is due to make permanent this tax ban in January, 2022.


It doesn't matter if you're Republican, Independent, or, Democrat. The infringement on your local power of self-government, or Home Rule, is being trampled on in every Ohio municipality. Sinister anti-local-voter laws are being created with the aid of corporate money. Basically the Ohio legislature is legislating for corporations and not for citizens of Ohio. I strongly urge you to get involved and defend your Constitutional right to Home Rule.


Thank you.






September 13, 2021


My name is Ted Auch and for the last eight years I have been researching, photographing, collecting the stories of, and writing about the impacts of oil and gas all along the Ohio River Valley and beyond. Throughout my time conducting this work, meeting amazing people fighting the influence of oil and gas, and developing data that speaks to the impacts from a water, waste, and landscape perspective it has always been clear that the deck is chronically stacked against Ohioans when it comes to Big Energy’s needs and desires. It has gotten to the point here in “Open For Business” Ohio that Big Oil, Gas, and Coal get laws passed and concessions granted to them that they didn’t even ask for because they thought they would be laughed out of the room or that their insatiable corporate welfare demands would be exposed as they automate, union bust, and externalize their costs in the name of shareholder return and access to lending windows from Too Big To Fail Banks.


Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Oil & Gas industry’s desire to put lipstick on the pig that is their uncontrollable production of radioactive waste that they call “brine.” This was laid bare for all to see with the effort of Duck Creek Energy, a company some here on City Council are quite familiar with, to reclassify said brine as a viable substitute for road salt here in Ohio. There was no support HB 282 and SB 271, which would have codified brine as a commodity in service of one company Duck Creek Energy, anywhere in Ohio other than from industry. The historically industry sympathetic ODNR was opposed to reclassifying brine as was ODOT. However, bills like this continue to be repackaged and shoved down the throats of Ohioans on Fridays at 4:30 pm or on the way out the door for the Christmas Holiday when only the most interested of citizens is paying attention. These types of bills illustrate the power of corporations and in this case one specific corporation Duck Creek Energy.


For some perspective on the power of entire industries, their think tanks, foundations, and consultants like McKinsey and Booz Allen here in Ohio we need look no further than SB 33 which Senator Frank Hoagland from Mingo Junction and his staff admittedly only slightly modified from the Koch and Bradley Foundation backed ALEC model legislation that has made its way throughout statehouses nationwide. This bill was signed into law by Governor DeWine a couple of days before Christmas last year and would make it a felony to commit, aid, or abet any protest “critical infrastructure” and/or pipelines anywhere in the state. ALEC’s “Critical Infrastructure Protection Act” is a solution in search of a problem aimed at making O&G’s already red-carpet treatment in resource rich states like Ohio more so. It is no coincidence that the same forces behind “critical infrastructure” legislation namely the Bradley Foundation, ALEC, the Kochs, and the Heritage Foundation are simultaneously advocating for voter suppression legislation and Independent Legislature Doctrine nationwide. The former is what is being invoked by right-wing forces in Arizona to nullify the latest presidential election results in Maricopa County giving legislatures, not voters, “the final word in American elections.”   As Senator Sheldon Whitehouse told The New Yorker recently “It’s a massive covert operation run by a small group of billionaire élites. These are powerful interests with practically unlimited resources who have moved on to manipulating that most precious of American gifts—the vote.”


SB33 is linked to DC by way of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) which decides on interstate pipeline proposals. However, to say that FERC is anything, but a “rubber-stamp” agency is delusional. Those are not my words but those of Congressman Jamie Raskin the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties who issued a report that found that FERC granted 1,021 pipeline approvals while rejecting just six in the past 20 years. So, the idea that here in Ohio we ever really needed SB 33 or any other type of legislation to protect existing and proposed energy infrastructure is incorrect and can only mean one thing and that is that our elected officials in Columbus have officially surrendered their role as lawmakers and are now simply conduits for the interests of corporations. Bills like SB 33 and the inevitable follow-up with even more Orwellian legislation creates room for the involvement of private security firms like those deployed to suppress the protests of Indigenous Water Protectors fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline 5+ years ago. That event was a watershed in environmental struggle with industry seeing how bad they looked and deciding right there and then that the best way to prevent a repeat of that disproportionate use of force is to snuff out the spirit of activists before it can become a flame.


Here in Ohio industry talking shops like Energy In Depth, Ohio Oil and Gas Association, and others have created narratives that tug at the patriotic heartstrings of Ohioans use phrases like “Energy Independence” but what we know about the oil and gas industry and companies like Duck Creek Energy is that they have no loyalty to Ohio’s people or its ecosystems. They are laser focused on shareholder return, IPOs, and maximizing profit by way of energy export. Yet, these same companies continue to rely on Ohio as a destination for all manner of toxic waste and they do this because it has always been ultra-cheap to dispose of waste in Ohio, our elected officials seem more concerned about making it easier and cheaper to do so, our regulators and trusted academic institutions give all manner of operators and ideas intellectual cover it doesn’t deserve, and finally to the point of this gathering we have bills that are sending the wrong signal to industry and a Revised Code that is dangerously behind the times. All this is a result of the corporate dollar mattering more to our elected officials than the needs of their constituents.




Shaker Heights Democracy Day

Radioactive Brine on Ohio Roads

Bill Lyons

Columbus, OH

President, Ohio Community Rights Network


Most Ohioans don’t know that their state allows oil well ‘brine’ to be spread on roads for deicing

and dust control. The fact that this product is referred to as ‘brine’ is a misnomer. It is actually

toxic and radioactive waste from oil and gas operations, which just happens to be very salty. It

contains high concentrations of heavy metal like Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, Mercury, and many

other toxic compounds like Benzene and Toluene but, most alarmingly, it contains high levels of

radioactive Radium 226 and 228. This has been confirmed by tests conducted by the Ohio

Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The oil and gas industry has known this for



Radium 226 is especially concerning as it is water-soluble and bone-seeking. Our bodies

absorb at least 20% of the Radium particles that we ingest through mouth and, especially,

breathing dust particles. Once in our bones, alpha particles are emitted at a constant emission

rate for the rest of our lives, as Radium 226 has a half-life of 1600 years. Radium is known to

cause bone, liver, and breast cancer. When some of the Radium 226 does decay, it decays into

radon which is the second leading cause of lung cancer, behind only tobacco.


What about the levels of Radium? The US EPA has set a drinking water limit of 5

pCi/L (picocuries per liter) for Radium 226 and 228 combined. The Ohio Administrative Code

(OAC) has set the environmental discharge limit for Radium 226 and 228 at 60 pCi/L each. The

limit for Radon in our homes is set at 4 pCi/L. Oil well brine levels are often in the thousands of

pCi/L, as confirmed by ODNR test results.


If it was up to the people to choose whether, or not, to allow toxic and radioactive oil and gas

brine to be spread on our roads, how do you think they would vote? If we had a true

representative democracy which demanded full disclosure of the dangers of products and which

enacted laws that truly benefited the health, safety, and welfare of the people, nature, and future

generations then how could this toxic, radioactive waste be spread in our environment? It is only

because of the power of corporations, like those from the oil and gas industry, which have been

unjustly granted constitutional rights - rights which were intended for natural persons. Of course,

it is also because of the influence of their money on our system of governance and the corrupt

officials who advocate policies that benefit the oil and gas industry to the detriment of the



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’. Currently, only one company would benefit from these bills which produces a brine

product called AquaSalina. These bills would set limits for this product at an astronomical

20,000 pCi/L for Radium 226 and 2,500 pCi/L for Radium 228! In other words, this ‘processed’

oil and gas brine is just as toxic and radioactive as raw oil and gas brine. Granting AquaSalina

the status of a ‘commodity’ would remove any reporting of where, when, or how much of it is

spread. It would allow it to be sold on store shelves and purchased by unsuspecting citizens

without any knowledge of its radioactivity, thus, jeopardizing themselves, their children, and their



Interestingly, there is a provision in the Ohio Revised Code, section 2927.24, that was adopted

shortly after 9/11 to prevent and punish terrorists from poisoning our water and environment

from hazardous chemical and radioactive substances. So, we should demand that state actors

and corporations refrain from the same terrorist activity.

The Ohio Community Rights Network asks you to join the effort to have county prosecutors and

other elected officials call on the Attorney General to open a statewide investigation into the

state agencies and corporations that are violating current Ohio law by allowing the radioactive

poisoning of our drinking water. You can learn much more about this crucial issue and even find

a script for residents to follow at this webpage https://www.ohio





Larry Bresler

September 13, 2021


Hello, my name is Larry Bresler. I live on Manchester Road here in Shaker Heights. I appreciate the opportunity to present testimony here today on Democracy Day.


I would like to speak today on the anti-protest bills that have been both passed and are being considered in the Ohio General Assembly. The first of these bills was SB 33 that was passed in the last legislative session. The legislation was drafted by ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), a Koch Brothers created organization that drafts legislation to serve the corporate interests with which it serves. The legislation was introduced and passed in states across the country in response to Standing Rock[1] and other landowner protests against large pipeline projects.


The legislation made certain types of protest at “critical infrastructure facilities” (like pipelines or telecommunications facilities, or even potentially putting flyers on telephone poles) a third- degree felony, carrying a prison sentence of nine months to five years. They deny citizens the right to peacefully resist environmentally unsafe policies and unchecked corporate abuse, such as unfair land-grabs for large infrastructure projects, by labeling this type of free speech as a felony. In addition, Ohio organizations including churches who support protests at certain infrastructures or work with citizens to exercise their right to free speech and association could be subject to $100,000 fines. It holds organizations liable for individual actions.


This was legislation that had broad opposition across Ohio including all the major media outlets. With hundreds of people going down to Columbus to testify in opposition, the legislation was not brought up for a final vote until the second to last day of the Lame Duck session in 2020 (five months after the last testimony), when it was snuck in and passed.


Following the passage of SB 33, new anti-protest legislation has been introduced in Ohio and across the country prompted by corporate interests to further stifle protest, primarily in response to the Black Lives Matter protests. These Ohio bills HB 22, HB 109 and SB 41 as introduced would do the following:


  • Would make it a 3rd degree felony punishable up to 5 years in prison if four or more people block a street a sidewalk or other public passage after being told to leave.
  • Would make it a 2nd- degree felony punishable up to eight years in prison and a $15,000 if an individual or individuals help to fund, organize, or actively assist (funding, transportation, training etc.) in what is deemed a riot (four or more people engaging in disorderly conduct)
  • Organizations who provide active support or resources to a demonstration or protest that results in loss of property or harm to a police Officer with be liable for triple the damages caused.
  • Makes it a crime to distract or divert a law enforcement officer by throwing anything at or near a police officer even confetti, yelling at a police officer, or even being near a police officer who is trying to arrest someone else.
  • Would make it a 5th felony for “defacing, painting” or otherwise “marking upon” government owned property. This could include even writing with chalk.


As a result of publicity and overwhelming testimonies against these pieces of legislation, many of the felony penalties of have been reduced to first degree misdemeanors punishable to six months incarceration. However, this is still not satisfactory and there is legitimate concerns that the original penalties will be restored and/or that additional legislation will be introduced to further curtail peaceful protesting.


A fundamental tenet of a democracy is to preserve the right for citizens to be able to demonstrate and protest for social justice. The pieces of legislation that have passed and are being considered are an unprecedented assault on that right, free speech and democracy.




Testimony from Lynn Tramonte, President, Anacaona LLC and Director,

Ohio Immigrant Alliance

On Immigration Policy Origins, Costs, Consequences,

and a Better Approach


Shaker Heights Democracy Day

September 13, 2021




My name is Lynn Tramonte and I have been a Cleveland Heights resident since 2007.

When I decided to move back to Ohio from Washington, DCin 2007, I intentionally

chose to live in the Heights because of its racial and economic diversity, small town

community feel, and values.


After starting my professional career as a consultant for the Immigration and

Naturalization Service (currently, the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services branch

of the Department of Homeland Security), I worked for national immigration policy

and advocacy organizations based in DC for twenty years. Anacaona provides media strategy and communications support for groups such asthe Interfaith Immigration Coalition, Center for Immigration Law and Social Policy, International Institute of Akron, Essential Ohio Campaign, and Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. I also am a freelance book coach, writer, and editor, consulting for Cleveland Edits, Get Published Now, and other non-profit organizations

and socially responsible companies.


I am Director of the Ohio Immigrant Alliance, a group of immigrants and allies working

together to make Ohio a better, more welcoming place for immigrants. We have

worked on anti-detention and anti-deportation campaigns since 2007 (under different

names). Currently, our priority is #ReuniteUS, a campaign to bring deported people

home to their families and communities.We recently published the first ever Ohio Migration Anthology, Far From Their Eyes,which includes stories, essays, paintings, and poems from various Ohioans with a connection to migration, including several in the greater Cleveland and Akron area.


I can be reached at [email protected], 202-255-0551, and on Twitter

(@tramontela). My websites are and

I am grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts on immigration policy,

democracy, and the immorality of financial incentives for incarceration.


Level Setting: Immigration Law and Policy


Being in the country without a visa is a violation of federal civil, not criminal, law.

Immigration is the only area of civil law I am aware of that allows people to be

incarcerated while they are going through a court process to resolve the matter.

For example, people going through an eviction are not jailed as the process plays out.

That would not only be cruel, but counter-productive. It would keep them out of the

workforce and unable to contribute to their debts. They would be unable to care for

their kids, putting children at risk and extra strain on other family members and social

services. Finally, the result of eviction—homelessness—is an extreme consequence and

one that the law and policy should try to avoid whenever possible(While debtors’ prisons are technically illegal in the United States, localities have found ways to exploit loopholes, but that is a topic for another day).


In the immigration context, the federal government uses incarceration to coerce

people into accepting deportation, rather than continuing to fight their civil cases

from jail. Incarceration is extremely expensive and emotionally taxing for families. It

takes breadwinners out of homes and adds new costs for families (price-gouging

phone and video calls, commissary accounts, and additional legal expenses, since

lawyers costs rise when the person is detained and harder to access). Children,

spouses, and the detained person all experience extreme emotional distress that can

cause life-long, debilitating consequences.


Being detained makes it infinitely harder for an immigrant to find and pay a

competent lawyer, and gather documents and evidence needed in their cases. That is

actually the whole point of detaining immigrants for civil violations.

In Ohio, immigrants with lawyers are ten times more likely to win their cases if they

have a lawyer. This means that Ohio immigrants who have a right to remain here

under current law are losing their cases only because they are detained.


Racism Embedded in U.S. Immigration Law and Policy


The Reagan administration launched today’s immigration jail system as a response to

the exodus of Black men from Haiti and Cuba who were fleeing oppression and

seeking asylum. The Reagan administration was well aware of the fact that the policy

“could create an appearance of ‘concentration camps’ filled largely by blacks,” and did

it anyway. They invited private prison companies to carry out this mass incarceration.


Federal immigration detention was the catalyst for the immoral“incarceration-for-profit” industry we are grappling with today. By jailing people who are requesting asylum, we arw essentially criminalizing the statusof being a refugee. This despite the fact the United States has signed numerous international treaties committing to protecting refugees, after our failure to do so during the Holocuast.


Congress created some criminal penalties in immigration laws; an example is “entry

without inspection” and “re-entry after deportation.” They are used as leverage to get

immigrants to accept the civil consequence (deportation), avoiding criminal

prosecution and lengthy federal prison sentences.


It gets worse. In a Supreme Court brief, professors from Columbia and UCLA

document how the 1929 laws that created these criminal sanctions were progeny of an

explicitly racist scheme to keep Mexican workers “in line.” By design, the statute

would only implicate Mexican people (and now others) crossing a land border to work

in the United States, not European migrants arriving on boats (and now planes).

The illegal entry/re-entry statutes were a compromise between Nativists who did not

want Mexicans “diluting the racial purity” of the United States and agribusiness

representatives who wanted Mexicans to work for them and not have rights. Keeping

Mexican workers “under the thumb” through the constant threat of criminal

prosecution kept them quiet on the job and provided a safety value through

deportation if the population grew too large. As a businessman from Texas put it: “If

we could not control the Mexicans and they would take this country it would be

better to keep them out, but we can and do control them.”


This effect remains in force today, on the farms and factories in Willard, Norwalk,

Salem, Lake County, and Ashtabula County, to name just a few places nearby.


Costs and Consequences


The size and scope of the federal immigration police force has increased dramatically

over the past forty years, starting with the detention of Haitian and Cuban men

mentioned previously and moving on to the aggressive policy at the southern U.S.

border, which resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, as migrants took to more

remote crossing points to try get to jobs they knew were waiting.

According to the American Immigration Council, the Border Patrol’s budget increased

10-fold since 1993. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was created in 2003,

and its budget has already more than tripled. Congress appropriates enough money

for the agency to detain between 35,000 and 55,000 immigrants per year, depending

how the administration allocated funds.


Again, these are people being put in jail while they seek asylum in the courts, or other

relief from deportation. This is considered “civil detention,” not punishment, but it

looks, feels, and smells like a criminal sentence of unknown length.

In addition to the federal government, county governments and private companies

profit off of the incarceration, monitoring, and deportation of immigrants. That profit

creates a perverse incentive that ensures the system’s growth and survival, until we

—who ultimately pay these costs—stand up and refuse to let our money go toward

inflicting more pain and misery.


In Ohio, the jailers profiting from immigrants’ misery are county governments: Geauga

and Seneca. CoreCivic used to detain immigrants for ICE in Youngstown at the

Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, and Butler and Morrow Counties also used to

have ICE contracts, but those have since ended.


The NEOCC has a history of medical neglect and mistreatment for which several

lawsuits have been filed. Goura Ndiaye, a refugee from Mauritania who lived in Ohio

for decades, was deported by the prior administration with his hip completely

detached from his body, following medical neglect by ICE and NEOCC.

This month, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General

released a report indicating that NEOCC had failed to comply with protocols related

to suicidie prevention, record-keeping, and other issues in the death of an immigrant

detained there for ICE, plus five areas of concern regarding medical care, safety, and

security at the facility. Sadly, another life was lost, apparently due to suicide, just this

month as the OIG report was issued.


The Butler County Jail is notorious for racial bias and physical assaults against

detained immigrants and citizens, and lost its contract with ICE this year. The Morrow

County Correctional Facility is also prohibited from housing immigrants for ICE after

the Sheriff’s ineptness and malfeasance led to a 100% COVID infection rate and a

sharp rebuke by a federal (Trump-appointed) judge.


“Through inadequate testing, inadequate observation, and inadequate isolation

strategies, Morrow allowed its infection numbers to soar exponentially, and now every

detainee in the large and small dormitories has been infected. This reckless,

out-of-control spread of infection is constitutionally unacceptable,” Judge Sarah D.

Morrison wrote in a judicial order mandating the release of some people detained for

ICE at this jail).


Beyond traditional incarceration (jail) costs, 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” for those who can’t pay $25,000 for their freedom;

charging individuals’ for remote monitoring and ankle bracelets if they do win release;

and charter deportation flights or commercial plane tickets if they lose their cases.

The list goes on and on.


I cannot say that lawyers representing immigrants profit from this system, since those

who work with detained people are poorly paid and operate under extremely difficult

conditions. There is no indigent right to counsel in immigration matters, despite the

deprivation of liberty, and representing someone in detention costs more than

representing a free person. Many lawyers do so at great personal and financial

sacrifice, because if they do not, who will? We need a guaranteed legal representation

program for people facing such life-altering consequences as deportation. .

On top of the new costs of incarceration and deportation, incarceration takes a

breadwinner out of the home. Poor families become poorer; teenagers have to take on

financial and emotional burdens far beyond their years. Futures are stunted and some

become homeless.


These are the personal and societal costs to families going through a loved one’s

incarceration and deportation, some of which can be quantified, but whose impacts

are most keenly felt psychologically.




Implications for Local Governments and Communities


Federal immigration laws are a mixture of mostly civil and some criminal provisions.

Immigration law is one of the most complex, contradictory, counter-intuitive, and

constantly changing areas of law and policy. Various federal courts have jurisdiction

over these issues and set their own precedents. The federal administrative branch also

has extensive authority to change how the law is applied. For example, the U.S.

Attorney General has the power to “certify” and make precedent-setting decisions

himself, in specific immigration cases.


The Constitution prohibits states from creating their own immigration laws. State and

local governments do not have any immigration law training, much less access to

federal immigration files and updates to the law and policy. They have no power to

write immigraton law and policy they are sometimes asked to enforce.

All this is true because immigration is a strictly federal function.


The line between federal immigration enforcement and local police used to be clearer.

But following the September 11th, the Bush administration and then the preceding

administrations intentionally blurred the roles.

In “Assumption of Risk: Legal Liabilities for Local Governments that Choose to Enforce

Federal Immigration Laws,” legal and civil rights experts describe how assisting ICE in

enforcement of civil immigration laws, including detaining immigrants beyond the

scope of a criminal sentence, violates the Constitution and exposes localities to legal



Arizona taxpayers are on the hook for over $200 million in legal fees, retraining,

evaluation, hiring, and other reforms needed to eradicate immigration-based racial

profiling from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. This results from a decade of

litigation about former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s implementation of a multi-layered

immigration enforcement scheme at the county level.


The county of Kent in Michigan was ordered to pay nearly $200,000 to a U.S. citizen

Marine vet, Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, for its role in arresting and detaining him. The

Detroit ICE field office incorrectly insisted he was an undocumetned immigrant.


Local governments might assume that the federal government would not ask them to

break the law. That assumption is wrong. In fact, the federal government seems to

have little to lose, other than credibility and relationships, by engaging local police

this way. Their zeal to enforce immigration laws, the sheer size of the immigration

detention and deportation system, and the lack of low cost legal resources to protect

immigrants’ rights allow a lawless system to flourish.


Not only can a local role in immigrant enforcement expand racial profiling and cost

taxpayers financially, but it also harms communities by fracturing relationships and

sowing fear of the police. Given the city’s need to address potential racial bias in


policing already, a strong policy prohibiting partnerships with ICE and training about

how to not cross the line seems crucial.


What to Do Instead


Instead of the current immigration system that treats refugee status and work as a

crime, I support a dramatic shift in immigration law and policy as per the

recommendations of Peter L. Markowitz in his report “A New Paradigm for Humane

and Effective Immigration Enforcement.”


Markowitz makes two key points: one, that detention and deportation is an extreme

consequence for a civil law violation. Deportation means permanent banishment from

one’s home, job, family, and life as they have known it—all for a paperwork violation.

Does that sound fair? Of course not.


Second, the rule of law starts with reasonable laws, and the ability for discretion to be

exercised when circumstances warrant a reprieve or alternative. In other areas of civil

law, compliance is the goal, not pain and punishment.. When laws are so out of step

with morality, they become impossible to enforce without serious, negative

consequences for people and families.


A healthier immigration system would prioritize getting into compliance with the law

over punishment and criminalization. Markowitz’ recommendations include:

  • Simplifying and streamlining immigration laws and grounds of deportation;
  • Replacing punitive enforcement strategies with a system that allows for

mediation, proportionate consequences, and a fair path to compliance;

  • Dramatically reducing the use of incarceration in civil immigraiton matters
  • Creating a federal legal services corps for immigration cases, similar to the

public defender model in criminal cases; and

  • Transforming U.S. immigration courts into a fully independent judiciary, outside

of the control of the political branches of government, among many other



To respond to decades of a failed, disproportionate system in action, we are also

recommending a program of citizenship for immigrants working in the United States

without papers today. Finally, the Ohio Immigrant Alliance is also calling on the Biden

administration to do everything in its power to allow deported people to return to

their families in the United States.


Hundreds of pages of research document the significant harm that immigration raids,

detention, and deportation have on children and families. The Trump administration

executed several mass immigration raids in Ohio targeting nursery workers and

protein processors, and families remain fractured.




Detention and deportation are not reasonable responses to an immigration paperwork

problem, and the city of Shaker Heights should take no role in implementing such a

devastating punishment on our residents.





I’ll end with this observation from my friend Saidu Sow, a Black Mauritanian man who

came to the U.S. seeking asylum and left, decades later, on a deportation plane. He’d

been in immigration jail for three years before his deportation in July 2021. Yes,

deportations are still happening and they are still happening to good people.


This is what Saidu told a student journalist, Grace Goldstein, who interviewed him for

the Kenyon Collegian magazine:

What I saw in ICE custody, it’s horrible, and it’s inhumane. And it was done by

professional people who represent a state, or people who represent a federal

government. And that’s something that I will...I will not stop talking about. And I

understand it was just a bad person who’s lucky to get a job, and they abuse

their authority. And they did things that they shouldn’t, though, that is unequal,

and inhumane. But, I had nobody to talk to at the time. But I’m glad I talked to

you. And I’m glad that you’re listening to what I’m telling you as well.


Are you listening?


The full interview with Saidu Sow and other interviews, essays, poems, stories, and

paintings from Ohio immigrants and people connected to migration can be found in the

new book, Far From Their Eyes: Ohio Migration Anthology, published by Anacaona for

the Ohio Immigrant Alliance. See






Kathy Hazelton

Shaker Heights Democracy Day

September 13, 2021


My name is Kathy Hazelton, and I live in Oberlin, OH. I’ll be speaking about the Ohio redistricting sham, or should I say scam?


A couple days ago, I saw a car with Washington, D.C. license plates. The plate frame read “Taxation without Representation.” At that moment I realized that that’s what I could say about Ohio. I haven’t felt represented for many years in my home state, and given the district maps that came out a few days ago – after a hurried and secretive process – I don’t expect my votes to mean much for years to come.


Here are some laws in place and bills in process that do not reflect my interests:


I don’t feel represented by Ohio’s gun laws that permit people to openly carry firearms and carry concealed weapons into bars, school safety zones, and college campuses. The fact that no permit is necessary to purchase a firearm makes no sense to me, and I certainly don’t agree with HB 62 (the second amendment safe haven act), introduced in February of this year which would prohibit the registering of firearms or firearm owners -- because registration would have a “chilling effect “on the purchase and ownership of firearms. Personally, I’m more concerned about the disastrous effect that unregistered guns may have on the victims of people who have no right owning them.


I don’t agree with HB 248, which was introduced to put “freedom of choice” above protection against a disease that has plagued us for almost 20 months, and I certainly don’t feel represented by SB 22 which gives the General Assembly oversight over the governor’s health orders. It was sponsored by legislators with a grudge against the governor and his highly qualified health director.


I am troubled by HB 327, introduced this June, which prohibits teaching, advocating, or promoting divisive concepts (like structural racism – in other words, the truth).


I am disturbed by the nonsensical arguments of Ohio legislators opposed to outlawing or taxing plastic bags that are ruining our environment. I am troubled by Senate Resolution 176 urging Congress to protect the natural gas and oil industry from “disproportionate tax increases and other punitive measures.


And I don’t see the need for SB 33, which discourages protest against environmental hazards by making trespass on “critical infrastructure” --- whatever that is – a felony.


Even when issues are put to the ballot, big money interests and slick marketing folks often misrepresent the issues and push through measures that benefit only them. The marketing campaign for HB6, with its promise to save jobs and keep China out of our energy market, won big time despite opposition from rate payers business groups, free market conversative groups, and environmental groups. The only entity it benefitted was First Energy.


Important issues get passed on mostly on partisan lines, even though voters in the state are split approximately 54% Republican to 45% Democratic. This is, of course, because of our gerrymandered districts and the undeniable influence of big money and corporate interests in our elections and legislation.


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, which brings us to today. Despite years of effort by the LWV, Common Cause, and other civic groups, the 5 Republican members of the 7-member redistricting commission have produced maps that will create a 2/3 majority in both houses. The map is almost the definition of gerrymandering, according to David Niven, Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati.


Could it be coincidental 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?


I – like you – pay plenty of taxes to the state of Ohio, and I’d do so gladly if I felt my voice was being heard in Columbus. Instead, I’m looking for a license plate frame that says “Taxation without Representation.” I’m ready to protest – and hoping I can find ground that isn’t “critical infrastructure,” which could get me a felony conviction and three years in prison for voicing my outrage over the sham, the scam that is our gerrymandered state.




The Red Box Lays Bare the Corruption of American Democracy

Keith Wilson


Today I am going to talk about how an innovation in electioneering called the Red Box makes a

mockery of American democracy, highlighting the need for fundamental changes. This is a

timely issue for Shaker Heights because our future congresswoman Shontel Brown made

effective use of the Red Box in the recent primary election.


The majority opinion in Citizens United was authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who

reasoned that, while the corrupting influence of money is a valid concern, we can put that

concern to rest simply by limiting the amount of money that can be contributed to political

action committees (called PACs) that directly coordinate with political campaigns. On the

other hand, there needn’t be any limitations on contributions to another type of PAC called

Super PACs that dont directly coordinate with campaigns, because how could there be

corruption if there is no communication?


Of course, activists immediately saw that even completely independent expenditures would

corrupt the system if there were no contribution limits. Activists have been very vocal about the

fact that there are forms of corruption other than the blatant quid pro quo bribery that Justice

Kennedy was concerned about.


Still, it is worth considering what Justice Kennedy was saying here, because he was speaking for

the Supreme Court and setting the law of the land. What he was saying was that it would in fact

corrupt American democracy if these Super PACs were to communicate with campaigns,

including if they were to receive guidance from campaigns about how exactly the Super PAC

should use their unlimited corporate funding to support the campaign.


Enter the Red Box”


I learned about the Red Box in May 2021 when it was reported that Shontel Brown’s campaign

for congress was using the technique, but political campaigns have been employing it for years

to communicate with Super PACs. How does this work? Here’s how Shontel Brown’s campaign

did it. On the campaign website, there were quotes from the heads of three Super PACs. Next to

the quotes, there was a red rectangle. And inside this literal “red box” was a link to a document

with information directing the Super PACs, or anyone else, on how to support the campaign.

The Super PACs, funded in large part by people connected to the fossil fuel industry, spent $2

million to amplify the messaging suggested in the Red Box. Shontel Brown came from behind to

win the election.


This simple workaround of the Super PAC restrictions set by Citizens United produces precisely

what Justice Kennedy hoped to avoid: Unlimited corporate funding and spending guided by

political campaigns. In other words, the Red Box lays bare exactly what activists have been

saying for years: corporate money corrupts American democracy. There’s no way around it. It

will continue to do so until there are some fundamental changes.


Thank you, and thanks to the hosts of Democracy Day for the opportunity to speak here today.








Monday, September 13, 2021

Testimony of Greg Coleridge

Outreach Director, National Move to Amend Coalition


Corporations are not people and money is not speech are the two constitutional doctrines at root of the Shaker Heights ballot initiative passed by voters in 2016. The same is true of the 704 other communities, 7 states and over 600 organizations that have taken formal positions supporting the Move to Amend initiative -- in addition to the 480,000 individuals who've signed a petition.


The We the People Amendment (HJR 48), which would abolish both of these bizarre doctrines, is more than simply overturning Citizens United and more than simply ending money as free speech. It includes ending all forms of corporate constitutional rights.


Without abolishing all corporate constitutional rights -- not simply political free speech rights -- this is what could happen. Four examples.


1. Efforts by Shaker Heights city council or residents to, say, require a lawn care company to require the disclosure of specific toxic chemicals used on city or private properties could be challenged in court as a violation of that corporation's First Amendment right NOT to speak.

2. Efforts by Shaker Heights city council or residents either directly or indirectly to require city inspection of a corporation to protect workers or the environment could be challenged in court as a violation of that corporation's Fourth Amendment privacy rights.

3. Efforts by Shaker Heights city council or residents to protect homeowners from a company digging or drilling under private homes could be challenged in court as a violation of that corporation's Fifth Amendment takings rights to lost future profits.

4. Efforts by Shaker Heights city council or residents to provide preferential treatment of locally owned businesses over a chain store that send profits outside the community could be challenged in court as a violation of that corporation's Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights. FYI, the 14th Amendment was intended solely to protect freed slaves.


These examples of corporate hijacking of Constitutional Amendments intended exclusively for human beings doesn't includes the scores of times corporate entities have abused the Constitution's Commerce Clause to support corporate interests over the police powers of communities to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents. To reiterate, the We the People Amendment (HJR 48) is more than simply overturning Citizens United and more than simply ending money as free speech. It includes ending all forms of corporate constitutional rights.


My dad build an addition to our house pretty much all by himself. He said when doing so it was essential when planning each task to make sure the tools, material, time and energy were proportionate in scale to what was needed. Pouring 3 inches of a concrete base when 6 was required, using 2 by 2 inch lumber when 2 by 8’s were needed and pounding 1 inch nails when 2 inch nails were called for may look like a job well done, but if the thickness, width and length of materials didn't match the needed scale and proportion, the house would eventually crack, if not crumble.


The same goes for democracy. Believing we can create authentic democracy by simply or solely electing better representatives, passing the For the People Act (HR1) or having better regulations of political campaign spending or corporate harms is equivalent to insufficient thickness, width or length in building materials. They all may seem appropriate, but aren't nearly enough in scale or proportion to address the fundamental, if not existential, crises we face -- political, economic and ecological.


We can't afford to be small when massive changes are needed to address massive systemic problems. It’s only logical that systemic problems require systemic solutions.Only the We the People Amendment HJR 48 nails it.






SEPTEMBER 13, 2021

Ohio pension funds are invested with Private Equity, contributing to numerous problems while paying high fees for 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. David Sirota wrote a great article about this titled Workers Are Funding The War On Themselves.


Pensions are not so common in the private sector, but are crucial for public sector workers. They provide retirement funds for nurses and teachers who are not included in Social Security.


Ohio teachers’ pension fund is paying over $460 million in annual fees, yet returns have been below that of basic index funds. Especially outrageous is that the fees are double the savings from halting cost-of-living increases. The fees include $143 million on uncommitted capital - investments that haven't even been made.


Many cities and states have underfunded pensions, and this creates pressure to make up the shortfall with riskier investments. Some of the largest backers of alternative investments like private equity are local and state pension funds. The high fees transfer giant amounts of wealth from retirees to Wall Street.


Why are fees so high? Wall Street can view pension funds as "Other People's Money" and negotiate more profitable fee terms and shareholder rights. The fine print can be used to prioritize other investors over pension funds.


Further boosting profits is the infamous tax loophole that treats "carried interest" as capital gains rather than regular income. Private equity firms are advertising to protect their privileged tax position.


Further complicating things is a lack of transparency, since many states have passed laws shielding firms from open records requests. Overall, though, private equity firms have made almost a quarter trillion dollars in fees over 15 years.


Pension funds have fossil fuel investments through private equity, including refineries, pipelines, and coal plants. In addition to increasing climate change, there is risk of stranded assets.


In healthcare, there's another lucrative loophole. Surprise medical billing legislation didn't cover ground ambulance companies so private equity has been acquiring them.


Following the mortgage crisis in the Great Recession, real estate firms and private equity have been buying housing stock, raising rents, fighting rent control.


The bipartisan infrastructure bill includes "asset recycling" or privatization of public roads, dams, and airports. This leads to higher user fees, reduced public oversight, and corporate control of public assets.


The private equity firm controlling low wage fast food chains got investments from pension funds even as it celebrated killing a $15 minimum wage, hurting workers. It's time for pension funds to end alternative investments with private equity and fight corporate r




To:      City of Shaker Heights Citizens and City Council

From:   David B. Berenson, currently living at 3321 Silsby Road; Cleveland Hts., OH. 44118 (and formerly on Van Aken and Larchmere in Shaker Heights)

Re:       Address to 2021 Shaker Hts. Democracy Day

Date:    September 13, 2021


I want to express my appreciation for Shaker Heights Citizens for its support for the simple notion that Corporations are NOT people and Money is NOT the same as speech. In past years, I have spoken about issues of Healthcare that affect me, my family, my community and the students at schools in which I’ve worked, as well as how corporate influence affects this.


I had previously worked for a managed mental health care company, during which time I learned from the inside out that it was typical practice of insurance companies to deny claims that they SHOULD be covering, knowing that most people won’t have the wherewithal or time to appeal even once, much less multiple times; this not only leads to much bigger profits for the health insurance companies, but is a legal practice.


This past year’s election in regards to healthcare was a positive one, as the non-re-election of President Trump means that I could fall back on the Affordable Care Act plans, which were threatened over the past several years. I’ve been fortunate to remain employed in schools for many years, and most of the time I had the option of a health insurance plan. However, the employer-based health insurance system meant that at the whim of my employers, who changed health insurance plans every 1 – 2 years, leading at times to having to switch doctors but more often having to deal with delays in obtaining my diabetic care equipment. All this amidst rising Premiums, Deductibles, Co-pays and sometimes not covering certain prescriptions or procedures. So, that’s something I’ve been all-too-accustomed to over the years.


The current situation is even more odd and disturbing. My employer just contracted with a company which manages benefits, payroll and other things. They are now considered my “employer of record”, and not just the school that employs me. While our old health insurance ended August 31st, and we received our choices of over a dozen new healthcare plans a couple of days before that, I now have not been able to choose my new plan because our Payroll is still in process, for several days now. As of September 1st, I, and my wife and daughter, have no health coverage, though I’m reassured that, when I can get the new plan, it’ll be retroactive to September 1st, which, ironically means that the paycheck deductions for that coverage will go back to that date. Oh joy! A lower paycheck!


As a person with a pretty involved pre-existing condition, Type 1 Diabetes, I think I represent many people who are caught in this awkward, “ system “, which gets in the way of people pursuing better health, gets in the way of some people working in certain capacities, and it gets in the way of our economy being competitive with many other countries which have an actual healthcare system covering all of their citizens. Unfortunately, I think I am incentivized to no longer work full-time, so as to not be eligible for my employers’ plans and go on either Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act Plan. It’s sad. Really. Sad. I often try to help parents of children at my schools who don’t pursue certain healthcare needs because of lack of affordability.


Recent focus on the opiate crisis points to the lack of an adequate healthcare system in our society that feeds into this problem rather than detects it in an earlier phase and acts to correct it. Also, recent reports of for-profit Medical Schools is of increasing concern as well. Any possible fixes to our medical system may come forward, I’m sure will be driven by popular pressure, but mostly by the corporate influence over our government.


Thank you.


[1] “Standing Rock” refers to protests that began in 2016 in reaction to the approved construction of pipelines crossing underneath a span of land that included the Standing Rock Indian Reservation