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One of the proudest progressive victories of the November 6 elections was produced by some scrappy citizens in the burg of Brecksville, Ohio, population 14,000.
Organized under the banner of Brecksville Citizens for Transparent Politics, they decided they needed to speak-out about the U.S. Supreme Court’s outrageous edict allowing unlimited sums of corporate cash to flood secretly into America’s elections. So, they collected signatures to qualify an initiative for the local ballot, calling for a U.S. Constitutional amendment “To establish that corporations are not people and money is not speech.”
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A couple of states and dozens of cities proposed similar initiatives this year, but Brecksville’s unique proposal added a useful bit of oomph to the call. If passed, it would require city officials to designate one day in February for the next 10 years as “Democracy Day,” on which the mayor would host a citywide hearing about how the surge of campaign money was affecting the city. After the hearing, the mayor must send a letter to the legislature and Congress proclaiming the citizens’ opposition to corporate electioneering.
Mayor Jerry Hruby, however, balked at this outbreak of democracy, saying it required the city to take an official position on a federal issue outside its jurisdiction. He went to the board of elections to disqualify it from the November ballot – but the board deadlocked, and the matter went to Ohio’s secretary of state. To the mayor’s surprise, this Republican office broke the tie in favor of the citizens. Then the mayor appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, where, finally, with barely a month to go, a 5-2 majority of the judges ruled that the people’s proposal was legit.
Completing this triumph of citizens’ perseverance, 52 percent of Brecksvillians proudly voted the initiative into law on Election Day. See… it is possible to fight city hall. And win!
“Ohio SC allows city vote on Citizens United measure,” www.legalnewsline.com, October 3, 2012.
“Brecksville citizens group announces public hearing following Supreme Court ruling,” www.cleveland.com, October 2, 2012.
“Recap of Brecksville Ballot Issues,” www.cleveland.com, November 6, 2012.