Wednesday, November 3, 2010

5 Observations from the Vote on Akron Ballot Issues

The votes are in. Four of the seven ballot measures (Issues 12-15) passed. Issues 11, 16 and 17 failed.

1. The recall provision of Issue 12 was the poster child to basically gut the initiative and referendum provisions of the city charter. Anger over last year’s recall campaign was manipulated to shield these other “direct democracy” provisions of the charter. The initiative, referendum and recall are 3 completely different “direct democracy” provisions – grounded in state constitutions and municipal charter across the country going back more than a century to enable citizens to “do democracy directly” and keep public officials accountable between elections. The initiative permits citizens to create a law (via signatures gathered on a petition followed by an election) that citizens feel their elected representatives would not otherwise enact. The referendum permits citizens to undo or reverse a law passed by elected officials via signatures gathered on a petition followed by an election. The recall permits removal of an elected official via signatures gathered on a petition followed by an election. Framing the issue about the recall and abuse of it was the tactic. It worked -- as much as those opposed to the Issue tried to inform voters of the initiative and referendum provisions. Still, in spite of it all, Issue 12 only passed by less than 3%. Pretty remarkable.

2. By my count, there were 32 other charter amendment changes on the ballot elsewhere in Summit County in addition to the seven in Akron. Only five were voted down (two in Stow, and one each in Twinsburg, Mogadore and Peninsula). That means 85% of proposed changes passed. That seems about right – as most people sadly don’t pay much attention to their charter – which is the equivalent to their local constitution. Nevertheless, charters are perceived as boring, legalistic and confusing. The defeat of three of seven of Akron’s charter amendment proposals comes to 43% -- nearly three times the rate elsewhere in the county. And this was in the face of the 11th hour blitzkrieg of negative mailings.

3. Voters in the Village of Peninsula were asked to vote on Issue 69. What was Issue 69? It was a vote (for no more than 15 people) of who should serve on the Village Charter Commission – presumably a Commission that will soon meet. Imagine if Akron had elected its charter review commission instead of it being handpicked by the Mayor. The original “problems” and “issues” with the current charter might have looked very different – those addressing the economic and social needs of people and neighborhoods rather than how to consolidate political and economic power in City Hall. Yes, city council would have had to approve the recommendations of the body before anything could appear on the ballot. But a “people’s” charter review commission would have set a very different table for discussion and deliberation than the handpicked commission. By the way, Mansfield also elects their charter review commission. Who knows how many other communities do the same across the state.

4. “Citizens for Akron,” which supported passage of all the issues, raised $86,000 based on their most recent campaign filing. Save Our City, which opposed Issues 11-16, only raised a few thousand dollars. Might the results have been different if there had been a move even financial playing field? “Citizens for Akron” drowned out the voices of Save Our City with their repeated mailings to voters during the last week. The stunning irony of this is that “Citizen for Akron” used their big money war chest to promote, among the issues, Issue 14 – which argued that more political money is needed to increase political competition and educate voters.

5. Speaking of “Citizens for Akron,” who were the fine, outstanding Akron residents loyal to their community who funded the $86,000 campaign to pass Issues 11-17.
$25,000 from First Energy corporation
$15,000 from Goodyear Tire & Rubber corporation
$10,000 from Rubber City Arches, LLC.
$10,000 from GOJO Industries, Inc.
$6,000 from Brouse McDowell, LPA. - Law firm.
$5,000 from Myers Industries
$5,000 from Roetzel and Andress, LPA.- Law firm.
$5,000 from Thomarios.
$2,000 from Cavanaugh Building corporation.
$1,000 from the Daniel Pohl Family Lmtd Partnership.
$1,000 from Cardinal Maintenance and Service Co., Inc.
$1,000 from Cardinal Environmental Services, Inc.
Here’s the originals:!

Not a single Ohioan. Not a single Akron resident. In fact, not a single human being. All are businesses of one type or another. No doubt looking at their “contribution” more as an “investment” – looking to get something in return.

Corporations – at every level of government, more and more dominate politics. Elections don’t by themselves equate to a democracy. If they did, there would’ve been a thriving democracy in the former Soviet Union and in current China – as election turnouts were/are extraordinarily high. What makes a democracy real is when every person has a legitimate chance to have their voice heard and opportunity to shape the decisions affecting their lives.

Corporations increasingly influence elections and corrupt the body politic because they increasingly gained constitutional rights as “persons.” Corporate “free speech rights” in elections is an absurdity. This nation’s founders never intended it. The Bill of Rights was meant to protect human beings, not corporations. Corporate political power must end.

There’s a national and state campaign to (re)assert citizen power over corporate power. It’s called Move to Amend. Go their website ( and sign the petition calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood. The state chapter is Download the resolution calling for abolishing corporate constitutional rights. Take it to whatever group(s) you may be a part of. Get them to endorse it. The only ways to legalize democracy and end corporate rule is when We the People take charge. If you’d like someone to speak before a group you may be a part of, contact AFSC at 330-928-2301.

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