Fracking’ issue tests citizens’ authority

Letter to the Editor
Canton Repository
Posted Dec 30, 2010
http://www.cantonrep.com/opinion/letters/x1599383372/-Fracking-issue-tests-citizens authority

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TESTIMONY AT PLAIN TOWNSHIP TRUSTEES MEETING ON FRACKING

Greg Coleridge, Director, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee
14. December. 2010

Thank you for sponsoring this hearing to listen to community concerns. I encourage you to support enacting an ordinance prohibiting gas drilling in your community.

The discussion and debate surrounding the issue of hydralic fracking in Plain Township is more than simply about drilling for natural gas. It’s also more than about water contamination associated with drilling. It’s even more than about property values and road safety connected to increased truck traffic.

The core issue is about democracy, about self-governance. It’s about whether the citizens of Plain Township and their elected Trustees have the authority to protect their citizens or not. It’s at root whether citizens have the right to decide by ordinance what a gas drilling corporation can and cannot do to protect the health, safety and welfare of their community.

Who (or what) possesses more power? Citizens? Or corporations?

Claims that drilling corporations have some god-given, cosmic or legal constitutional right to do what they want, when they want, and where they want is an assault on We the People’s right to protect our own community — politically, economically and environmentally.

Throughout history, corporations have escaped democratic control in three different ways:

1. By working to shift decision making from one political level to another (local to state, state to national, national to international). Drilling corporations have done this by working to pass a state law removing the right of local communities to control gas drilling.

2. By working to shift decisions from the legislative level to regulatory agencies – which are easier to influence. The compliant and corporate friendly…and funded… Ohio Department of Natural Resources is Exhibit A on this front, and,

3. By shifting decision making from the legislative arena to the courts – where judges can be easily influenced to buy into the ridiculous notion that corporations have same constitutional Bill of Rights protections as human beings.

Citizens are waking up. Local public officials are waking up. People are tired of being pushed around, led around, and given the run around by corporations.

The time has not yet arrived when the created is greater than the creator. We the People through laws and charters create corporations. They are legal creations of government provided with privileges to do what we feel will serve the common good. They’ve not been given permission to tell us what to do or how we should run our cities, villages and townships.

I applaud the efforts of Plain Township to consider passing an ordinance that asserts the Township’s right to decide what the people of Plain Township, not some outside gas drilling corporation, considers best for protecting the health, safety and welfare of your community.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHgvOzv32JA&feature=player_embedded

Economic [In]Justice By the Numbers/Call Congress

·     Percentage of America’s net worth (source: Economic Policy Institute) owned by top 1%: 34
·     Percentage owned by top 10%: greater than [ > ] 70
·     Percentage owned by bottom 90%: 29
 
·     Percentage of income controlled by top 1% of Americans in 2007: 24
·     Percentage of total increase in American incomes from 1980-2005 that went to richest 1%: > 80
 
·     Number of times as much on average CEOs of largest US companies earned in 1980 compared to average US worker: 42
·     Number of times in 2001: 531
 
·     Amount generated (according to the Congressional Research Services) if Estate Tax is capped in 2011 at 35% after a $5 million tax free allowance: $11.2 billion
·     Amount generated if Estate Tax is capped at 45% after a $3.5 million tax free allowance: $18.1 billion
·     Amount generated if the current 55% Estate Tax is maintained: $34.4 billion
 
·     Amount of record profit posted by US corporations (source: Bureau of Economic Analysis) during third quarter of this year: $167 billion
·     Percentage increase from same time last year: 28
·     Current US unemployment rate (due in large part to corporations not creating US jobs): 9.6%
 
·     Number of unemployed workers for every new job created: 5
·     Number of people unemployment benefits lifted out of poverty in 2009: 3 million
 
·     Percentage worse off current recession would be (source: Labor Dept study during Bush administration) without unemployment insurance (UI): 18
·     Amount of jobs preserved in each quarter by continuing unemployment insurance: 1.6 million  
·     Number of dollar increase in economic activity for every dollar spent on UI: 2
 
·     Total amount of tax cuts to those with incomes above $250,000 per year (according to Tax Policy Center) if Bush cuts are continued: $700 billion
·     Average tax cut of richest .1% if Bush cuts are continued: $370,000
 
·     Recently released total of bailout by the Federal Reserve to US and foreign banks and corporations during the economic crisis: at least $3.3 trillion
 

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“My point [is] that the wealthiest plutocrats now actually control a greater share of the pie in the United States than in historically unstable countries like Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Guyana…I’m appalled by our growing wealth gaps because in my travels I see what happens in dysfunctional countries where the rich just don’t care about those below the decks. The result is nations without a social fabric or sense of national unity. Huge concentrations of wealth corrode the soul of any nation…I don’t know if that makes us a banana republic or a hedge fund republic, but it’s not healthy in any republic.”
–      Nicholas Kristof, New York Times (Plain Dealer, 11/21/10)

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Call Senators Brown and Voinovich using the US Action Congressional Hotline 1-866-606-1189

Messages:
Extend unemployment insurance through 2011.
Don’t extend tax breaks for rich.
Don’t cut estate tax on wealthy.
Bail out people, not Wall Street banksters. 

Tell Sen. Voinovich to Pass the DISCLOSE Act

The Citizens United Supreme Court decision in January allowed corporations to divert money from their treasuries to influencing elections — specifically for so-called independent “issue ads.” Most of these contributions/investments went to front groups so that corporations didn’t have to disclose their identity or amount.

The Supreme Court ruled, however, in Citizens United by an 8-1 margin that existing disclosure laws (meaning those who contribute/invest in political campaigns) should be required to reveal the size and source of the funds.

This last point was largely ignored as well over $100 million in shadowy funds poured into the fall elections.

Earlier this year, the House passed the DISCLOSE Act which would shed light on these secret contributions/investments. The Senate now needs to do the same. Provisions of the Act are below.

Call or fax Senators Voinovich and Brown urging them during this “lame duck” session to pass the DISCLOSE Act. Senator Brown always supports the Act. Senator Voinovich can be persuaded to do the same.

Several of us from Cleveland met with his aide on Wednesday urging the Senator to take one more independent step away from the Republican Party position (most Repubs oppose the Act).

Call Voinovich today!

Name / Local Office Number / Local Fax Number (Faxes are better than calls)
Senator George Voinovich / 216-522-7095 / 216-522-7097
Senator Sherrod Brown / (216) 522-7272 / 216-522-2239

The DISCLOSE Act legislation will address seven major provisions:

1. Enhance Disclaimers
Make CEOs and other leaders take responsibility for their ads.

2. Enhance Disclosures
It is time to follow the money.

3. Prevent Foreign Influence
Foreign countries and entities should not be determining the outcome of our elections.

4. Shareholder/Member Disclosure
We should allow shareholders and members to know where money goes.

5. Prevent Government Contractors from Spending
Taxpayer money should not be spent on political ads.

6. Provide the Lowest Unit Rate for Candidates and Parties
Special interests should not drown out the voices of the people.

7. Tighten Coordination Rules
Corporations should not be able to “sponsor” a candidate.

Posted on Mon, Nov. 29, 2010
Inquirer Editorial: Transparent elections

Time has all but run out for the Senate to take a modest and reasonable step to restore sanity to out-of-control campaign spending.

Although a majority of senators favor the DISCLOSE Act, Republican lawmakers are blocking a vote. The measure, which passed the House last summer, proposes a basic requirement that people who donate hefty sums for election ads identify themselves.

What’s wrong with that?

In this year’s midterm elections, at least $125 million was donated secretly to defeat or support various candidates. It was the first time in nearly 40 years that such large amounts of secret money influenced an election, for which the blame goes to the Supreme Court’s tragically misguided ruling in the “Citizens United” case.

Rest of Philadelphia Inquirer editorial at
http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20101129_Inquirer_Editorial__Transparent_elections.html