THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY IN OHIO LOOKS LIKE! Ohio’s Democratic/Self-Determination “Infrastructure”

DemocraticInfrastructure

We are pleased to present our January, 2017 updated edition.

To read the full report, go to: https://www.afsc.org/sites/afsc.civicactions.net/files/documents/DemocraticInfrastructure.pdf

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From the Introduction…

From the local to the global, the ability of people to govern themselves is under assault, which will intensify over the next four years. Some of the major sources of this attack are:

• Business corporations looking to make huge profits by converting what once had been “public” to “private” (“privatization,“ though a more descriptive term would be “corporatization”), including traditional public assets like water and sewer systems, roads, police and fire protection, airports, hospitals, and schools.

• Individuals looking to increase their power, status, and/or privileges by concentrating decision-making from many hands (We the People and government) to few (their own).

• A culture that reinforces notions that public policies are too complicated for ordinary people to understand (thus leaving policy making to experts); that distracts public attention away from self-determination toward the trivial and inane; that worships “the market” as the route to financial and economic salvation which is not to be regulated or controlled; that define certain arenas (economic in particular) as outside the scope of public input; that continues to erase memory of any/all historical examples of citizen control and definition of their lives; that equates anything that is “public” as being inefficient, wasteful, decrepit, and dangerous and anything “private” as efficient, modern and safe; and that keeps people separated to learn from one another and organize to (re)assert meaningful changes.

• Continual legal and constitutional definitions that further “enclose” and redefine “public” arenas as other “p” words: “private,” “property,” “proprietary,” “privileged” — and thus beyond the reach of public planning, public shaping, and public evaluation.

• A national government that under the guise of “terrorism” has given itself permission to stifle dissent, intimidate dissenters, and interrupt efforts of self-determination.

But there is another side to this – a democratic/self-determination culture or “infrastructure.” Alternatives to corporations, corporate governance and elite control exist in our communities and across the state.

Scores of documents, policies, institutions, structures and groups reflecting inclusiveness are in place – examples where those who are affected by decisions and policies have a legitimate role in the shaping and making of those decisions… or could if we made the effort. They are where We the People have a voice… or could have a real voice if we merely flexed our self-determination muscles…

Local group urging public utilities not be privatized

PrivatePublic

2/18/2016 – West Side Leader
http://www.akron.com/akron-ohio-opinions.asp?aID=29856

To the editor:

We write in response to the Feb. 1, 2016, Blue Ribbon Task Force report.

We understand and commend the desire and need to have an outside ad hoc group assess the current conditions of the city and the present structure and policies of the city government, as well as offer recommendations for improvement.

There is much in the report with which we agree. Many of the challenges Akron faces are, as the report states, due to external political and economic conditions that are shared by other cities — namely deindustrialization, federal and state budget cuts and the recent economic recession.

We would point out that each of these realities has been caused in no small degree by the growing power and rights of business corporations and the super wealthy few. They’ve exerted political and economic influence over public policies and the economy in support of tax cuts, subsidies, perks, contracts and reductions of regulations, which have further consolidated their power and rights and increased their fortunes. The losers, of course, have been programs, policies and people in urban, rural and suburban areas, including Akron — specifically the poor, elderly, persons of color, working class and differently abled.

Not all of Akron’s current problems are due, however, to external factors. Some have been self-inflicted. The past decision by the administration to fight the [Environmental Protection Agency] over the city’s combined sewer overflow resulted in substantial federal dollars left on the table that now must come out of the pockets of Akron water and sewer customers.

The Task Force report asserts that “[T]he single largest challenge facing the City is its financial condition.” We agree. It’s appropriate, therefore, that many of its recommendations address ways to reduce costs or increase income.

Prior to listing any specific recommendations, the report wisely declares, “some of them will require further study; others will require additional resources (human and capital); and still others just may not work at this time.”

We respectfully offer that one of the recommendations in the later category, that “just may not work at this time,” that we believe should not work out ANY time is selling, leasing or transferring the city’s water and sewer system — a suggestion referenced on page 17.

Public utilities should remain public by the mere fact that to be more effective and efficient there should be one provider. Akron voters overwhelmingly approved in 2008 to keep the city’s public sewer system public  — under the control of We the People. Voters understood that to privatize/corporatize public utilities more often than not increases costs, reduces services and results in the lay-off of public employees. And in every single case, turning over a public asset to a for-profit corporation, especially if headquartered outside the community, state, if not country, significantly reduces public control — i.e. democracy.

We believe former [Cleveland] Mayor Tom Johnson, promoter of the public Cleveland electric power system, said it best more than a century ago: “I believe in the municipal ownership of all public service monopolies … for if you do not own them they will, in time, own you. They will rule your politics, corrupt your institutions and finally destroy your liberties.”

While ostensibly a public official, the emergency manager appointed by the Michigan governor to run the public water system in Flint, Michigan, was unaccountable and unelected. Running the public water system like a business is what led to the tragic poisoning of the residents of that city.

Our concluding message is simple, as reinforced by over 60 percent of Akron voters in 2008: Keep Public Utilities Public.

Thank you for your consideration.

John Fuller, clerk, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (AFSC); and Greg Coleridge, director, Northeast Ohio AFSC

This is What Democracy in Ohio Looks Like! Ohio’s Democratic “Infrastructure”

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http://afsc.org/document/what-democracy-looks-october-2014-document.

NEWS RELEASE
Contacts: John Fuller, 330-867-5122; Greg Coleridge, 216-255-2184
For Immediate Release: October 2, 2014

NEW REPORT DESCRIBES OHIO’S DEMOCRATIC “INFRASTRUCTURE”

[Cuyahoga Falls, OH] The Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) today released a new report itemizing Ohio’s democratic “infrastructure.”

The 20-page report, “This is What Democracy in Ohio Looks Like! Ohio’s Democratic/Self-Determination ‘Infrastructure,’” lists scores of documents, policies, practices, institutions, structures and groups that represent the state’s democratic/self determination foundation and culture – examples where those who are affected by decisions and policies have a role in the shaping of those decisions.

The list includes public and governmental entities as well as grassroots alternative initiatives across Ohio that bypass corporate and top down government structures.

Specific examples with contact information and/or links are listed in the areas of community, cooperatives, democratic legacy, economics/money, education, employment, employee ownership, food/agriculture, municipal ownership, news/information, political/legal, public spaces and social action/change organizations.

The report seeks to raise public awareness of the value of democratic openings that still exist or could exist with investment of individual and/or collective energies. This is increasingly important in an age of rapid privatization/corporatization of public assets; individuals looking to increase their power, status, and/or privileges through concentrating decision-making; and a culture that, among other anti-democratic characteristics, ignores historical examples of citizen control and definition of their lives.

The report also strives to emphasize the importance of working for democratic social change through creating or nurturing alternative organizations and policies and also of pursuing the democratization of existing laws, constitutions, policies, practices, and organizations.

“This report is unlike any other that has been published in Ohio,” said John Fuller of the AFSC. “It connects seemingly different existing formal institutions, grassroots groups, public arenas, laws and rules under the single umbrella of ‘democracy.’ Seen in this comprehensive way, it’s much clearer to see how we are losing our self-determination, but also to understand the multiple ways Ohioans are working to create and protect it.”

“Ohio’s physical infrastructures (i.e. roads, bridges, sewers, dams, etc.), need constant attention to prevent their crumble and collapse, stated Greg Coleridge of the Northeast Ohio AFSC. “The same goes with our democratic/self-determination ‘infrastructure.’ We must constantly and consciously resist the threats to democracy in our communities, state and nation by corporations and top-down government structures by protecting and expanding our democratic legacy, structures, policies and groups. If we don’t, our democratic infrastructure will, too, crumble and collapse.”

A copy of the report is available at http://afsc.org/document/what-democracy-looks-october-2014-document.

AFSC is a Quaker social action organization that educates, advocates and organizes on justice, peace and democracy issues. In the later category, it supports laws and rules ending corporate rule and big money in elections, as well as opposes privatization of public assets and services.

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