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

NEO AFSC February 19, 2016 Podcast

podcasticon

Listen to podcast here

We summarize last week’s activities; share upcoming events for next week; and comment on Ohio’s ECOT online charter school once more being rewarded for political campaign investments, a transnational corporations having greater water rights than Flint, MI residents, why our government isn’t listening to the needs of people, and the successful effort in collecting 337,000 signatures by democracy activists to place a Move to Amend initiative on the ballot in the State of Washington (Length 35.02).

NEO AFSC February 5, 2016 Podcast

podcasticon

Listen to podcast here

We report on last week’s activities; announce next week’s events; and comment on President Carter calling big campaign contributions “legalized bribery,” a challenge to enact political campaign contribution limits in Cuyahoga County, a proposal to raise political campaign contribution limits in Cleveland by 900%, the Akron “Blue Ribbon” committee recommendation of exploring selling/leasing the water and sewer system, and the official signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  (Length 38:43)

Flint’s Water AND Democracy Crisis

Flint

A growing number of residents are demanding not simply the resignation but the arrest of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder over the ongoing water contamination crisis.

Snyder declared a state of emergency last week for Flint — only, however, after learning of an investigation of lead contamination of the drinking water had begun by the federal government. Lead when ingested in water, paint and other sources is connected to permanent health problems including memory loss and developmental impairment.

Flint’s water problems began after Snyder’s appointed emergency manager switched Flint’s water source  to the polluted Flint River from Detroit’s water system to save cash.

University researchers say the city could have corrected the problem by better treating the water at a cost of as little as $100 a day.  This inaction could now cost as much as $1.5 billion to fix the city’s water infrastructure, according to Flint’s current Mayor.

Flint residents had complained about the quality of the water to the state for more than a year following the switch. Tests of water from individual homes revealed lead levels 7-28 times federal standards, which themselves are too high to begin with. Flint residents, a large percentage of whom are low income and African American, were ignored Governor Snyder’s chief of staff wrote an email to health officials admitting Flint residents were, “basically getting blown off by us.”

The decision to switch was made by an unelected emergency manager with ultimate power over the Mayor and City Council to run the city. The elected officials only had as much power as that emergency manager decides to give them. Their authority and pay is determined by the emergency manager. The mayor and City Council are, thus, employees of the appointed, unelected emergency manager.

These emergency managers can also sell off assets, break collective bargaining agreements, slash the healthcare benefits of retirees and overturn ordinances and create new ones.

“Emergency managers” appointed by Governors in response to financially distressed conditions in cities are becoming more common not just in Michigan but around the country. Of course, among the reasons for financially distressed conditions have been the unilateral power of corporations to pick up their plants and move wherever and whenever they want with no responsibility or accountability to the communities — a common occurrence throughout the former industrial Midwest. Another reason is due to state cuts in revenue sharing to cities and other municipalities imposed by states — as a means to save money and often, to cut state taxes, which disproportional benefit the wealthy, and corporations in that state. That has no doubt happened in Michigan. That has certainly happened in Ohio — as last year’s state budget attests with its 6.3% income tax cut and tax cuts for businesses.

So a crisis is created or at least exacerbated due to external conditions in a community. That crisis is then used to declare an emergency that demands drastic action, which entails appointed a person with the power to trump the authority of elected local officials. So much for democracy.

Flint’s crisis is certainly one of water. But it flows, if not gushes, into a crisis of democracy. The inability of Flint residents to elect their local leaders who have the authority to represent them and the power to protect their health and safety because of a state appointed, unelected “emergency manager” who is more concerned with saving money and selling public assets (i.e. privatization or corporatization) is a trend we must all become more aware of and be prepared to resist.

NEO AFSC January 22, 2016 Podcast

podcasticon_8

Listen to podcast here

We summarize last week’s activities; share upcoming events for next week; and discuss the TPP as a brand new same old story, taking action to protect unemployment insurance in Ohio, the water AND democracy crisis in Flint MI, shedding light on “dark money” nonprofit groups that spend money in federal elections, and a little history on taxing the rich.  (Length: 38:09)

Keeping Public Water Systems Public

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Coverage of the huge public meeting last night about the possible privatization/corporatization of the Cleveland Heights water system. Not a single person of the roughly 30 people who testified were in support.

Cleveland Heights may delay vote on water-system agreement with Aqua Ohio
http://www.cleveland.com/cleveland-heights/index.ssf/2015/05/cleveland_heights_may_delay_vo.html#incart_river