2000: The Year in Review
March 20, 2001
Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director
Ohio Citizen Action celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2000, tackling tough issues across the state. Citizens Policy Center, our research and public education affiliate, complemented the organizing work with high-quality research and issue development. Here are the highlights of the year.
In each of our five local offices (Toledo, Cleveland, Akron, Columbus, and Cincinnati), we carried out local pollution prevention campaigns, aimed at protecting Ohioans from exposure to toxic chemicals.
B. Environmental enforcement
We exposed Ohio EPA as a scandal-ridden agency, which often protects polluters rather than citizens. We collected volumes of information to support our petition to U.S. EPA, which asks the federal government to withdraw support for the state environmental programs due to the lack of enforcement. We submitted 60 affidavits of Ohioans about their experiences with Ohio EPA, and spurred an unprecedented investigation by the U.S. EPA of the state agency.
Two glaring examples of Ohio EPA’s failures occupied the headlines of many newspapers: the agency’s decision to pursue its case against whistleblower Paul Jayko, who had been removed from his position as site coordinator at the River Valley Schools, and the revelation that Ohio EPA had known for at least five years that test results at WTI were rigged. By opposing State Issue 1, Governor Taft’s environmental bond issue on the November ballot, we were able to educate thousands of Ohioans about the failures of the Ohio EPA and its brownfields clean-up program, with over 200 newspaper articles and additional radio and TV coverage.
In addition to our major pollution prevention campaigns listed above, we also worked with dozens of citizens groups across Ohio who are frustrated with a lack of action of Ohio EPA.
C. Community choice in electric rates
In 1999, Ohio Citizen Action won a significant victory by convincing the Ohio legislature to include "community choice" options in the electric deregulation legislation, so that local governments can bargain for lower electric rates on behalf of their residents. In 2000, voters in 132 communities passed the community choice option on their local ballots, giving over 750,000 residential consumers an opportunity to be represented in buying groups. A coalition of communities with 450,000 customers in Northeast Ohio became the largest buying group in the country, and announced its intent to buy power from Green Mountain Energy in February 2001.
D. Reducing pesticide use
In a joint effort with the Innovative Farmers of Ohio, the Citizens Policy Center published "Farming Without Chemicals," case studies of seven Ohio grain farmers who have made the switch from conventional farming to organic farming. We organized a statewide coalition interested in reducing pesticide use and promoting sustainable agriculture, in preparation for the "Reconnecting Consumers and Farmers" conference which will be held in Columbus on March 24, 2001. We also worked with several major Ohio food processors to explore ways for them to reduce pesticide use.
In 2000, U.S. EPA finally took action to rank atrazine, the most commonly used weedkiller which shows up frequently in Ohio’s drinking water supplies, as a cancer-causing chemical, and to ban the use of dursban, a pesticide which is widely used by homeowners. Ohio Citizen Action had been campaigning to ban the use of these chemicals for years.
E. Supreme Court races
The most hotly-contested elections in Ohio in 2000 were the Ohio Supreme Court races. The issue of disclosure of campaign donors, which has been a major focus for Ohio Citizen Action, was central to the race. We published two major studies on campaign contributions in these races, and received extensive media coverage.
We also published voter education information on the voting records of the incumbent candidates, since candidates for judicial office are prohibited from discussing issues. We distributed over 50,000 educational brochures door-to-door throughout the state, as well as mailing them to our members and covering the races in our newsletter.
F. Money and politics
Ohio Citizen Action and Citizens Policy Center were involved in four major projects on campaign finance reform in 2000:
G. Environmental education
In Akron, we worked with the Lippman School to build an outdoor education center, known as Tikkun Village, for elementary and middle school students. (Tikkun means to heal or repair in Hebrew). Over 1,000 students hiked the nature trails and participated in programs. Citizens Policy Center also helped research and produce a curriculum resource book for the Summit County Historical Society, detailing the history of the workers who built and used the Ohio and Erie Canals, and intiated a huge community garden at one of Akron’s busiest intersections.
H. Fair trade
Ohio Citizen Action held a teach-in with 700 participants during the Cincinnati meeting of the "TransAtlantic Business Dialogue," known as "TABD," in November. The TABD helps to set policy for the World Trade Organization. Over the course of the three-day meeting, we participated in rallies, marches, and press conferences.
We also hosted presentations by Charles Kerhaghan, leader of the National Labor Committee, which is exposing sweatshop working conditions around the world, in Toledo in October.