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Letter to the editor - Anne S. Wise

Jun 07, 2023 12:58 PM

CLEVELAND -- I have voted in almost every national, state and local elections, including special elections, since I moved to Cuyahoga County in 1995. I vote because it’s both my right and my obligation as a citizen; I vote in hopes of improving the city I love; I vote to try to protect the future for our youth too young to vote; and, as a community-based physician, I vote because I understand that the health of my patients depends as much on thoughtful and caring public policy as it does on my treatment plans.

The resolution to raise the threshold for citizen-led state constitutional amendment initiatives from a simple majority to a supermajority of 60% is an enraging assault by our gerrymandered Ohio legislature on our voting voices. Citizen-led ballot initiatives are a tool that allows Ohioans to check the power of our state government. Diminishing the power of one person, one vote, means more power for extreme, out-of-touch politicians, lobbyists and special interests - which, of course, is the point.

I will vote in this cynical, bought-and-paid-for special August election. And I will vote “No”: for my patients, our future, and for democracy itself.

Dr. Anne S. Wise, Cleveland, letter to the editor, Cleveland Plain Dealer published June 5, 2023


May 2023 Metzenbaum Society newsletter

May 31, 2023 2:33 PM

In this edition of our Metzenbaum Society newsletter we share the great news that Shammas Malik has emerged as the presumptive mayor of Akron, winning the Democratic primary with an impressive 43% of the vote. This election also underscores the importance of grassroots efforts, as Ohio Citizen Action's door-to-door canvassing made a tangible impact on Malik's resounding success. You can also read about many organizational developments as we continue to support pro-climate, pro-consumer, and pro-democracy candidates in upcoming municipal elections this fall.

download full report


My first day on the job

May 05, 2023 3:20 PM

Me, Justin Gray-Besson and Tatiana Rodzos in Columbus May 3, 2023.

As I made the move from East Lansing, Michigan to Columbus, Ohio to take on a new job as a canvass director for Ohio Citizen Action, I was excited to learn about the state's politics and become involved in the community.

My first day on the job was a baptism by fire. I arrived at the Statehouse in Columbus to find hundreds of people gathered in protest against a voter approval plan that was set to be voted on in the upcoming August special election. The size of the crowd and the energy in the air was impressive, and I felt a sense of awe at the passion and commitment on display.

Throughout the day, I was impressed with the professionalism and dedication of my fellow staff members. It was clear that this was a community that cares deeply about democracy and is willing to fight for what it believes in.

My first day on the job as a canvass director for Ohio Citizen Action was an inspiring and rewarding experience. I look forward to continuing to work with this organization and to exploring my new city.

I think I'll like it here!

- Angie Greer, Columbus staff director


Ohio Citizen Action congratulates Shammas Malik on victory

May 02, 2023 9:39 PM

(Columbus, OH)—Today, Ohio Citizen Action (OCA) proudly joins Shammas Malik in celebrating his victory in the Akron Mayoral Primary. Malik defeated the other six Democratic candidates to finish with a reported 43.2% of the vote.

“Today, the voters of Akron chose a Democratic candidate for Mayor who will embody a new generation of leadership and offer a forward-thinking vision for their city,” said Ohio Citizen Action Political Director, Kyle Marcum. “Shammas Malik brings the innovation, leadership, and inclusion needed to carry Akron into a more vibrant future.”

Malik campaigned on issues of equity and economic development while keeping sustainability and justice in mind. He has developed a comprehensive climate platform that includes creating green building standards and increasing the use of electric vehicles in municipal fleets. 

Malik has been a member of the Akron City Council since 2019 and would also be the first person of color to ever be elected as the Mayor of Akron. 

As part of their independent expenditure work in support of Malik, Ohio Citizen Action knocked on more than 10,000 doors and had conversations with Akron voters in support of his candidacy. OCA is a c4 organization that focuses on mobilizing Ohioans around improving environmental quality, protecting consumers, and preserving voting rights.

“Voters in the city of Akron chose someone to unite them who is not afraid of change and not afraid to make the tough decisions. They chose the candidate best suited to move them beyond the status quo when they chose Malik,” said Marcum. “OCA congratulates Shammas Malik as he continues his bid to become the Mayor of Akron.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 


Statement in response to the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 2

Apr 19, 2023 3:01 PM

(Columbus, OH)—Today, Rachael Belz, CEO of Ohio Citizen Action, issued the following statement in response to the 26-7 passage of Senate Joint Resolution 2 on the floor of the Ohio Senate:

“Since 1912, Ohioans from across the political spectrum have utilized the right to amend our Constitution via the petition process. We have the power of citizen-led constitutional amendments, initiated statutes, and referenda. These tools of direct democracy equip us with the ability to check the power of our state government. They should never be taken for granted or seen as tactics that can be modified on a whim. 

Yet, under the guise of good-government reform, members of the Ohio Senate voted today to pass Senate Joint Resolution 2, a proposed Constitutional Amendment to increase the percentage of the vote required to pass a Constitutional ballot initiative from a simple majority to 60 percent. In addition, SJR 2 would create further hurdles to Ohioans changing or creating their own laws by making it even more difficult to place issues on the ballot through petition signature collection. The proposal would require a percentage of signatures to come from all 88 Ohio counties rather than the current 44 county requirement. It would also eliminate the 10-day "cure period" for petitioners to make up deficits in any counties where the number of valid signatures might fall short. 

It has been repeatedly suggested by members of the General Assembly that this Resolution is necessary to put a stop to the influence of special interest groups to “disturb” the Ohio Constitution. Making the ballot initiative process even harder for citizen groups to access will have the opposite of this stated desired effect. It will make it almost impossible for anyone except special interests with deep pockets to successfully pass a ballot initiative in Ohio. Special interests do not need ballot initiatives to forward their agendas, House Bill 6 proved that to us. But citizens need a way to take action when our lawmakers won’t act in our best interests.

Many have said that SJR 2 is a solution in search of a problem. But supporters of the Resolution do see a problem. Their proposed policies are out of step with what Ohioans want. When you struggle to control the agenda, you must change the rules—even to the detriment of the basic rights of Ohioans. 

Why else would lawmakers not only propose increasing the threshold necessary to pass a Constitutional Amendment but also making it more difficult to even get those issues on the ballot for consideration? This either reflects a lack of trust in Ohio voters to understand issues or a disingenuous argument meant to distract from the real motivation behind SJR 2 – a blatant attempt to control both the policy agenda and the process of direct democracy. There are simply no other reasons for it.

In addition to SJR 2, the Senate today passed Senate Bill 92, legislation authorizing an August election specifically to consider SJR 2. If the measure were to pass during an August special election, it would be in place for the November 2023 statewide election where the Ohio Reproductive Freedom Amendment is likely to be on the ballot. Ohio lawmakers are playing fast and loose with $20 million of our taxpayer money to give them an advantage in defeating an amendment designed to guarantee reproductive freedom to Ohioans. Apparently, in Ohio, if your political priorities don’t reflect the will of the people, just change the rules to suit your agenda.

The House Constitutional Resolutions Committee today also reported out companion measure HRJ 1. Ohio House members will now have the opportunity to vote on this issue as SJR 2 makes its way to that chamber. We see no justifiable reason, after over 100 years, to suddenly make this already challenging process even harder. Supporters of this resolution assert that our Constitution should be protected from the whims of those who want to change it for their own benefit and gain. Yet this is exactly what Ohio lawmakers are doing with SJR 2.”

 


Testimony on House Joint Resolution 1

Apr 19, 2023 9:00 AM

Ohio House Constitutional Resolutions Committee

Chairman Plummer, Vice Chair Hillyer, and Ranking Member Mohamed

Opponent Testimony on House Joint Resolution 1

Testimony of Rachael Belz, CEO, Ohio Citizen Action

April 19, 2023

Chairman Plummer, Vice Chair Hillyer, Ranking Member Mohamed, and Members of the House Constitutional Resolutions Committee, my name is Rachael Belz, and I’m the CEO of Ohio Citizen Action. I thank you for the opportunity to present our opposition to House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR 1). 

This testimony is presented on behalf of Ohio Citizen Action’s 32,000 members and all Ohioans who have a stake in the decision before you.

Since 1912, Ohioans from across the political spectrum have utilized the right to amend our Constitution via the petition process. We have the power of citizen-led constitutional amendments, initiated statutes, and referenda; three abilities that citizens have in only 14 other states. These tools of direct democracy equip us with the freedom to check the power of our state government. They should never be taken for granted or seen as tactics that can be modified on a whim.

Yet, under the guise of good-government reform, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and members of this legislature have made a priority of passing House Joint Resolution 1, a proposed constitutional amendment to raise the threshold to pass citizen-led Constitutional Amendments on the ballot from a simple majority (50% plus one), to a super majority (60%). HJR1 would create further hurdles to Ohioans changing or creating their own laws by making it even more difficult to place issues on the ballot through petition signature collection. The proposal would require a percentage of signatures to come from all 88 Ohio counties rather than the current 44 county requirement. It would also eliminate the 10-day "cure period" for petitioners to make up deficits in any counties where the number of valid signatures might fall short.

To be clear, if HJR 1 were to pass, Ohio lawmakers would be asking us to cast a ballot to reduce our own rights to direct democracy. How can we see this Resolution as anything more than a power grab that makes it harder for citizens to employ a check on the state legislature?

Since 2000, there have been only 16 Constitutional Amendments proposed in Ohio. Of those, 11 have failed. Of the five that passed, three passed with more than 60 percent of the vote. Many have said that HJR 6 is a solution in search of a problem. But supporters of the Resolution do see a problem. Their proposed policies are out of step with what Ohioans want. When you struggle to control the agenda, you must change the rules—even to the detriment of the basic rights of Ohioans.

During previous testimony, it has been repeatedly suggested that this Resolution is necessary to put a stop to the influence of special interest groups to “disturb” the Ohio Constitution. The one and only example provided is the inclusion of specific locations for casinos following a vote in 2009. Making the ballot initiative process even harder for citizen groups to access will have the opposite of this stated desired effect. It will make it almost impossible for anyone except special interests with deep pockets to successfully pass a ballot initiative in Ohio. Special interests do not need ballot initiatives to forward their agendas, House Bill 6 proved that to us. But citizens need a way to take action when our lawmakers won’t act in our best interests.

Why else would lawmakers not only propose increasing the threshold necessary to pass a Constitutional Amendment but also making it more difficult to even get those issues on the ballot for consideration? This either reflects a lack of trust in Ohio voters to understand issues or a disingenuous argument meant to distract from the real motivation behind HJR 1 – a blatant attempt to control both the policy agenda and the process of direct democracy. There are simply no other reasons for it.

Late last year, lawmakers passed House Bill 458, eliminating August special elections. The rationale was that having special elections in August was too confusing to voters, would allow laws to be passed with incredibly low voter turnout, and would cost the state $20 million to implement. Now, just a few short months later, the legislature is proposing to change the rules for their own benefit.

Legislation is being considered in both chambers to allow for a special August election specifically to consider HJR 1. If HJR 1 were to pass during an August election, it would be in place for the November 2023 statewide election where the Ohio Reproductive Freedom Amendment is likely to be on the ballot. Ohio lawmakers are playing fast and loose with $20 million of our taxpayer money to give them an advantage in defeating an amendment designed to guarantee reproductive freedom to Ohioans. Apparently, in Ohio, if your political priorities don’t reflect the will of the people, just change the rules to suit your agenda.

Last week, the former chair of the Constitutional Resolutions Committee was quoted as saying that, “Republicans aren’t going to put it [HJR 1] on the same ballot as the abortion issue. That’s because if they both pass with 50 percent-plus-one, then abortion would be protected by a 60 percent threshold into the future.” 

This is not about protecting the Ohio Constitution. This is about gaming the system for a single issue that is popular with voters, but may not hit a 60 percent threshold. 

Tools like the Constitutional Amendment process in Ohio have never been more precious nor their defense more important. We see no justifiable reason, after over 100 years, to suddenly make this already challenging process even harder. Supporters of this resolution assert that our Constitution should be protected from the whims of those who want to change it for their own benefit and gain. Yet this is exactly what you are proposing to do in HJR 1.

On behalf of Ohio Citizen Action and our members, I urge you to protect Ohio's majority-rule democracy. Be a voice of the people in a time when we are made to fight for our voices to be heard. Do not lose sight of the fact that you were elected to represent your voters, not to change the rules to erode their rights. Please vote NO on House Joint Resolution 1. Thank you.


Press Conference at the PUCO: End OVEC Bailouts

Apr 07, 2023 5:12 PM

On Wednesday OCA joined the Sierra Club, the Ohio Environmental Council, Utilities for All, and the Ohio Poor People’s Campaign in a press conference at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) headquarters. Being two and half years since the news of the scandal surrounding House Bill 6 broke, it’s long past time for the OVEC coal plant bailouts to end. We called on the PUCO for an end to the OVEC bailouts, and for the PUCO to move forward with the OVEC audits.

Three audits released in 2021 showed that consumers at the time were paying more than market value for their energy from the OVEC coal plants. The PUCO has yet to move forward with the case on those audits. Since the reveal of the $60 million bribery scheme that passed HB6, the consumer-funded nuclear plant bailouts have been repealed, but the dirty coal bailouts remain on the books. With Larry Householder recently found guilty of the bribery, the time is ripe to end the OVEC bailouts. We’re calling on the PUCO to do their job as a utility regulating body.

Attendees of this demonstration gathered in the lobby of the PUCO’s building, and shared impassioned speeches with calls to action of the PUCO. We delivered sign postcards to the PUCO members, and attended their meeting in order to fill the room and remind them that Ohio consumers are watching. And it looks like we got the PUCO’s attention. Today, the PUCO filed a motion to move forward with the OVEC audits case. We continue to urge the end of consumer bailouts of OVEC plants and other dirty energy in Ohio.


Ohio Citizen Action Endorses Shammas Malik

Mar 20, 2023 11:20 AM

(Columbus, OH)—Today, Ohio Citizen Action (OCA) proudly announced the organization’s endorsement of Shammas Malik for Akron Mayor in the May 2nd primary election. This is the first primary election candidate endorsement ever offered by OCA. In November 2022, OCA endorsed statewide, Congressional, and state legislative candidates for the first time in nearly 30 years.  

“There is an opportunity for the voters of Akron to fill an open seat for Mayor with a candidate who is committed to reducing carbon emissions and promoting a sustainable future for the City of Akron,” said Ohio Citizen Action Political Director, Kyle Marcum. “Malik has a comprehensive climate platform that includes creating green building standards and increasing the use of electric vehicles in municipal fleets. This forward-thinking vision is exactly why he has earned the OCA endorsement in the Democratic primary election.”

Malik has been a member of the Akron City Council since 2019. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, and served two years as the city’s Assistant Director of Law. If victorious, Malik would also be the first person of color to ever be elected as the Mayor of Akron. 

As part of their work around these endorsements, OCA will be knocking on doors and talking with Akron voters in support of Malik’s candidacy. OCA is a c4 organization that focuses on mobilizing Ohioans around improving environmental quality, protecting consumers, and preserving voting rights.

“For years, Akron was known as the Rubber Capital of the World. It was named an All-America City by the National Civic League on four occasions,” said Marcum. “Over time, however, this industrial powerhouse has struggled to find the innovation, leadership, and inclusion needed to carry Akron into a more vibrant future.  One candidate for Mayor can ensure the city continues this progress and does so with sustainability and justice in mind. It is time for a new generation of leadership. OCA is proud to endorse Shammas Malik as our candidate for the Mayor of Akron.”


statement on Householder verdict

Mar 09, 2023 2:02 PM

Justice has been served with the guilty verdict in the federal racketeering trial of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges.

This was a years-long empire-building scheme in the making, designed to develop a sustainable structure to channel dark money for political purposes for decades. Larry Householder and others involved believed they were above the law and that there would be no ramifications for their actions. The jury has decided differently.

Every day, evidence uncovered through this trial highlighted the sheer scale of corruption of our state government by utility interests. Among the most jarring aspects was the degree to which corrupt activity was treated by elected officials as the ‘normal way of doing business.’ Those with deep pockets were empowered to drive the decisions of policymakers and brazenly boasted about their victories. 

We don’t believe that utilities funneling millions of dollars through shell corporations to drive state policy is how our state government should work, nor do Ohio voters. We believe it is now time to turn our attention to changing the face of democracy in Ohio. We hold up this decision as evidence that Ohioans not only deserve better but will now be expecting better from their elected officials.

After so many years of utility-controlled energy policy that favored fossil fuels, Ohio must now move toward equitable, forward-looking solutions that will protect our air and water, the health of Ohioans, and provide clean energy jobs to keep Ohio competitive in the 21st-century economy. 

Nearly 1,000 days after the news broke of the House Bill 6 scandal, we can finally move past the largest bribery and racketeering scheme in Ohio history and charge forward becoming ever more vigilant in keeping our decision makers accountable to the people of Ohio.

- Rachael Belz, CEO, Ohio Citizen Action