Introducing Campaign Contributions Limits in Lakewood

Currently, in Lakewood, Ohio there is no limit to how much money a person can give to candidates in a city election. On Tuesday I will be proposing that we set that limit at the federal campaign contribution level of $2,700 per individual donor, per cycle. This proposal also includes a public finance component which creates a tax credit of up to $50 per year, to encourage small donations. This is similar to Ohio’s state-level electoral tax incentive. City employees reporting to, or appointed by, elected officials would be prohibited from giving to their bosses, should this pass.

Since I have been involved in local politics here in Lakewood, there has not been any incident that would demand such a reform, to my knowledge. Rather this proposal is intended to be forward-looking. Let’s not wait and react to calls for reform, let’s instead be proactive and lead. My goal here is to ensure that local government stays responsive to the people, not big donors. Also to maintain low barriers to entry and encourage more people to get involved in electoral politics and government.

This is not a radical idea. Both the state and federal governments have a number of campaign finance laws at those levels which include contributions limits. Lakewood would join Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and (as of last Monday) Columbus, just to name a few, which have all adopted contribution caps along with other campaign finance reforms.

In addition to this reform, I’m also introducing legislation that would create a city level ethics commission. This group will consist of seven volunteer residents (with the possible exception of one expert who would not be subject to the residency requirement). Their charge will be to administrate and enforce our new campaign finance laws. Another of the commission’s equally important duties will be to make a full review of current government ethics policies and recommend new laws that make sense for our city. Every three years the commission will also make a report on the effectiveness of these ethics regulations.

What I am proposing on Tuesday is intended to be a starting point. I look forward to hearing from residents, my colleagues on Council and in the administration through this process. Once hearing dates are set I will be sure to share them with you.

Read more about other proposed duties of the commission its missions and the reasoning behind the ethics commission in my last blog post. You can also read the legislation being introduced Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019 HERE: Campaign Finance Reform :: Lakewood Ethics Commission

Tristan Rader
Councilmember At-Large
Lakewood City Council

Proposal to Establish Lakewood Ethics Commission

Ethical failures in governance are a real, ongoing challenge to all of the values which public policy leadership can advance. Fairness, equality of opportunity, public safety and basic social cohesion are all impaired in the absence of a strong system of ethics in government.

Many of those active in local government like to emphasize that it has a more direct impact on individuals’ day to day lives than state or federal government. This point is nonetheless usually made in the context of the relatively small attention which local government receives from the general public. These by themselves offer an argument that local government’s need for robust, institutional ethics measures is not less than at levels of government where the absence of such institutions is almost unthinkable.

Meanwhile, investigative journalism and nonprofit organizations, which work alongside public watchdogs at those levels, are largely missing at the local government level. Yet private money is not. Public Citizen warned four years ago that dark money was already finding its way even to “relatively obscure, local elections.” The potential for such spending to bring with it the distaste and distrust which now attend national politics should be cause for concern.

The challenges in Lakewood’s future will, in many cases, require greater trust, to achieve the scale of collective action for appropriate solutions. (Problems of aging infrastructure, environmental adaptation, etc.) Rather than waiting for more evidence of a need and starting the process of improving trust from further behind, Lakewood’s community and the government should come together now in a proactive campaign for ethics infrastructure.

Once a commission is established it should immediately begin a review of current ethics rules and policies of the City and also look at new provisions.

Part I: The Commission Mission

In January 2019 I will be introducing an ordinance that establishes a City of Lakewood Ethics Commission. The time is now for Lakewood’s community to discuss and create a permanent ethics commission, to promote reliable ethics practices throughout the branches and departments of our local government:

  • Serve as an ethics oversight institution which is permanent, dedicated to Lakewood, and approaches this issue with both professionalism and independence
  • Answer ethics questions and investigate ethics complaints
  • Provide for ethics training to help every public servant be more proactive, individually, through a better idea of what questions to ask
  • Provide the community with a specific, local authority on government ethics questions
  • Enforce ethics rules to create fairness for public servants whose good intentions on government ethics are otherwise penalized, in an environment with less clear incentives to resist competing for personal, political and social pressures

The commission should be a permanent, independent body empowered to:

  1. Advise on ethics policy,
  2. Investigate and enforce such ethics policies as are adopted by the City of Lakewood. Such as campaign finance ordinances.

The ethics commission should be as much as possible a diverse body, removed from dependence on any individual, political faction or branch of government. The commission should be secure in budgetary resources necessary to conduct its business and to hire such staff as are appropriate. (e.g. a contracted ethics officer for training, advice, research, etc.)

The ethics commission should have jurisdiction over all local government officials, branches and departments. The commission should also have jurisdiction over employees and board members of quasi-public and public-private agencies and authorities.

The Vision

An effective ethics commission can best serve Lakewood, directly, by preventing misuse of community resources. Additionally, it can be a unifying community project, to engage a diverse cross-section of Lakewood in formally defining ideals of what public service should live up to, and determining how best to build trust that this is genuinely the case.

The ethics commission can also provide a valuable contribution to potential reforms in neighboring communities and at other levels of government. Multiple organizations with an ultimate aim of national reforms have focused recently on building momentum from the local level upward, and Transparency International has documented that “local anti-corruption work can complement, support and even supersede national-level initiatives.” (The potential relevance seems considerable for a local government which has in recent years launched the careers of a state representative, a state senator, a county executive and a candidate for governor.)

PART II: Proposed Ethics Policies

Once we have established a commission I will bring forward and, should it be the will of the council, have the commission work on a set of ethics policies.  The following are a few ethics policies from the Cityethics.org and Model Charter projects and recommended as the starting point for an expanded government ethics framework in Lakewood.

  • Disclosure: establish a right for the public to expect disclosure of interests, in three categories: an annual disclosure statement, disclosure when a conflict arises (transactional disclosure), and disclosure when someone bids for business or requests a permit (applicant disclosure)
  • Campaign Contribution Limits: Limits donation to federal campaign finance limits. $2,700 total accumulative donation from one individual during one cycle is one example of a limit this initiative would impose.
  • Conflict of Interest: prohibit the use of one’s position to do anything that may directly or indirectly, financially or personally, benefit an official or employee, family, or business associate, except to the extent a large segment of the community also benefits.
  • Council Appointee Ineligibility: Whoever is appointed, by Council or the Mayor to fill a vacancy on Council, that person shall not be eligible for election to that see in the nearest term. Appointees would only be allowed to serve out the rest of the term or until the nearest special election, then they must not run for the seat they hold.
  • Withdrawal from Participation: also known as recusal, withdrawal is a standard response to a pre-existing conflict of interest. Withdrawal means not participating in the relevant matter at all, not even discussing the matter, privately or publicly, directly or indirectly. (Withdrawal is not, however, always the most responsible way to handle a pre-existing conflict.)
  • Honesty: prohibit false statements, ratings, reports or certificates in response to any test, certification or appointment process provided for by the city charter or the rules and regulations made under the charter; prohibit fraud in any form preventing the impartial execution of such provisions, rules and regulations.
  • Gifts: prohibit or limit gifts from those doing business with or seeking special benefits from the local government (usually referred to as “restricted sources”). This is the most important way in which an ethics program can address bribery and pay-to-play outside the criminal sphere, where these have become nearly impossible to prove. (Campaign contributions are usually not considered gifts, but it is possible to require withdrawal from a matter that may benefit a sizable campaign contributor.)
  • Representation and Appearances: these closely related provisions prohibit government officials and employees from representing others before their agency or board—or, for high-level officials, before the local government. The reason there are often two separate provisions is that an appearance is a much more concrete act, easy to prove, yet there are many instances where representation can occur without an appearance, and such representation creates just as great a conflict as an appearance.
  • Consulting Restriction: a consultant may not represent a person or entity other than the city in any matter, transaction, action, or proceeding in which the consultant participated personally and substantially as a consultant to the city. Nor may a consultant represent a person or entity in any matter, transaction, action, or proceeding against the interest of the city.
  • Confidential Information: prohibit the use of confidential information to benefit oneself or others. (Many ethics codes mistakenly prohibit all disclosure of confidential information. This is mistaken because the disclosure of confidential information, when disclosure does not benefit someone, does not involve a conflict of interest, and is sometimes even desirable.)
  • Post-Employment Restrictions: also known as a “revolving door” provision, applies certain ethics provisions to officials and employees usually for a limited period of time after they have left their government positions (the “cooling off” period). Other provisions, essentially pre-employment provisions, restrict representation or participation in matters an official was involved with before government service.
  • Misuse of Local Government Property: prohibit using or allowing others to use local government property for personal purposes, unless the use is generally available to the public (e.g., use of the library, sports facilities, etc.). Local government property includes not only concrete things, such as vehicles and equipment but also such things as expense reimbursements and government office computers.
  • Transactions with Subordinates and Political Activity. Political activity limitations and bans on soliciting employees prevent the use of subordinates for political purposes and help to prevent patronage systems. (In a certain sense, this is a subcategory of misuse of government property, except that it involves using government people for one’s personal benefit.)
  • Nepotism: provisions dealing with the conflict of hiring or managing an official’s family members.
  • Complicity and Knowledge: require the reporting of ethics violations and make complicity a violation. This requires officials to violate ethics laws alone and in secret, or take a big risk of being caught. (People who violate ethics laws rarely act in isolation. Usually, they act with the support, acceptance, or silence of their colleagues. The incentives for this are much reduced when people know they cannot count on those around them to keep their conduct secret.)
  • Whistleblower Protection: city employees (the people who know what’s going on) and others will be able to report violations without endangering their jobs and pensions.

Again, these are just a few examples of policies the commission will look into instituting here in Lakewood. The commission will need to look at what we have on the books already, look at Ohio Revised Code and think about what is best for our community, and recommend policies that make sense.

Where we are now:

The ordinance creating the commission is in the process of being drafted. Some features of the outlined ordinance include:

  • Diversity criteria: Requiring a certain number of LGBTQ, People of Color, Women, over 65 and under 30, as well as requiring a member with expertise in law and government finance.
  • Self-Perpetuation: Once the initial commission is appointed, the board will appoint new members, reducing outside influence.
  • Term Limits: No person can serve more than 2 consecutive terms and 3 total terms in a lifetime.

The current plan is to introduce the ordinance creating the Ethics Commission during the January 21st Lakewood City Council meeting. If you have comments for questions please feel free to call, text or email me anytime: 440-315-2852, tristan.rader@lakewoodoh.net

Tristan Rader
Member, Lakewood City Council

Public Records

Public records belong to the people. Regarding the recent court ruling in the public records lawsuit against the City of Lakewood: I feel it is extremely important that the City make available the 58 items the court has ordered the City to release. It is my understanding that the city intends to do this. When they do so, I will be sure to share what is released.

There is room for improvement in our public records processes. Though in some cases it may be legally permissible to invoke privileges to withhold records from the public, we as a government should always use the most liberal interpretation of what qualifies as a public record. We must side with people by making records as available as possible and in the most timely manner.

Lakewood 2019 Budget Hearings

Every mid Nowmber Lakewood starts its public vetting process for the city’s annual comprehensive budget. Below is the public hearing scheduled of City Council’s Finance Committe, chaired by Coincilmember Dan O’Malley.

Everyone is welcome. The public is encouraged to attend.

Take a look at the budget here: 2019 Budget

Date
Time
Agenda
Monday, November 26 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Water & Sewer Discussion
Topics to Include: Capital Budget, Rates
Attendees:  Joe Crea, Director Beno, Mayor Summers
Saturday, December 1 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Department Budgets

·         Law Department
·         Mayor’s Office
·         Council Office
·         Human Resources
·         Human Services
·         Planning & Development
·         Building & Housing

Health Insurance, Workers’ Comp & Salary Ordinance (64-18)
Attendees: Human Resources Director Yousefi
CDBG/ESG Allocations Resolution (9042-18) Discussion
Invited attendees: CAC Co-Chairs, Lakewood Alive

Monday, December 3 (Council night) 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Lakewood Municipal Court Budget                                     
Attendees: Judge Patrick Carroll & Clerk of Courts Christina McCallum
Public Safety Budgets
·         Police Department
·         Fire Department
Monday, December 10 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. Capital Budget II (other capital items not related to water/sewer)
Public Works Department Budget
Monday, December 17 (Council night) 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. Substitutions and finalization
Attendees : Finance Director & Staff

Lakewood Downtown Development – The Agreement

Today, Lakewood City Council will be briefed on the progress of the Downtown Development of the Lakewood Hospital Property. After this meeting, I will add to this post with a timeline and other links and info relating to the development. I have submitted questions and comments to City Hall in advance of this meeting, which I have linked below. Thank you to the members of the community who helped in the drafting of these questions and comments. Once these questions have been answered, I will replace this document with a Q & A document or I will make a new Q and A post.

UPDATE : Here are the responses to the questions submitted:

Responses to D&U Questions

Council will not be voting on this agreement as Council voted to delegate the authority to enter into this agreement the Mayor.

More information is posted on the City website http://www.onelakewood.com/downtowndevelopment/

D&U Agreement Questions

City of Lakewood – Carnegie Development Agreement

Vote Yes on Issue 1

I support Ohio Ballot Issue 1. This measure would move our criminal justice system it the right direction. Everyone I know has a close friend or family member touched by the opium epidemic, the response to addiction should never be punishment. We NEED to be moving individuals suffering from drug addiction into treatment and NOT long jail sentences, which is exactly what issue one aims to do. This measure will also require that savings from sentencing reduction go into rehabilitation programs.

Here’s what this measure will do, according to the official ballot language, provided by the Secretary of State:

“If adopted, the amendment would:

  • Require sentence reductions of incarcerated individuals, except individuals incarcerated for murder, rape, or child molestation, by up to 25% if the individual participates in rehabilitative, work, or educational programming.
  • Mandate that criminal offenses of obtaining, possessing, or using any drug such as fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, and other controlled substances cannot be classified as a felony, but only a misdemeanor.
  • Prohibit jail time as a sentence for obtaining, possessing, or using such drugs until an individual’s third offense within 24 months.
  • Allow an individual convicted of obtaining, possessing, or using any such drug prior to the effective date of the amendment to ask a court to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor, regardless of whether the individual has completed the sentence.
  • Require any available funding, based on projected savings, to be applied to state-administered rehabilitation programs and crime victim funds.
  • Require a graduated series of responses, such as community service, drug treatment, or jail time, for minor, non-criminal probation violations.”

Many, like myself, who support this initiative understand that it is not a magic bullet. However, it is a substantial change that will have positive long-term effects, particularly in communities of color across our state which are disproportionately jailed for low-level drug offenses.

Please, consider supporting Ohio Ballot Issue 1 this November 6th.

Read more at Ohio Issue One on Ballotpedia 

Response: Neo-Nazi Posters

 Neo-Nazi poster at bus stop

On Memorial Day, Lakewood woke up to find these neo-Nazi posters illegally posted in bus stops up and down Clifton Blvd. The group identified on the posters is a Neo-Nazi, white supremacist group active here in the United States. RTA did not approve these to be in their stops and I believe that something of this nature would not have been approved, even if submitted to the proper channels.

This overtly racist, Nazi propaganda, in my view, is hate speech.  We are a community that welcomes diversity. We are actively seeking to break down barriers that have caused hyper-segregation, lack of opportunity for minorities, disparity and many other serious issues relating to race. These posters are hateful and are promoting the exact opposite of what we are trying to achieve.

RTA has said that we are welcome to pull these down if we see them. What I would ask is that you take a picture of any posters still on bus stops, then take them down, send photos with the locations to the City. Please, include a note letting the City know you took them down… send this through the Lakewood website (link below.) Hate is not welcome here.

Report a Problem / Concern

As always, feel free to reach out to me if you need anything.

Tristan Rader – 440-315-2852

Why I Voted No on Clinic Police in Lakewood

During a March 19th, 2018 meeting, Lakewood City Council considered a memorandum regarding Cleveland Clinic Police in Lakewood. It passed 5-2 with Councilmember O’Leary and myself voting no. This decision allows Cleveland Clinic Police to continue to function as full-fledged police officers within Lakewood city limits. Basically, they can arrest people in Lakewood.

First, let me make clear, I am very much for facilities like the new Cleveland Clinic building providing their own security, especially in light of the carjackings and robberies that have many people rightfully concerned. But there is a difference between private security and the police. A distinction which I feel is important to maintain.

A week earlier, I contacted the Cleveland Clinic Police Department (CCPD) to ask four questions:

  1. Is the Cleveland Clinic Police Department unionized on any level?
  2. May I have a copy of the CCPD use of force policy?
  3. May I have a copy of the CCPD disciplinary policy?
  4. How does the CCPD compensation compare to Lakewood Police Department (LPD)?

After about a week, I was handed over to a Cleveland Clinic administrator who did a good job answering my questions.

Thank you everyone!

I am profoundly honored to be a councilman-elect for the city of Lakewood.

This was a long campaign; Tuesday was a long day that stretched into a long night, before final results.

But it’s official, Lakewood has called on me to serve on City Council.

The support from this community is incredible. Over 4,500 voted for our campaign, more votes than any campaign received in Lakewood’s last at-large race four years ago. This response to my first-ever campaign for office is moving. I am more than happy with this overall second-place result, and I congratulate first-place finisher Meghan F. George.

Our swearing-in will likely take place around the first of January. There is much to do even before then, to start delivering on a more inclusive, better Lakewood for all. Please stay tuned for updates as we recover from the campaign and get to work on realizing that promise.

Meanwhile, there are far, far too many people and organizations to thank, but I will make a start and keep trying in the days ahead.

Election Day

Polls close for Election 2017 in a little over five hours. It has turned into a beautiful fall day in Lakewood, and I hope as many people as possible will enjoy it while being part of our community’s future.

For anyone taking a last-minute look,

My background includes degrees in business administration and public administration; two startups; volunteer work as county coordinator for OSHIIP; a great tenure doing outreach for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank; and working as regional field director for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign.

My goals include substantive measures to protect Lakewood’s green space, and public services; improved senior amenities; promoting inclusive policies over those that discriminate like Lakewood’s current nuisance law and breed-specific dog ordinance; and better year-round communication and participation for all Lakewood residents in the decisions that affect them, before those decisions get made.

I am endorsed by the local UAW, AFSCME, Northeast Ohio Young Black Democrats, Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, Our Revolution, Cleveland Action Democrats, DSA Cleveland and Working Families Party…

I have also been endorsed by a number of Lakewood residents, and I hope very much that you will join them when you mark your ballot.

This campaign is about our local community, and what we can do together to help make Lakewood better for all.