On May 20th, 2019 all three Lakewood City Council At-Large Members, Meghan George, Tom Bullock and myself, Tristan Rader, introduce a potential plan to bring up to 1 Megawatt of solar power to many of the municipal buildings in Lakewood.
Lakewood has been given the unique opportunity to partner with Cuyahoga County, and the County’s contractor Enerlogics, to do solar panel installation at no upfront cost to the city. This could reduce our reliance on the grid by as much as 20%, or 1.3 Mw per year, while reducing our energy bills. With this specific proposal, the cost savings to taxpayers could be more than $550,000 over the life of the system. Again, with no capital investment of our own. This is accomplished by working with the County and contracting with a third-party owner/installer to buy the net-metered power we generated on our rooftops, at a reduced rate. Here is the presentation.
After a few years the city will be given the option to purchase the panels if we so choose.
importantly, we will be doing our part to contribute to a clean, affordable,
and sustainable planet. As, renewable energy provides substantial benefits for
our climate, our health, our economy, and community.
This just one
option that we would like the city to consider. There are other ways to do
municipal solar. We could buy our own solar panels, for instance. We believe it
is worth weighing our options but also moving the discussion forward, with
We are planning to have members of Enerlogics and the County Suitability Department present the proposed plan at an upcoming meeting. Details will be provided once a time and date are set.
Open government leads to a better-informed citizenry, greater public participation in government, better public policy, and more effective use of public resources.
With this in mind, my council colleague Meghan George and I are proposing an Access to Public Records policy, to ensure the preservation and public accessibility of records.
Having a chapter of our code dedicated to public records would not make Lakewood unique, nor is it intended to invalidate the city’s current records process by which many in the community have been well served. In fact, an important objective of this proposed legislation is to maintain and reinforce important portions of the city’s current Public Records Policy by codifying them into permanent law. Some of these include:
Honorable Governor Mike DeWine
77 South High Street, 30th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6117
Dear Governor DeWine,
We represent the future of elected officials; all of us are elected officials age 40 and under throughout Cuyahoga County. We are concerned about the future of our communities and the entire state of Ohio. As young community leaders, we understand what young families are looking for in their forever community. Ohio loses more college graduates than we gain from other states, which means that we have work to do to keep young educated individuals. As you prepare for the biennial budget, we hope that you take the following into consideration.
You stated throughout your campaign for Governor and since taking office that you want to be a partner who works with local officials to restore the local government fund to a certain level. The Local Government Fund is supposed to return money from Columbus back to the local governments who are the closest to ensuring the needs of the people who live in their respective communities. Ideally, we would like the local government fund restored to the 3.68% of the total amount of state tax revenue credited to the General Revenue Fund that Senate Bill 17 introduced in the 132nd General Assembly called for. However, we understand that the money would have to come from somewhere and we would be more than willing to help create a solution that is good for the state and fair to local governments. The Ohio General Assembly has repeatedly decreased funding and revenue with local governments through phasing out tax reimbursements, estate taxes, and the local government fund. According to Policy Matters Ohio, local governments around the state have lost nearly $1.2 billion (adjusted for inflation) in 2017 when compared to 2010 funding due to these changes. As you know as a former county official, these funds are used for critical services for Ohioans including police, fire, and law enforcement. Furthermore, by allowing levies to adjust for inflation, it would allow for revenue to increase with the increase in expenses due to inflation, resulting in less of a need to ask voters for money. We urgently need funding for our municipalities throughout Ohio to foster safe communities, maintain sound infrastructure, increase economic development, and improve the overall welfare of our state.
Our constituents wonder why there are so many communities having to cut services. They wonder why local leaders have to put more levies, bond issues, and other financial measures on the ballot in recent years. They wonder why the highways, roads, bridges, and infrastructure are falling apart in our state. Both of these are because local governments are not getting the funding they desperately need to address these important issues in our communities.
Additionally, we believe funding of public transportation systems across the state is important for Ohio’s residents. Public transportation systems around the state, including RTA in Northeast Ohio, have had to cut services and raise fees to make up for loss in funding from state and federal resources. Ohio ranks 44th in spending on public transportation. The 2018-19 House budget appropriated $6.5 million on public transit, which was the lowest amount since 1976.
Finally, Ohio needs to prepare for the future, including investing in broadband and technology and renewable energy sources. Our state needs to remain competitive for businesses and individuals/families to want to move to and remain in Ohio. Connection through broadband is a way of the future, and Ohio should be ahead of the game when it comes to bringing this technology to cities, urban, suburban and rural. Investing in renewable energy through partnerships will be beneficial to long-term costs of energy and the environment. Innovative projects, like the solar farm that was built on a landfill in Brooklyn, are just the start of what Ohio can achieve to further our renewable energy state-wide.
We want to work together with you as our Governor and leadership in the Ohio General Assembly in hopes to address state funding in a bipartisan effort that will benefit all communities throughout Ohio.
Sara Byrnes Maier, City of Bay Village Council, Ward 3 James Pasch, City of Beachwood Council Vice President Eric Synenberg, City of Beachwood Council Meg Ryan Shockey, City of Brooklyn Council Brian Poindexter, City of Brook Park Council Erinn Grube, Village of Chagrin Falls Council Jasmin Santana, City of Cleveland Council, Ward 14 Christine McIntosh, City of Euclid Council, Ward 5 Tristan Rader, City of Lakewood Council Daniel O’Malley, City of Lakewood Council, Ward 4 Dan Langshaw, City of North Royalton Council, Ward 3 Paul Marnecheck, City of North Royalton Council, Ward 4 Candace Williams, Oakwood Village Council, Ward 5 Ed Gorski, City of Olmsted Falls Council, Ward 1 Jeremy Zelwin, City of Solon Council, Ward 3 Sara Continenza, City of South Euclid Council, Ward 3
Cc: Senator Larry Obhof, President of the Senate Senator Kenny Yuko, Minority Senate Leader Representative Larry Householder, Speaker of the House Representative Emilia Strong Sykes, Minority Leader of the House House of Representatives Finance Committee Senate Finance Committee Cuyahoga County Delegates
Thursday, May 23, 6:30 – 8 p.m Main library multi-purpose room 15425 Detroit Ave
If you aren’t quite sure what to expect, it’s very simple: members of the community have a conversation, with a member of city council participating. Bring questions, ideas, concerns, problems or solutions.
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.
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:
Advise on ethics policy,
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.