Today is Democracy Day in Cleveland. City hall will host public hearings on the impact of money in politics, with regular citizens invited to testify. (My Progressive Caucus colleague Steve Holecko will be among those speaking.) In approving the observance, last December, Cleveland joined a growing number of communities adopting Democracy Day in support of the Move to Amend campaign. Just in Northeast Ohio, Democracy Days are now on the calendar in Brecksville, Chagrin Falls, Cleveland Heights, Lake County, Mentor and South Euclid.
Where’s Lakewood, you might wonder? Did Move to Amend snub us? Not exactly. Unfortunately it was the other way around.
People in Lakewood are as tired as anyone else of a system concerned with money rather than ideas, in which public servants spend their time “dialing for dollars” instead of working for us.
In 2013, local Move to Amend activists gathered signatures for an ordinance which would place our community on record asserting that it’s time for a better way. The ordinance formally called for a Constitutional amendment, to overturn corporate personhood and unlimited campaign spending. It also would have established a yearly Democracy Day, and assigned our mayor to write Lakewood’s representatives every two years expressing local concerns about unregulated political spending.
Lakewood City Council called the initiative “an abuse,” rebuked the citizens who presented it, and voted unanimously to defeat the ordinance.
That October 2013 meeting was a low point for our community. The following year, a slightly reconfigured City Council approved Move to Amend language, but only in a diluted form. The city went on record supporting Move to Amend’s message, formally. But any follow-up actions were out. No letters, and no Democracy Day.
Neither idea is strange or burdensome. In addition to the many cities, including Cleveland, which hold Democracy Day hearings, Chagrin Falls and South Euclid have approved all the Move to Amend measures. Plenty of local governments have set some limit on individual campaign contributions, also.
Lakewood, as it happens, has none of these things. Regarding Democracy Day, cleveland.com reported that “Several council members said they felt uncomfortable with that provision.”
I can’t say which members felt that way, or which are on City Council now. But I will say that I feel differently. I’m in favor of a bigger role for citizens in our government, and a smaller role for money. As a prospective city council member, I want people to see our city’s leaders embracing both these ideas on a continued basis.
Let’s bring Democracy Day to Lakewood, and then live its ideals year-round.