COLUMBUS CITIZENS SUE COLUMBUS CITY COUNCIL FOR RIGHT TO HOLD ELECTION

March 4, 2017 (Columbus, OH)

Everyday People for Positive Change, a citizens’ ballot committee, announces that is has filed a complaint against Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin and members Elizabeth Brown, Mitch Brown, Jaiza Page, Emmanuel Remy, Michael Stinziano, Priscilla Tyson, and the Franklin County Board of Elections. The action will be filed in the Ohio Supreme Court, on Monday, March 5, 2018.

The case State ex. Rel. Jonathan C. Beard and Everyday People for Positive Change v. Shannon G. Hardin et. al. is filed pursuant to alleged violations by Columbus City Council of Article XVIII, Section 2 of the Ohio Constitution, which provides a right for citizens to place initiatives on the ballot and Columbus City Charter Section 45, which provides the local process for the exercise of that right.

The Relators (Beard and Everyday People) assert that council acted improperly in determining their petition was insufficient as to form, after the group had gathered valid petition signatures from more than 10% of the Columbus electorate. The group gathered 42,414 petition signatures, the sufficiency of which was affirmed by the Franklin County Board of Electors on February 23, 2018.  Accordingly, Relators seek to have the Supreme Court determine the petition to be legally sufficient, order the council to affirm that fact, and order its placement on the May 8, 2018 primary ballot by the Franklin County Board of Elections.

Beard says “council falsely claims our petition violates the “single subject’ provision of the charter by including a series of closely-related reforms to Columbus city council. The council ignores decades of case law that says single subject rules are not a barrier to comprehensive legislation addressing multiple topics related to a single general purpose. In this case, our goal is to improve the city council through elections systems and administrative reforms. The courts have consistently determined as long as the topics have a “reasonable relationship” to a single general area, single subject rules are not violated. Further the courts have determined that only a manifestly gross and flagrant violation of the law can cause it to be invalidated. In this case, council is asserting that how we elect council members and how they finance those elections do not have a reasonable relationship.”

Willis Brown, a member of the petition committee, adds “this isn’t about single-subject – this is about a bunch of politicians trying to keep the pipeline of corporate dollars into their campaign funds unobstructed. They don’t like the limits on campaign contributions and accumulation of campaign funds – and they are using this provision to try to stop citizens from our constitutional right to put an issue on the ballot for a vote.”

This is exactly what Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government had predicted in that group’s opposition to Issue 7, which was pushed on voters for approval in 2014. At the time, the group had termed Issue 7 “an undemocratic power grab,” as it gave council the right to regulate the subject matter of citizen petitions, and predicted it would force citizens to have to sue the city to put issues on the ballot. At the time, council campaigned for the issue, saying “Issue 7 explicitly says no city representative may consider the subject matter of a petition.” (see https://www.columbus.gov/council/Charter-Review/Issues/Issue-7-Factsheet/).

“They said they couldn’t consider the subject when the issue was on the ballot– but that is exactly what they are doing now in saying we are violating the single subject rule. They flat-out lied to their constituents, the citizens of Columbus,” Beard says. “They knew exactly what they were doing, which is putting themselves in a position of power over the citizens and stealing — robbing us of our constitutional right to pursue needed changes. They told us to trust them while they were lying to us and trying to take away our constitutional rights. We have tried for months to work with them to avoid their unlawful action seeking to keep us off the ballot, but they refused to listen and they forced us to sue to secure our constitutional rights.”

Brown says, “Frederick Douglass, who I have heard “is doing an amazing job and being recognized more and more” said “the limits of tyrants are prescribed by those whom they oppress.’ We have said ‘no more’ to these local tyrants who seek to rule our access to our ballot. Just because city council is scared of reform and doesn’t want to see it on the ballot doesn’t mean it won’t happen. We believe in democracy, and we believe Ohio’s highest court will rule quickly that state law applies even in the Republic of Columbus and will rule in our favor.”
For More Information, Contact: Jonathan Beard, Treasurer, at 614-395-1946 or David Harewood, Campaign Manager, at 614-706-7364.

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