Columbus, OH (March 6, 2018)
Columbus City Council hit a new low last night, in voting to put the 2016 Charter Review Committee recommendations on the May 2018 ballot, after rejecting the citizen initiated Charter amendment proposal from the ballot.
The council hypocritically denied the Everyday People for Positive Change ballot initiative, saying the proposal violated the “single subject” provision of the city charter, because it addressed multiple topics in seeking comprehensive reform of Columbus City Council. City council cited the city attorney’s memo as rationale for determining the petition to not be legally sufficient as to form. That memo listed the various components of the proposal, which included: 1) changes to the size and composition of council, 2) changes in the mid-term appointment process to vacancies, and 3) changes in ballot access for council candidates as each being “separate and distinct” subjects — thus, in his view, in violation of the single subject rule.
We are clear, however, that the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that single subject rules bar disjointed topics, not comprehensive legislation related to a single general topic or purpose. And because council is violating our right as citizens of an Ohio Charter city to put issues on the ballot, yesterday, Everyday sued each city council member in the Ohio Supreme Court(Case 2018-0335 – State ex rel. Jonathan C. Beard and Everyday People for Positive Change v. Shannon G. Hardin, President, Columbus City Council, et al.)
In his memo, City Attorney Zach Klein also noted that the city council has a similar single subject restriction, to which it adheres assiduously. That claim is absolutely and demonstrably false. In last night’s action, council voted in a single piece of legislation to place on the ballot a single issue containing three of the items that Klein had labeled for Everyday People’s petition as being “separate and distinct” subjects:1) size and composition of council, 2) mid-term vacancy and appointment process, and 3) nomination requirements (ballot access).
Their proposal (though it is a deeply flawed proposal for reasons we will explain over the coming weeks and months) is not a violation of single subject, and neither is Everyday People’s. For the council to claim that theirs is not, but that Everyday People’s is a blatantly undemocratic hypocrisy and a sign of corruption in our democracy–a concrete example of a government that believes it is more powerful than the people from whom its power is derived. This is is a new low for city council: a blatant usurpation of the citizens’ right to petition — saying citizens can’t vote on anything but what the council allows.
This council does not want to allow citizens to vote on limiting corporate contributions to their campaigns, which is one of the topics in the Everyday People proposal. They have rejected the citizen petition from the ballot, and knowing we had filed a lawsuit to get on the ballot and likely certain we will will win in court, rushed yesterday (their proposal had not been on the council agenda prepared Friday, but was called up from the floor on Monday) to put their own on the ballot to confuse voters.
When we elect council members, we elect them to act on our behalf; however, there is nothing in an election that allows our council members to take away our constitutional rights, as this council seeks to do.
Ultimately, we will have our day and expect to prevail in court. But it is a shame that citizens have to sue our government to take actions that are our constitutional right, and it is a shame we have a system of governance and elections that allows our elected officials to feel so comfortable lying to the people and seeking to diminish our rights.
We seek a reform that returns government to the people — that makes elected officials electorally accountable through structuring fair and competitive elections — that makes voters more important than corporate interests and corporate campaign cash.
Frederick Douglass said “the limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” We have set our limit, and will tolerate no repression of our rights as citizens by this tyrannical city council. I urge your support of our effort, and your rejection of this misled city council’s efforts to diminish the voice and power of the people.
Jonathan C. Beard, Treasurer
Everyday People for Positive Change