Your Sept. 23 editorial titled “Pomeroy and towns like it” included the comment: “We now know new and better ways to empower people and lift them up.”
That bit of optimism caused me to reflect on recent citizens’ empowerment actions right here in Toledo. I refer to the referendum process and the efforts of two groups to bring their concerns before Toledoans for a vote. What these concerned citizens did was to engage in the democratic process and assume that the process worked.
Unfortunately, the Lucas County Board of Elections stood in their way, voting on Aug. 28 to reject their petitions, embracing the argument presented by the board’s attorney, Kevin Pituch, that “[The petitions] contain language that permits private individuals to sue in the Lucas County Common Pleas Court for a violation … That’s a power municipalities do not possess and cannot be a part of any initiative,” per the Ohio Supreme Court.
Regardless of your feelings about the initiatives (The Lake Erie Bill of Rights and the initiative to keep the Lucas County jail downtown), don’t you feel incensed to have four unelected officials squelch the voices of your fellow citizens, to cast aside their efforts as futile, to reject the merits of their petitions without giving Toledoans a chance to weigh in?
Remember Thomas Jefferson’s letter to King George III. It included the words: “We have petitioned. … We have remonstrated.”
Apparently, in Toledo and in Ohio, citizens no longer have the power to petition. If these initiatives were unenforceable or illegal, that should be for the Supreme Court to decide AFTER the initiatives were passed in a general election, not before. At the very least, our representatives would have heard the voice of the citizens. And perhaps that would compel them to act accordingly.
Too bad we have a system in which businesses are people and control elections, and gerrymandering determines whose voices get heard, whether they represent the majority or not.
When it comes time to vote this fall, ask your candidates if they will commit to policies and laws that return control of local issues to communities. Otherwise, what’s the point in voting?
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