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Column: An outbreak of democracy in Ohio

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opinion Worthington, 56187
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Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

AUSTIN, Texas -- Some scrappy citizens in the burg of Brecksville, Ohio, produced one of the proudest progressive victories on Election Day.

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Organized under the banner of Brecksville Citizens for Transparent Politics, they decided they needed to speak out about the U.S. Supreme Court's outrageous edicts that allow unlimited sums of corporate cash to secretly flood America's elections.

These determined citizens collected signatures for a local ballot initiative in their small town of around 14,000. The measure called for a U.S. constitutional amendment "to establish that corporations are not people and money is not speech."

A couple of states and dozens of cities proposed similar initiatives this year, but Brecksville's unique proposal added a useful bit of oomph. If passed, it would require city officials to designate one day in February for the next 10 years as "Democracy Day," on which the mayor would host a citywide hearing about how the surge of campaign money was affecting the city. After the hearing, the mayor must send a letter to the legislature and Congress proclaiming the citizens' opposition to corporate electioneering.

Mayor Jerry Hruby, however, balked at this outbreak of democracy, saying it required the city to take an official position on a federal issue outside its jurisdiction. He went to the board of elections to disqualify it from the November ballot -- but the board deadlocked, and the matter went to Ohio's secretary of state.

To the mayor's surprise, this Republican office broke the tie in favor of the citizens. Then the mayor appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, where, finally, with barely a month to go, a 5-2 majority of the judges ruled that the people's proposal was legit.

Completing this triumph of citizens' perseverance, 52 percent of Brecksvillians proudly voted the initiative into law on Election Day. See, it is possible to fight city hall and win.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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