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The Other Side of The News Sept 7, 2015-Protest at Ginther fundraiser

Bob Fitrakis & Ruben Herrera speak about an upcoming protest.

orson_wells_Slow-Clap

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How the City of Columbus could save us from radioactive fracking waste — but will they?

by Bob Fitrakis
November 23, 2013

The website says it all: RadioactiveWasteAlert.org.
The billboard with a young woman guzzling liquid with a radioactive warning on it under the phrase: “Don’t Frack My Water, Protect Columbus” set the stage for one of the most important public forums in the city’s history.
If we had to summarize the major themes that emerged from the Tuesday, November 12 Radioactive Frack Waste Forum, the first is this: the public has a right to know that much of the process allowing radioactive waste into the central Ohio watershed near Alum Creek is the result of hidden, behind-the-scenes maneuvering by Ohio legislators and Governor John Kasich.
Second: the frack waste is undisputedly radioactive and carcinogenic. Radium 226 found at 3000% over the allowable limit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a long-established link to many forms of cancer, including breast and bone cancer.
Third: All landfills leak. If you put radioactivity into them, it will come out.
Fourth: Ohio has become a radioactive dumping ground for the fracking industry and is not importing the waste prohibited by the regulators in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Of the eight billion gallons of toxic radioactive waste injected into underground wells in Ohio over the last 30 years, half of it came from out-of –state.
Finally: Ohio is now poised to receive 19 million cubic feet of solid radioactive shell rock waste in the near future. Our 39 licensed landfills are de-regulated and open for the toxic imports.
The day before the Forum, “fracktivists” organizers went to Columbus City Council to present their well-documented findings. A few Council members noted that they had read about the radioactivity in the local news where it has been published in both the Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch, as well as reported by the local NBC affiliate, TV 4.
When Council President Andrew Ginther asked the City’s Public Health Director Theresa Long, she immediately declared, as public health directors have done in the past, that there was no threat to the health of Ohio citizens from a large radioactive waste site sitting right next to Alum Creek. She offered no data or facts with her analysis.
City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer asks the fracktivists the key question after the meeting: “What can the City of Columbus do, considering the current Ohio laws?”
That answer would be provided at the Forum. After an introduction by organizer Carolyn Harding, a series of radioactive waste experts and activists addressed this mounting health crisis. Dr. Julie Weatherington-Rice, an environmental consultant with a doctorate in soil science from Ohio State University, explained in detail what Long missed.
“They’ve de-regulated the drill cuttings. That’s 90% of what comes out of a bore hole. The mud is regulated yet every piece of cutting is covered in mud and it dries on the rocks. So if the mud is radioactive and it dries on the rocks, it means that the cuttings are of course radioactive,” she pointed out.
Weatherington-Rice said that most of the radioactivity comes from Radium 228 and 226. These are alpha and beta emitters. What the landfills use to detect radioactivity are Geiger counters. These are designed to detect gamma emissions.
Weatherington-Rice noted that the U.S. Department of Energy protocol requires that radium is not to be field tested by a Geiger counter, but isolated in a lab for 21 days to get a proper radioactivity reading. As she pointed out, amended House Bill 59, Ohio’s 2013 budget bill, has de-regulated “90% of the waste stream with no record-keeping requirement because they are calling the material ‘beneficial use.’”
For more than 30 years, Weatherington-Rice has been one of Ohio’s leading experts on groundwater protection. Long did not consult her before answering Columbus City Council members.
Terry Lodge, an environmental attorney from Toledo, detailed the backroom dealings that allowed radioactive material to be dumped so close to Columbus’ drinking water. He spoke of new Ohio laws that permit the “downblending” of highly toxic radioactive waste into less toxic material, freeing it from regulation. He also explained how defining drill cuttings as “beneficial use” as liners in landfills it can avoid testing or monitoring.
Lodge ended by saying, “I’m an activist. I’m ready for a fight.” Lodge is famous for using “guerilla” legal and populist strategies to fight frackers and other corporate polluters.
Perhaps the most chilling presentation was given by Dr. Yuri Gorby, a microbial physiologist and ecologist, who holds the Howard N. Blitman Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is an expert on the physical health effects of radioactivity and fracking waste. In his talk, Gorby stated that in his studies of fracking and radioactivity he noticed a variety of physical symptoms from bloody noses, burning eyes, rashes and neurological disorders including loss of memory, loss of sense of smell, anxiety, and tremors. Gorby said that he has been able to “fingerprint” through DNA many of the rashes directly to fracking. He warned that Ohio’s desire to allow the de-regulation of drill cutting with “no monitoring” will be disastrous for the health of our citizens.
His slide show, which is available at the website mentioned earlier, showed devastating illnesses among people exposed to toxic and radioactive fracking waste.
Nathan Johnson, an environmental attorney at the Forum, quickly answered the question on what the City of Columbus can do.
“They are allowed by law to establish and charge the companies for a program that would monitor for radioactivity in a proper lab test,” he said, “As long as they weren’t selective and charged everyone bringing in drill cuttings.”
On December 3 at 7pm, the group will meet again at the Columbus Public Library on Grant Street.
originally published at the freepress.org

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How the City of Columbus could save us from radioactive fracking waste — but will they?

by Bob Fitrakis
November 23, 2013

The website says it all: RadioactiveWasteAlert.org.

The billboard with a young woman guzzling liquid with a radioactive warning on it under the phrase: “Don’t Frack My Water, Protect Columbus” set the stage for one of the most important public forums in the city’s history.

If we had to summarize the major themes that emerged from the Tuesday, November 12 Radioactive Frack Waste Forum, the first is this: the public has a right to know that much of the process allowing radioactive waste into the central Ohio watershed near Alum Creek is the result of hidden, behind-the-scenes maneuvering by Ohio legislators and Governor John Kasich.

Second: the frack waste is undisputedly radioactive and carcinogenic. Radium 226 found at 3000% over the allowable limit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a long-established link to many forms of cancer, including breast and bone cancer.

Third: All landfills leak. If you put radioactivity into them, it will come out.

Fourth: Ohio has become a radioactive dumping ground for the fracking industry and is not importing the waste prohibited by the regulators in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Of the eight billion gallons of toxic radioactive waste injected into underground wells in Ohio over the last 30 years, half of it came from out-of –state.

Finally: Ohio is now poised to receive 19 million cubic feet of solid radioactive shell rock waste in the near future. Our 39 licensed landfills are de-regulated and open for the toxic imports.

The day before the Forum, “fracktivists” organizers went to Columbus City Council to present their well-documented findings. A few Council members noted that they had read about the radioactivity in the local news where it has been published in both the Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch, as well as reported by the local NBC affiliate, TV 4.

When Council President Andrew Ginther asked the City’s Public Health Director Theresa Long, she immediately declared, as public health directors have done in the past, that there was no threat to the health of Ohio citizens from a large radioactive waste site sitting right next to Alum Creek. She offered no data or facts with her analysis.

City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer asks the fracktivists the key question after the meeting: “What can the City of Columbus do, considering the current Ohio laws?”

That answer would be provided at the Forum. After an introduction by organizer Carolyn Harding, a series of radioactive waste experts and activists addressed this mounting health crisis. Dr. Julie Weatherington-Rice, an environmental consultant with a doctorate in soil science from Ohio State University, explained in detail what Long missed.

“They’ve de-regulated the drill cuttings. That’s 90% of what comes out of a bore hole. The mud is regulated yet every piece of cutting is covered in mud and it dries on the rocks. So if the mud is radioactive and it dries on the rocks, it means that the cuttings are of course radioactive,” she pointed out.

Weatherington-Rice said that most of the radioactivity comes from Radium 228 and 226. These are alpha and beta emitters. What the landfills use to detect radioactivity are Geiger counters. These are designed to detect gamma emissions.

Weatherington-Rice noted that the U.S. Department of Energy protocol requires that radium is not to be field tested by a Geiger counter, but isolated in a lab for 21 days to get a proper radioactivity reading. As she pointed out, amended House Bill 59, Ohio’s 2013 budget bill, has de-regulated “90% of the waste stream with no record-keeping requirement because they are calling the material ‘beneficial use.’”

For more than 30 years, Weatherington-Rice has been one of Ohio’s leading experts on groundwater protection. Long did not consult her before answering Columbus City Council members.

Terry Lodge, an environmental attorney from Toledo, detailed the backroom dealings that allowed radioactive material to be dumped so close to Columbus’ drinking water. He spoke of new Ohio laws that permit the “downblending” of highly toxic radioactive waste into less toxic material, freeing it from regulation. He also explained how defining drill cuttings as “beneficial use” as liners in landfills it can avoid testing or monitoring.

Lodge ended by saying, “I’m an activist. I’m ready for a fight.” Lodge is famous for using “guerilla” legal and populist strategies to fight frackers and other corporate polluters.

Perhaps the most chilling presentation was given by Dr. Yuri Gorby, a microbial physiologist and ecologist, who holds the Howard N. Blitman Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is an expert on the physical health effects of radioactivity and fracking waste. In his talk, Gorby stated that in his studies of fracking and radioactivity he noticed a variety of physical symptoms from bloody noses, burning eyes, rashes and neurological disorders including loss of memory, loss of sense of smell, anxiety, and tremors. Gorby said that he has been able to “fingerprint” through DNA many of the rashes directly to fracking. He warned that Ohio’s desire to allow the de-regulation of drill cutting with “no monitoring” will be disastrous for the health of our citizens.

His slide show, which is available at the website mentioned earlier, showed devastating illnesses among people exposed to toxic and radioactive fracking waste.

Nathan Johnson, an environmental attorney at the Forum, quickly answered the question on what the City of Columbus can do.

“They are allowed by law to establish and charge the companies for a program that would monitor for radioactivity in a proper lab test,” he said, “As long as they weren’t selective and charged everyone bringing in drill cuttings.”

On December 3 at 7pm, the group will meet again at the Columbus Public Library on Grant Street.

originally published at the freepress.org

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Free Press Second Saturday Salon

Free Press Second Saturday Salon
Saturday, March 9
6:30-pm-midnight
1021 E. Broad St., east side door, parking in front or rear

Welcoming progressive friends with refreshments, music, art, networking, presentations, and socializing.
Presentations on Re-examining Lucasville conference, efforts to reform Columbus City Council and more.
truth@freepress.org, 253-2571

Green Party Presiodential Candidate Jill Stein At Ohio Statehouse

Green Party Presiodential Candidate Jill Stein At Ohio Statehouse

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Free Press Second Saturday Salon

Free Press Second Saturday Salon
Saturday, March 9
6:30-pm-midnight
1021 E. Broad St., east side door, parking in front or rear

Welcoming progressive friends with refreshments, music, art, networking, presentations, and socializing.
Presentations on Re-examining Lucasville conference, efforts to reform Columbus City Council and more.
truth@freepress.org, 253-2571

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No 4th Tues Movie, Bring back Columbus Public Access

Attention Free Press activists: There will be NO Fourth Tuesday Free Movie at the Drexel this month.
Help restore free speech forum in Columbus: Please see below for an action you can take to support the city of Columbus to bring back public access TV:
Action Alert:
City Council will be finalizing its budget over the coming days … please send a note evidencing your support for public access to the following member at your earliest opportunity. Also, please ask others in your circle to do the same. Troy Miller chairs the Technology Committee, which is where we presented our testimony and where we sent our follow up letter/written request:
ajginther@columbus.gov
mmmills@columbus.gov
atmiller@columbus.gov
eypaley@columbus.gov
prtyson@columbus.gov
hfcraig@columbus.gov
zmklein@columbus.gov
Dear Neighborhood Leaders:
I am writing on behalf of the Ad Hoc Committee for Public Access Television, and requesting you to contact Columbus City Council and voice your support for city funding for the return of public access television to the residents of Columbus. Our proposal seems to have been received favorably by council member Troy Miller and Technology Director Gary Cavin, and additional public support could tip the scales toward funding as council makes final budget decisions over the next several days.
The Ad Hoc Committee for Public Access Television (CPAT) is comprised of Central Ohioans who believe that the public interest would greatly benefit from a more diverse local media. In December budget hearing testimony and follow up correspondence, we have asked Columbus City Council to allocate $55,000 in the City’s 2013 budget as seed funding for returning public access television to Central Ohio. The community has been without this important communications medium since 2003, when funding for it was ended because of budget constraints. With the City’s budget vastly improved such that millions of dollars are being placed in the Rainy Day Fund, the CPAT believe that now is the time to restore funding for public-access TV. We ask for your support in this effort.
The City wisely kept the infrastructure in place for a return of public access TV. Local channel 21, which was previously the public access channel, is a community bulletin board that could easily again accommodate public access programming. Moreover, advances in technology have drastically lowered the costs of operating a public access station. As a result, running the station on the relatively modest budget that has been proposed is entirely feasible.
Many of us remember the controversial content of dubious-to-questionable merit that was at issue on public access a decade ago. Our committee has proposed a membership-based organization of content producers who agree to adopt community standards similar to the public broadcast standards, and within that umbrella of decency fully supporting the expression of diverse views consistent with our first amendment rights.
We believe that public access TV offers many benefits to Columbus. Among the major ones are the following.
Increasing civic participation
In his book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert Putman of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government describes Americans’ decreasing community involvement. He cites lower rates of voting, attendance at public meetings, membership in civic associations, service on committees, and work with political parties. He believes that these trends weaken the means by which Americans have traditionally worked together for the good of the entire community.
Our understanding is that at least some Area Commissions are trying to increase the public’s civic participation by compiling lists of organizations in their areas and helping the organizations connect with one another and the local government. Public access TV would facilitate the achievement of those goals.
Public access TV enables nonprofit groups to inform a mass audience in Central Ohio about who they are, which issues they are working on, and what opportunities for volunteer work they offer. This information motivates citizens to connect with one another and with their local government to work on important issues. It is a means of reversing the lack of civic engagement that scholars such as Putman bemoan as undermining democracy.
Improving Central Ohio’s economy
Employment has become harder to find in recent years, with millions of manufacturing and service jobs having been outsourced to other countries. In Franklin County, thousands of manufacturing jobs were lost in the last decade. Even some white-collar jobs have been outsourced or are in danger of being eliminated.
In response to these problems, many scholars are advocating that the U.S. promote employment in the creative sectors of the economy. Public access TV would give local music and video artists widespread exposure of their ideas and works. At present, they need to go to other cities for such exposure on television. The exposure spurs economic activity by increasing demand for their artistic creations and opening up more venues where they can display their talents.
In the long term, the increased knowledge and skills the public would develop by learning about and using the public access station’s technology would likely translate into many new jobs in the private sector.
Enhancing cultural enrichment
In 2006 researchers at the Urban Institute found that Columbus has the most festivals per capita in the nation. This shows that Columbus residents love exposure to new ideas, music, products, cultures, and ways of enriching their lives.
Public access TV would enable citizens to display their creativity and cultural diversity to a mass television audience in ways similar to how they do it at the community’s many festivals. Television viewers who enjoy the festivals would surely enjoy these offerings too. Similar to the festivals, the programs would be a source of education, growth, relaxation, and rejuvenation.
And for viewers having disabilities that prevent them from attending the festivals, they would be able to obtain some of the same types of information and entertainment on TV.
Counteracting local media consolidation
In recent decades the national trend has been for large media companies to acquire local news outlets. It has gotten to the point where a few gigantic conglomerates dominate the news industry and determine the views that Americans are exposed to in the mass media. Many scholars and journalists have pointed out that this consolidation has harmed democracy by crippling the media’s willingness and ability to inform the public.
Media consolidation in Columbus has gotten as bad as anywhere in the U.S., and is far worse than in many other American communities. In 2011 The Dispatch Printing Company purchased virtually all the print publications in Central Ohio, including the main alternative newspaper, The Other Paper. That’s in addition to its ownership of local TV and radio media. Recently the company announced that it is closing The Other Paper. Some have described the current Columbus media situation using terms such as “propaganda” and “mind control.” And they have quoted Carter G. Woodson’s famous statement: “If you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions.”
Public access TV could help counteract these problems by allowing a diversity of voices to reach a mass audience in Central Ohio. Unlike other voices currently heard on TV, the voices of the public would not be funded by big-money interests, which have gotten even more powerful on TV after the U.S. Supreme Court’s widely criticized 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.
Additionally, the voices of the public would help keep the local news media honest. Media executives would be less likely to operate in a one-sided and biased manner if they knew that members of the public had the ability to correct any propaganda and misinformation in front of a mass television audience.
Conclusion
Many more reasons could be given for supporting public access TV. But the CPAT believes that these four major ones are more than sufficient justification for it.
Because of the important benefits of public access TV, hundreds of U.S. cities offer it. Columbus’ failure to do so can put the city in an unfavorable light when compared to those other cities. For example, some in the local Somali community have expressed disappointment and bewilderment that Columbus does not have public access TV whereas Minneapolis, with its large Somali community, does.
In fact, the law appears to require NOColumbus City Officials to strive to provide public access TV to the community. Section 595.01(E)(4) of Title 5 of the Columbus Code states that the City’s policy regarding cable communications systems includes “the promotion of increased public . . . access and programming, in terms of quality and amount.” The law’s drafters and enactors obviously understood the significance of this subject.
Public access TV is an extremely important communications medium and would greatly benefit Central Ohio. We therefore ask you to urge City Council to approve the requested funding for it.
Jonathan C. Beard
President and CEO
Columbus Compact Corporation
1051 E. Main Street
Columbus, OH 43205
Phone: (614) 251-0926 ext. 301
Fax: (614) 251-2243
www.colscompact.com

Columbus City Council call-in campaign next two weeks (July 7-20)

Please step up and join the City Council call-in campaign going on the next two weeks (July 7-20). Call and encourage City Council members to allow the citizen’s initiative from the recent city charter change petition to go on this year’s November ballot.

The Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government submitted 31,000 signatures on June 25 to put on the November ballot the opportunity for voters to vote for a city charter change — the one that would open up Columbus City Council to have 11 members with 7 from districts. This will result in a more democratic, more representative Columbus City Council.

They are using everything in their arsenal to fight this and prevent it from happening.

We need citizens of Columbus to make as many phone calls as possible to Council this week. Every day, if possible. Over and over again. And get everyone you know to do it too. Only with this kind of pressure will this succeed. In the past, they have crumbled when faced with a relentless calling campaign. You can even call after hours and leave messages so they have to retrieve them in the morning.

Possible script:
“I am a Columbus citizen and I am calling Councilwoman “—” to encourage her to support the recent citizen initiative to put a city charter change on this November’s ballot. 31,000 signatures were recently submitted from citizens like me, who want more representation on Columbus City Council and more democratic representation from the city’s districts. Please tell Councilwoman “—” to support this initiative.”

Optional:
“My name is “—-” and you can return my call at “—”

Here are the City Council phone numbers:
Andrew Ginther (President) 645-2931
Herschel Craig 645-7379
Zach Klein 645-5346
Troy Miller 645-2013
Michele Mills 645-5344
Eileen Paley 645-2010
Priscilla Tyson 645-2933

Why do we need a more democratic Columbus City Council?
– They recently voted to give away the casino to the four wealthiest families in the city to subsidize their losses at the Arena.
– They continue to appoint new members between elections, no one has been outright elected by the people to Columbus City Council for over 15 years.
– They continue to make their deals behind closed doors, closing out the public and public opinion – and changed the city charter in 2010 to make even more decisions out of the public eye.
– The time for public speaking at Council meetings has been decreased, as well as the number of people speaking, subjects they are allowed to speak on and procedures to get on the speaking agenda made inconvenient.
– They are trying to change the amount of time one can get a city permit – clearly to prevent Occupy Columbus from continuing
– They are gentrifying people on the near east side, Poindexter Village – and moving poor people out to unfamiliar suburbs
– Each one is at large, not beholden to any particular city neighborhood
More information at:
http://www.columbuscoalition.info/

Fight Back On WCRS Link and November 2011 Shows

http://wcrsfm.org/audio/user/157

WCRS Podcast – fightback

Fight Back Nov. 22, 2011 – Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government’s petition drive to expand Columbus City Council

Submitted by fightback on Tue, 11/22/2011 – 6:40pm

Bob and Connie interview James Moore and talk about why Columbus City Council needs district representation to be more responsive to citizen needs and stop doing things like bailing out the hockey arena

29:58 minutes (27.44 MB)

Fight Back Nov. 17, 2011

Submitted by fightback on Thu, 11/17/2011 – 10:09pm

Bob Fitrakis and Connie Gadell-Newton interview filmmaker Kaveh Nabatien whose film is a Columbus International Film Festival Award winner – Vapor. Also, they interview actor Praq Rado, who is in another festival film, Dreaming American.

29:55 minutes (27.39 MB)

Fight Back 11012011 Keystone pipeline

Submitted by fightback on Tue, 11/01/2011 – 5:27pm

Bob interviews Alec Johnson on the Keystone pipeline

29:35 minutes (27.09 MB)

Fight Back October 25, 2011 – Occupy movement

Submitted by fightback on Tue, 10/25/2011 – 5:34pm

Bob and Connie talk about the Occupy movement, anti-corporatism and modeling classes

29:58 minutes (27.44 MB)

Issue 12 – A Mockery Of A Sham: Orwell Rolls In His Grave

Bob Fitrakis
October 31, 2010

The Daily Monopoly, Columbus Dispatch, that masquerades as a newspaper, ran the following subhead in its editorial in support of Issue 12: “City charter change would provide public with more information.”

If you vote “yes” on Issue 12 this November 2, you will be voting to allow Council to hold closed meetings when discussing certain issues. This would include personnel matters, property purchase, litigation, collective bargaining, and security matters.

So, after nearly a hundred years of open City Council meetings mandated by the Columbus City Charter, we’re now being told that we will get “more information” and “accountability” by closing Council’s chamber doors to the public.

Let’s look at the reasons Council is proposing to close their meetings. First, following Tuesday’s election, the Council will be replacing Charleta Tavares who will doubtlessly be elected to the state Senate. Council claims it needs go behind closed doors for the purpose of vetting potential candidates who seek the open seat.

The Dispatch, whose editorial board has been doing PR for the pro-Issue 12 group, the so-called Columbus Citizens for Good Government, claimed that “Many good candidates for public jobs would refuse to apply if their interviews and Council discussions about them had to be public.”

The public interviewing of candidates has a long and honorable tradition in the United States. The U.S. Senate routinely interrogates cabinet and other high-level appointments of the President publicly. This tradition has served the public well. In Columbus in the past, the Council has attempted to ignore this law and pick candidates in closed meetings.

I know. In both 1991 and 1993, I was on the short list for Columbus City Council. I met with the then-Council President in a private meeting. Perhaps the Council President didn’t want the public to hear the questions I was asked, such as how much money I could raise for the campaign and whether or not I would continue to call myself a progressive, since it was a “leftist” term.

The City Attorney ruled that the last two City Council appointments violated the City Charter because they were done privately. It embarrassed City Council President Michael Mentel when he was forced to accept the resignation of the newly-anointed Council members, and then interview them in public and re-appoint them.

Instead of taking a training class in interviewing techniques and realizing that potential public officials should learn how to speak in public, Mentel has responded by attempting to change the City Charter to hide the interview process from the public.

In the last decade and half, every City Council member was appointed first, and elected later. This bizarre, undemocratic ritual, put forth by the one-party Democratic system that has held either a 6-1 or 7-0 majority throughout that period, is designed to allow Council to choose each incoming member and the Democratic appointees to run with the unfair advantage of incumbency.

Second, the Dispatch editorial made the absurd argument that: “A public body can’t strike a good deal to buy a piece of land or establish a strategy for a lawsuit if the details of the position must be reached in public view.”

City real estate deals are negotiated by the City’s Development Department and the Mayor. All Council does is approve the final deal. Maybe the Dispatch should read its own newspaper to understand this basic concept. The October 24 paper reported the following: “City Council President Michael C. Mentel, an early proponent of moving the casino out of the Arena District, said Penn National hasn’t shared its request with him. The Coleman administration is handing talks for the city, so he said. He’ll wait for an agreement to emerge.”

Thus, Mentel openly admits that Council has nothing to do with negotiating property buys under Columbus’ strong mayor system of government. Even if Council did negotiate real estate transactions, they need not worry about getting a better deal because they can just take the property they need at fair market value. Apparently the Dispatch has never heard of the term “eminent domain,” a practice Council may use at any time for the taking of public property.

The real reason Mentel wants to go behind closed doors is to talk about giving rich corporate entities and major donors tax breaks or tax increment financing that allows a private entity to keep the tax dollars they pay for improving their property. It is much easier to come up with schemes to give away subsidies in the form of infrastructure development or tax breaks if the pesky public is not around.

On the question of litigation, again, let’s start with the obvious. City Council only approves the final deal or expenditure, which we all should want to be publicly debated. It is again the executive branch of City government, through the City Attorney, that negotiates these settlements.

Like litigation, labor negotiations are handled by the Mayor and his representatives. Again, all Council is empowered to do is to publicly debate the prudence of the resulting expenditures.

Finally, the notion that City Council needs to retire to executive session for “homeland security” is laughable. The City has a Public Safety Director and a Chief of Police, and various joint task forces with other security and police agencies. The last thing that will happen in the case of an actual emergency will be calling of parttime City Council people into an emergency session. Both federal and state emergency management agencies working with fulltime professional public safety appointees of the Mayor will handle the issue.

We need Council to make sure, after the fact, that our rights aren’t being violated. We don’t need them to be secretly briefed and compromised under some local notion of “homeland security.”

Take a look at who’s putting up the money to bankroll the Columbus Citizens for Good Government–the usual group of unnatural citizens known as wealthy corporations. Ask yourself why the Limited Brand was the biggest reported donor of $10,000 for closed Council meetings, a company that has benefited by the destruction of the City Center mall and massive public welfare checks to help increase its riches.

Nationwide is on the Council’s side, coughing up $5000, no doubt to ensure its status as one of the recipients of tax breaks that allowed them to develop the area around its headquarters downtown while shafting the Columbus Public School district.

When the Dispatch reported the major donors to the Columbus Citizens for Good Government, the names missing were those of real citizens. Issue 12 is being pushed by those “legal fictions” we call corporations and the politicians they control as a wholly-owned subsidy–like Mike Mentel.

The only way they can get their closed meetings approved is to word their ballot language in such a way that convinces voters that voting “yes” would lead to open meetings. NBC4 asked six citizens what the wording meant for Issue 12. Three felt if you voted “yes” you kept Council meetings open. The other three couldn’t comprehend what the intentionally incomprehensible language meant.

The ballot language reads: “Shall Section 8 of the charter of the city of Columbus be amended to permit council or its committees to convene in the same manner as the general law of Ohio pertaining to open meetings of public bodies when discussing issues such as personnel matters, purchase of property, litigation, collective bargaining, and security matters, as recommended by the Charter Review Committee.”

“Yes,” however, means closed meetings. You have to vote “no” on Issue 12 to keep Council meetings open.

What the wording doesn’t tell us is that the City of Columbus has a higher standard of transparency than the minimum standard required under Ohio law. This is due mostly to the fact that many Ohio municipalities are weak mayoral systems where the City Council picks the Mayor or a Council member serves as Mayor. Under these types of charters, Council actually buys property, settle lawsuits, and negotiate with employees. This has nothing to do with how the City of Columbus conducts business.

Columbus’ long legacy of transparency is at stake on Election Day. Contrary to what the Dispatch and their corporate allies say, closed meetings will not provide the public “more information.” They will provide less, and it will be an embracing of big city backroom dealing that inevitably will lead to widespread corruption.

_________________

Bob Fitrakis is a former candidate for Columbus City Council and a Professor of Political Science at Columbus State Community College.

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Diebold Voting Machines In The News, City Council Secret Meetings

Fight Back August 12, 2010 Diebold, Recorded August 12, 2010
Dr. Robert Fitrakis PHD JD and Connie Gadell-Newton JD
Discuss:
Diebold voting machines in the news, Columbus City Council secret meetings.