Ohio Citizen Action celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2010, holding awards ceremonies in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. The events brought together old and new friends of the organization, and honored the following individuals:
Columbus, Saturday, October 16
Rubén Castilla Herrera – Community Organizer Award
Joan Lawrence – Gerrymander Warrior Award
Chuck Nelson – Enduring Courage Award
Larry Gibson – Enduring Courage Award
Cleveland, Saturday, October 23
Ed Icove, – Constitutional Guardian Award
Mark Leddy – Distinguished Alumni Award
Donna Levandowski – Grassroots Champion Award
Becca Riker – Grassroots Champion Award
Akanni Thomas – Emerging Leader Award
Cincinnati, Saturday, December 4
Caroline Beidler – Howard M. Metzenbaum Award
Carl and Marjorie Evert – Lifetime Achievement Award
Gerry and Marvin Kraus – Lifetime Achievement Award
Dan Korman – Grassroots Champion Award
Michelle Dillingham – Emerging Leader Award
Sarah Saheb – Emerging Leader Award
Willis “Bing” Davis – Environmental Harmony Through Art Award
1) Environmental campaigns
Ohio Citizen Action and Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund were involved in several campaigns aimed at moving Ohio and the nation away from its dependence on coal as a source of energy.
End mountaintop removal coal mining: In April 2010, the Obama administration announced a major shift in federal policy to prevent new permits for mountaintop removal coal mining. This announcement came after years of organizing by groups from Appalachia. Ohio Citizen Action has been actively involved in the campaign since 2008, raising the issue repeatedly during the Presidential election campaign, recruiting co-sponsors for the federal Clean Water Protection Act, meeting with federal officials, and organizing trips to mountaintop removal sites.
We exposed the potential environmental hazards and financial flaws in Baard Energy’s proposal to build a “coal-to-liquids” plant on the Ohio River. Five thousand members of Ohio Citizen Action urged the state’s political leaders not to provide taxpayer subsidies for the plant, and our website became a key source of information for the many failed financial deals surrounding this proposal.
Regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste: We worked with allies around the country to support a federal EPA proposal to regulate coal ash, a by-product of coal-fired power plants. We produced a video highlighting Ohio’s coal-ash ponds, provided testimony at federal hearings, and organized residents in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky to urge the U.S. EPA to enact the strongest possible regulations.
Expose pollution at “grandfathered” coal plants: We worked with the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Council to support a study of the cost of the massive fish kills at the BayShore power plant near Toledo, and to expose the ongoing air pollution hazards of Ohio’s “grandfathered” coal plants. We laid the groundwork for efforts to force these plants either to invest in proper pollution prevention equipment or be retired from the market.
Ohio Citizen Action and Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund launched three new good neighbor campaigns in 2010, aimed at preventing pollution and improving the relationships between these plants and their neighbors.
Rumpke landfill: We joined with POWER (Property Owners Want Equal Rights) to oppose the expansion of the giant Rumpke landfill near Cincinnati. We researched “zero waste” programs around the country and presented a new vision for Cincinnati’s future in a report called “The Future is Now,” where we showed how increased recycling and waste reduction could replace the need for expanding the landfill. Seven thousand members of Ohio Citizen Action wrote letters, sent children’s drawings, and signed petitions to the Rumpke family.
Kokosing and Shelly Asphalt: We worked with neighbors of the Kokosing and Shelly asphalt plants in the Cleveland area to urge the companies to control odors, hazardous emissions, noises, lights and other disturbances. Ohio Citizen Action members sent 7,325 personal letters and petitions to company management, and two hundred residents put up orange and black yard signs saying “Kokosing Asphalt: Clean it Up. ” Kokosing made some improvements to control lights, noises, and truck traffic, and the campaign is now focused on reducing air pollution.
Heartland Petroleum: We worked with Columbus area employees and residents to urge Heartland Petroleum, a new refinery for used motor oil, to invest in pollution prevention, control odors and releases of harmful chemicals which were making neighbors sick. By the end of the year, 4,369 members wrote letters to the company owner and Ohio Citizen Action brought in technical experts to tour the facility. Wal-Mart, a major purchaser of Heartland’s recycled oil, weighed in and its oil distributor took majority ownership of the company to improve health and safety.
U.S. Census: Ohio Citizen Action, the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) and the Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network combined resources to You Can Count on Me Ohio Complete Count Committee in 2010 Federal resources and reapportionment are dependent upon as complete a count as possible. We also served on the Governor Strickland’s Complete Count Committee and subcommittees devoted to outreach to the media.
Redistricting reform: The Money in Politics Project advocated for redistricting reform, helping to spur passage of a measure in the Ohio House in May 2010, based on the 2009 Ohio Redistricting Competition co-sponsored by Ohio Citizen Action. When the House and Senate, which had passed a redistricting resolution in 2009, adjourned in June without convening a conference committee to address the issue, Ohio Citizen Action, ProgressOhio, Common Cause/Ohio and COHHIO launched the creative Baby Come Back Campaign urging the legislators to get back to work. Unfortunately, the General Assembly ignored the issue and let the deadline for enacting redistricting reform pass.
Ongoing media presence: The Money in Politics project continued to serve as a key source of information on governmental corruption and ethics issues for media around the state, including the Cuyahoga County political scandals and subsequent reform efforts.
Defending the First Amendment
When the mayor of Maple Heights ordered a city employee to remove yard signs that were part of our Kokosing good neighbor campaign, we filed a First Amendment lawsuit, along with Maple Heights resident Carl Gaglione. The suit also sought back-payments for sick leave which Gaglione, a leader of the neighbors working to clean up pollution from the plant, said he had been denied as a city employee. The lawsuit was settled in January 2011, preserving our rights to put up yard signs in Maple Heights and providing a financial settlement.
Judge Walter Rice ruled in February on our First Amendment lawsuit against Englewood, Ohio, which had set a canvassing curfew at 6 p.m. and had implemented onerous registration requirements. We filed the original suit in 2005. While Judge Rice struck down some of the registration requirements, he upheld the 6 p.m. curfew – something no other court has done. We filed an appeal of Judge Rice’s ruling in the 6th District Court of Appeals, and are currently awaiting scheduling for a hearing, likely to take place in late spring 2011.
*Larry Hansen, the Vice President of the Joyce Foundation in Chicago, died in November. Larry’s insightful and keen understanding of the need for reform in money in politics, along with his wonderful sense of humor and warm personality, made him a joy to work with over the years. The Joyce Foundation’s support has been the backbone of Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund’s Money in Politics program since 1994.
* Judy Bonds, leader of the campaign against mountaintop removal coal mining, died in early January 2011. Judy was a visionary community organizer, brilliant strategist, and passionate advocate for the mountains and the people who live there.