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Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 18 total)
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  • Joe Sommer
    Participant

    It’s great to see a local business doing such good work and being so socially responsible. We need more businesses like this. Congratulations to Mr. Eigel.

    in reply to: Columbus Fair Campaigns Code #554099

    Joe Sommer
    Participant

    It’s ridiculous that The Dispatch is describing the proposed campaign-finance reform for Columbus city elections as an effort “to reduce Democrats’ power in Columbus.” The effort should be described instead as a means of having local elections work in the way the Founders of the U.S. intended.

    In his 2007 book The Assault on Reason, Al Gore wrote: “Faith in the power of reason -the belief that free citizens can govern themselves wisely and fairly by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power – was and remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise is now under assault.”

    There is no way that the public can have “logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available” when incumbent officeholers – of whatever party – can raise huge amounts of campaign contributions, while their opponents can raise only a small fraction of that amount. The result is that the vast majority of citizens hear only the views of the incumbents, and little or nothing from the challengers. The elections are therefore decided not by the merits of the arguments made by the candidates but instead by the raw power to raise campaign donations.

    As Gore also states in his book, that situation is unfair, is inconsistent with the way America was intended to operate, and is leading to uninformed and poor decision-making regarding issues of governance. It’s a problem that all persons should be concerned about, regardless of political affiliation. And that’s a reason that at last year’s National Democratic Convention, the delegates voted to include support for campaingn-finance reform in the Party’s platform.

    in reply to: District elections for Columbus city council #545708

    Joe Sommer
    Participant

    I don’t know who has argued that district elections for Columbus city council would be a “cure-all” and a “panacea.” That claim seems to be a straw man that opponents of districts want to create and attack, instead of examining serious problems with the current at-large elections and the benefits that districts could bring.

    The article from San Francisco includes the following description of results of district elections there:

    “Far from giving San Francisco a splintered or parochial board, district elections have brought with them some of the most noteworthy citywide accomplishments in decades.

    “We provided universal access to health care for San Franciscans and established a living wage in one of the world’s most expensive cities. We created a rainy-day fund we use to support our struggling public school system. And we are taking care of our city’s aging infrastructure – from police and fire stations to our water and wastewater systems – through our 10-year capital plan. On issues that touch every corner of San Francisco, this district-elected Board of Supervisors has led the way.

    “But district elections’ greatest improvement isn’t any of those high-profile legislative accomplishments – it’s the increased access to government for ordinary San Franciscans.”

    In Columbus, though, the city council elected at-large thinks nothing of simply ignoring not only individual citizens but also a public-interest group such as Common Cause Ohio, in addition to requests posted on this message board,

    Columbus obviously needs a city council that offers ordinary citizens increased access to local government – instead of the deaf ear they currently receive from council. No one has explained why the increased access and other benefits that district elections have brought in San Francisco would not also occur here. And increased access to local government promotes public involvement with it.

    in reply to: District elections for Columbus city council #545706

    Joe Sommer
    Participant

    There has still been no response here from Columbus city officials or their associates about why the proven benefits of district representation, as shown by San Francisco’s experience, would not also result from adding district representation to Columbus city council.

    Such failures to address issues and discuss them rationally are further support for those who say Columbus’ all at-large election of city council members results in a council that is unresponsive to the public. The members feel free to ignore citizens, secure in the belief that their big-money backers will finance another massive propaganda campaign to guarantee their citywide reelection. Meanwhile, their opponents won’t be able to raise enough money to get their message in the mass media at all. This situation results in a council responsive to big money but not to citizens and neighborhoods.

    Council showed the same dismissive attitude even to Common Cause Ohio. More than a year ago, the public-interest group wrote to them seeking their position on arguments being made by those supporting district elections for council. But none of the members responded. That’s outrageous treatment of the public, but the council members seem shameless about it.

    Common Cause Ohio’s letter to city council is at http://www.columbuscoalition.info/Common_Cause_Letter0001.pdf

    in reply to: District elections for Columbus city council #545703

    Joe Sommer
    Participant

    My understanding is that at least some Columbus city officials and persons affiliated with them read this message board. So if they believe that the benefits of district elections in San Francisco would not also occur in Columbus, I was hoping they would explain why they feel that way.

    The Dispatch reported last year that James Mitchell Jr., a district councilperson in Charlotte, NC, said a mix of at-large and district representation on city council makes sense for his city of 713,000.

    Mitchell added, “On our council the district reps are much more connected to the citizens. Anyone who says having district reps in a large city is not better for the community, well, they just don’t want to give up their power.”

    Is that what’s going on with Columbus city officials? Do they refuse to even discuss whether to add district representation to city council, because they just don’t want to give up their power, despite the good that districts could do for the public and the city?

    If Columbus city officials continue refusing to rationally address the subject, we can conclude that the answer to those questions is yes.

    in reply to: Democracy in Columbus #543040

    Joe Sommer
    Participant

    James Ragland said:
    “So, how did you follow back up with them? If I am reading correctly, you asked for their ‘position’ on the issue of restoring public access TV. In my opinion, they’ve given their position to you with this statement:

    ‘At this time Council will not be amending the City budget to provide for Public Access TV. However, through Council President Ginther’s office, Council is working to research best practices in comparable cities across the U.S. in order to understand the feasibility of funding such an initiative here in Columbus.’

    That’s the position. . . .”

    The following is what I wrote to all seven Columbus city council members on Feb. 26. There has been no response, which I’ve found is typical from them.

    City Council Members:

    It’s been over two weeks since I sent the following request, to each Council Member, for a clarification of their current position on the issue of public access TV. I have not received any response.

    My main interest is in knowing the reasons why “Council is working to research best practices in comparable cities across the U.S. in order to understand the feasibility of funding such an initiative [i.e., public access TV] here in Columbus.”

    Does this mean Council agrees that pubic access TV should be restored in Columbus, and that the remaining issue involves choosing the most economically feasible method of doing so? That position would be consistent with current city law. According to the Columbus Code’s Section 595.01(E)(4) of Title 5, the city’s policy regarding cable communications systems includes the “promotion of increased public . . . access and programming, in terms of quality and amount.”

    If that is not Council’s current position, however, then what exactly are the reasons for the research? I would also appreciate knowing what the research will involve, when Council expects it to be completed, and what, if any, objections have been raised against public access TV.

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote that reasons are not difficult to give when reasons exist. So I hope I will receive responses to these inquires in the very near future.

    Joe Sommer
    Columbus

    in reply to: Democracy in Columbus #543037

    Joe Sommer
    Participant

    In the recent primary election for Columbus city council, the extremely uneven playing field showed the need for campaign finance reform concerning the city’s elections.

    The three council members used the powers of incumbency to raise plenty of money for commercials on TV and radio, in addition to literature drops at voters’ residences. Plus, they frequently appear on the city government’s TV channel, which is free of charge to them but funded by the taxpayers. These resources allow them to blanket the city with their one-sided message.

    On the other hand, the four challengers didn’t have enough money for commercials on TV or radio, and could not appear on the government TV channel. And unlike many other cities, Columbus no longer offers public access TV, where citizens can express political ideas in the mass media regardless of their financial resources. All this meant that very few in Columbus heard and considered the views of the challengers.

    Democracy can’t work if voters hear only one side of political debates. Moreover, there is the danger that those funding that side will have inordinate influence over government, at the expense of the public interest. For these reasons, the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would allow voters to approve campaign finance reform for city council and mayoral elections.

    Under the Coalition’s proposal, candidates could voluntarily agree to limits on the amount of campaign funds they can raise and spend. In exchange, they would receive public funding and the right to appear for free on the government TV channel, on a restored public access TV channel, and at televised debates. The result would be more public discussion of issues and less private control over whose voices can be heard.

    After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which allowed unlimited independent expenditures on political campaigns, many on all sides of the political spectrum have recognized that special-interest money is corrupting the political process. Columbus voters can act locally on this problem by supporting the Coalition’s proposed campaign finance reform, which is described in more detail at http://www.columbuscoalition.info.

    in reply to: Democracy in Columbus #543035

    Joe Sommer
    Participant

    James Ragland said:
    “What I am feeling is that people are asking for wards due to their frustration with the current members of council . . .

    “I have always gotten my questions/concerns answered. Now, I do know them personally, and that helps, but believe me I am considered a black sheep on multiple levels. I have also ghost written some letters from residents that have indeed been responded to have had action taken on. It’s all about approach.”

    Maybe you could help get someone on city council to answer a question I twice posed to them months ago.

    On the Facebook page for the Columbus Residents for Public Access Television in 2013, I saw that in January of this year, Jeanette Hawkins in Councilman Miller’s Office responded to another Columbus resident about the issue of public access TV.

    She wrote in part: “At this time Council will not be amending the City budget to provide for Public Access t.v. However, through Council President Ginther’s office, Council is working to research best practices in comparable cities across the U.S. in order to understand the feasibility of funding such an initiative here in Columbus.”

    In view of that response, on Feb. 6 and 27 I emailed each of the city council members to request their current position on the issue of restoring public access TV in Columbus. I also asked for more information about the research that Ms. Hawkins referred to. None of them have responded.

    To me, that’s an example of how unresponsive they are to members of the public. They have no problem behaving in a completely arrogant and shameful manner, secure in the belief that their big-money supporters will again bankroll their campaigns for a media blitz of pro-incumbent and pro-status quo propaganda.

    I can’t believe that a council member representing a district of the city would treat citizens of the district so shabbily. He or she would know that individuals could much more easily stir up serious political opposition in a district than they ever could citywide.

    in reply to: Democracy in Columbus #543028

    Joe Sommer
    Participant

    gramarye said:
    The Dispatch does not exist to give every armchair pundit or pedantic part-time professional agitator a media megaphone with which to embarrass themselves. You’re not the only one on the Internet with strong political opinions that you wish would be heard by a larger audience, you know. Most of us understand that that doesn’t give us a right to demand material support from others who may or may not share those opinions.

    There’s something called the American Principle of Freedom of Speech that appears to be being downplayed here, as it often is in Columbus.

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. stated: “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market. . . . That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution.” And Judge Learned Hand said the Constitution “presupposes that right conclusions are more likely to be gathered out of a multitude of tongues, than through any kind of authoritative selection.”

    Because that was the philosophy of the Founders in writing the Constitution, the Dispatch has an ethical and patriotic duty to strive to give voice to a multitude of tongues and provide a marketplace of ideas. To use its massive media power to spread propaganda and impose an authoritative selection of views is totally inconsistent with the public purpose the media is supposed to fulfill. That approach prevents truth from emerging rather than promoting right conclusions. It is a perversion of the power and privileges that the Constitution grants to the media.

    The Columbus city government has just as much – if not more – of an obligation to promote the marketplace of ideas that the Founders intended. Millions of Americans have fought and died so that such a marketplace could exist under the banner of Freedom of Speech.

    But instead of performing that obligation, Columbus city officials close the public access TV station to keep the public’s voice out of the local mass media. And they use taxpayers’ dollars to fund the city’s own TV station for their own self-promotion and political advancement. (Talk about demanding “material support from others who may or may not share those opinions.”) Moreover, they remained silent as the Dispatch bought up virtually every print publication in the county. In fact, as someone else pointed out, they apparently enabled the purchase by promising the Dispatch millions in public bailout money shortly before it happened.

    Also in regard to the Dispatch’s near monopolistic control over the local mass media, history shows that no private or governmental organization can be trusted to wield such power solely in the public interest. Sooner or later, it will use the power to promote its own self-interest at the expense of the public. Of course, the Dispatch is already skillfully and enthusiastically doing that.

    John Adams said: “The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.” That’s a further reason we need diversity of ownership and control in the local mass media, rather than trusting the Dispatch to tell the public everything they need to know about local issues.

    in reply to: Democracy in Columbus #543014

    Joe Sommer
    Participant

    gramarye said:
    There’s nothing stopping you from starting your own local radical anti-capitalist media outlet, other than the fact that the public may be substantially less interested in reading it than you dream they are. Media monopolization? The last few years have seen such an explosive proliferation of information sources that the consolidation among the dinosaur media properties is a self-defense measure more than a power grab. And its effectiveness even as a self-defense measure is questionable. The mainstream media are the weakest they’ve been in generations. You cannot scapegoat them for the failure of your own fringe ideas to attract a wider audience.

    Nothing stopping people from doing that? Most people in today’s economy are so busy trying to make a living that they don’t have time or money to, in their limited free time, build a media company that reaches hundreds of thousands or millions of people.

    Despite the increasing number of information sources in recent years, most people in central Ohio still obtain their information about local matters from the mass media consisting of TV, radio, and the Dispatch. All those media reach hundreds of thousands of central Ohioans. But a YouTube video or Facebook page about a local matter is likely to reach maybe a few hundred viewers, if that.

    One way to add diveristy of political views to the local mass media would be to institute public access TV, as hundreds of other cities have. But it’s the powers-that-be in Columbus who oppose that action. If they believed that their positions could be defended and prevail in an open marketplace of ideas, they would not be afraid of the competition.

    But they are. And they do everything they can to make sure alternative views are not heard in the local mass media that actually influences local elections. Plus, they use corporate campaign donations to pay for political ads on TV and radio, use taxpayers’ money to spread their propaganda on the government TV channel, and suck up to the Dispatch by giving millions of public dollars to the The Dispatch Printing Company on the arena deal. These actions create an extremely uneven playing field to rig the local political process and the outcomes.

    By the way, I haven’t heard anyone criticize capitalism. The city government bestowing $239 million of public funds on wealthy local corporations is not capitalism. That’s corporate welfare and crony capitalism, which many proponents of capitalism abhor.

    in reply to: Democracy in Columbus #543008

    Joe Sommer
    Participant

    James Ragland
    So after hearing multiple sides on the ward issue (it still scares me-I hate Cleveland as it is currently)

    In regard to the recurring mention of Cleveland concerning wards, I think James Mitchell Jr., a district councilman in Charlotte, North Carolina, answered that well when he spoke with The Dispatch last year.

    According to the article: “Mitchell . . . said those who point to vote-trading on Cleveland or Chicago’s all-ward councils as evidence against districts are using the most extreme examples.

    “’Why don’t they ever mention Charlotte, or Washington, D.C., or San Diego, or the many more that are thriving?’” he said.

    Charlotte, a city of 713,000, has a mix of at-large and district representation. Mitchell said this structure makes sense and works for the city.

    “On our council the district reps are much more connected to the citizens,” he said. “Anyone who says having district reps in a large city is not better for the community, well, they just don’t want to give up their power.”

    in reply to: Democracy in Columbus #543001

    Joe Sommer
    Participant

    Walker said:
    Mass media has never been about being a “marketplace of ideas”.

    Why shouldn’t the local mass media be a marketplace of ideas? That’s what the Founders of the U.S. intended the mass media of their day to be. And that’s what the U.S. Supreme Court says produces the discovery of truth. The alternative is that the media will simply be a tool of the ruling party, as it is in China and Russia. And now, tragically, Columbus.

    At least sometimes in the past, the FCC has supported the position that the mass media should be a marketplace of ideas. As UCLA professor Douglas Kellner writes: “When cable television began to be widely introduced in the early 1970s, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated . . . that ‘ . . . cable systems . . . in the 100 largest television markets be required to provide channels for . . . public access.'”

    Kellner also writes: “The rationale for public access television was that . . . the airwaves belong to the people, that in a democratic society it is useful to multiply public participation in political discussion, and that mainstream television severely limited the range of views and opinion. Public access television, then, would open television to the public, it would make possible community participation, and thus would be in the public interest of strengthening democracy.”

    Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who heads Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative, still sees it that way.

    In Columbus, community participation has been shut out of the governing process. One way that has been done is to ban the public’s voice from TV, and allow that medium to carry only the views of the corporate-backed interests, including the corporate-backed local government. A la China and Russia.

    Jefferson and Madison would be appalled.

    in reply to: Democracy in Columbus #542977

    Joe Sommer
    Participant

    Walter Cronkite said: “A democracy ceases to be a democracy if its citizens do not participate in its governance. To participate intelligently, they must know what their government has done, is doing, and plans to do in their name. Whenever any hindrance, no matter what its name, is placed in the way of this information, a democracy is weakened, and its future endangered.”

    In Columbus now, we have just 3.11% of registered voters deciding who will be the candidates for city council. And for that small percentage who vote, most of them have only the information that the monopolistic Dispatch Media Group decides they will have, and what the big-money interests want them to see in political ads. Those messages are supplemented by the propaganda on the city government’s TV channel. Any opposition voices are virtually shut out of the process. There’s not even a public access TV station, which hundreds of other American cities have.

    The result is that there is no open marketplace of ideas in the local mass media. Instead, the messages are all sponsored and approved by the powers-that-be. This situation gets the incumbents reelected and continues the status quo. But it’s not democracy.

    in reply to: Democracy in Columbus #542974

    Joe Sommer
    Participant

    Trying to work with the other side is fine. But Coleman, an alleged Democrat, publicly proclaims that two pro-corporate Republicans are part of his “dream team” of Congressional representatives for Columbus. Coming from a longtime Democratic family, I know that real Democrats don’t talk that way. And as for the alleged Democrats on Columbus city council, they have so turned their backs on the “Party of the People” that it’s pathetic. They’re like corporate Democrats on steroids.

    in reply to: Democracy in Columbus #542971

    Joe Sommer
    Participant

    I saw in Joe Hallett’s column in today’s Dispatch that Mayor Coleman loves working with Columbus’ two Republican members of Congress, Steve Stivers and Pat Tiberi. He said of them (and Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty): “I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with. Each of them, in their own right, has leverage and power and ability. It’s kind of like a dream team for me.” If Coleman is a true Democrat, how could his Dream Team of Congressional Representatives for Columbus include two pro-corporate Republicans? Something is wrong with this picture. I don’t think Coleman or the members of Columbus city council are true Democrats.

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