Cuyahoga Dems: Yes on Issues 1, 3, 4, 5. No on 2, 6

The executive commitee of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party met this morning at Euclid High School to hear from proponents/opponents of state issues 1-3 and county issue 4-6.

While 1 (to float bonds to pay a bonus to Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans) and 4 (the Tri-C levy) had no one speaking up against them, the other four issues proved either somewhat or very contentious.

Consultant Alan Melamed spoke in favour of Issue 2, a constitutional amendment to create a super-board to oversee livestock and poultry farming. I don't really understand this one well yet — livestock is not my thing — but I'm suspicious of any tampering with the constitution. One supporter claimed the opposition was driven by PETA to force us all to be vegans, while an opponent said it was an attempt by big agribusiness to control our food supply. Although the former seems far-fetched, the latter doesn't, and I'm going to need to do more research.

Issue 3 is the casino issue, which I oppose, and which I spoke in opposition to — in part because it is a constitutional amendment written by the prospective casino operators that is a business contract favoring them and giving the state unfavorable terms, compared to other states with gambling. I'm also disturbed that a casino is being promoted as an economic panacea, when it will create mainly minimum-wage jobs and those most likely from the ranks of people who become unemployed because of the casino — since casinos kill other leisure-related businesses (restaurants, nightclubs, bars etc) unless more discretionary dollars — not more attractions — are added to the market.

Proponents, of course, talked about keeping the gambling dollars in Ohio and the economic growth it would provide — and they carried the day. My sense is that, in desperation, sadly people are too willing to embrace even a chimera.

The Tri-C levy endorsement passed with few opposing — in this economy, it's tough to oppose low-cost accessible education, and the property tax increase is tiny.

Then the fun and games started. County Prosecutor Bill Mason spoke up against Issue 5, which would create a charter commission to hold public meetings and place a charter reform on the ballot for November 2010. Mason, of course, was one of the few Democrats to be part of the behind-closed-doors group that came up with Issue 6 — the new charter they want voters to rubber-stamp that creates a single-ultra powerful executive (almost certainly controlled by the wealthy business elite) to make virtually every decision.

His case revolved around more of that desperation appeal: the county is in trouble and we need to do something, anything, NOW, without delay. He said, we can't afford an extra year before blowing up a system of government we've had for over a century and throwing in its place something new and entirely untested. To that point, I would have said, well, we just disgree. But later, when he claimed that 99.9% of the closed-doors group that came up with the plan were Democrats, I was disappointed in him. That's just untrue. A majority of the people who were actually hands-on in developing the plan (not those brought in later as window-dressing) are almsot certainly Republicans. If not, their interests are more with big business than the county's regular working people. In addition, he tried to claim that economically vibrant communities have this form of government. That's untrue; virtually no county does. Even counties that have a county executive form of government generally have a very different one — one that's more balanced and with less power concentrated in a single person's hands.

However, people didn't buy it, despite the fact that a couple of people I actually respect a lot, State Senators Nina Turner and Dale Miller, spoke up in favour of Issue 6.

On the other side, people like county commissioner Peter Lawson Jones and congresswoman Marcia Fudge spoke in favour of Issue 5 and against 6. Cong. Fudge put it best when she said, "Systems aren't corrupt; people are corropt," aimed at those dishonestly exploiting the corruption investigations of certain county officials to confuse people into voting for a complete costly and disruptive upheaval of our governmental system to put in place a system no less likely to be corrupt — but in which the corruption would be much more difficult to root out.

It wasn't much of a mystery that county Democrats would vote in favor of the open process of Issue 5 and against the Republican-endorsed Issue 6.

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