Two Oxford council members, including the vice mayor, took a stand against corporate constitutional rights this week, passing a resolution supporting “a truly representative democracy.”
Vice Mayor Kate Rousmaniere and Councilman Steve Snyder sponsored the resolution, with support from Steve Nelson, a visiting assistant sociology professor at Miami University. This makes Oxford the first Butler County community to pass legislation speaking against the 2011 U.S. Supreme Court Decision commonly known as “Citizens United.”
The resolution calls for a constitutional amendment “that says that corporations are not people and that money isn’t speech, something we find fairly obvious,” Nelson said.
Such an amendment is designed to “repair a broken democracy. Money has always been in politics, but today it seems like it owns politics. Our national and our state governments operate largely on a pay-for-play system. The more money you have, the more government gets you what you want,” Nelson said.
The result is that many people feel “alienated, apathetic and cynical” about government, Nelson said. “It doesn’t have to be this way, and it shouldn’t be this way in the world’s greatest democracy.”
Nelson cited polls saying that 88 percent of small business owners oppose Citizens United. The National Conference of Mayors passed a resolution in 2012, with the hope that communities across the country would follow suit. The nearest community to Butler County that has done so is Dayton, which passed such a measure earlier this year. Other Ohio communities include Akron, Athens, Oberlin, Barberton, Fremont, Lakewood, South Euclid and Canton.
Matt Ziegman, a Miami University student, wondered that if voting is important, why young people never seem to do it. When he was registering voters, one student said she would vote but that her vote wouldn’t make a difference “because elections are no longer a way for people to democratically and fairly choose a leader, because the political process has been bought out or taken captive by big business.”
Snyder acknowledged the resolution was unusual but said, “I feel strongly about this … this is at the root of what happens in a democracy.”
Council unanimously passed the resolution.