Residents use “Democracy Day” to address concerns with Kavanaugh, corporate wealth

Kent City Council gathered Wednesday for “Democracy Day,” an event designated to hear public concerns regarding financial political contributions by corporations.

The session was seasoned with criticism of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Bill Wilen, a member of Cuyahoga Falls’ chapter of Indivisible, states their goal is to, “resist practically everything related to the Trump agenda.”

Wilen set the tone of the hearing, saying corporations are not people with a constitutional right to free speech and money is not equivalent to speech.

“That’s why we are here tonight, because democracy encourages us, we the people, to be active in causes that make democracy stronger,” Wilen said. “The dark money of corporations in politics corrodes democracy.”

Democracy Day was established three years ago, after Wilen petitioned the council to establish it. Wilen said, after pushback concerning the signature requirements for the petition from city council, a case was brought to the Ohio Supreme Court, which found the petition was valid.

The goal of the event is for residents to pass their concerns along to City Council, who will then pass those concerns along to appropriate members of Congress and the federal government.

Wilen came up with the idea after a vacation to Mexico, where he got involved with the Center for Global Justice. They directed him to Indivisible, who helped him create his petition and pitch for Democracy Day.

In its third year, with five speakers, the yearly event is seeing a slowdown in participation.

“We’ve had better turnouts before,” Wilen said. “Maybe 20-25 the first year, and about 15-20 last year. This is the smallest crowd we’ve had.”

Still, the residents in attendance made their voices heard.

Lee Brooker began his statement by stating the confirmation of Kavanaugh would not just make the court more conservative, but more corporatist.

“[Kavanaugh] will put corporate interests ahead of the common good,” Brooker said.

Brooker said Kavanaugh’s judicial record proves this, voting “15 times against workers rights, two times for workers’ rights.”

Debbie Silverstein raised concerns about the state of the healthcare system and the role insurance and pharmaceutical companies play in healthcare legislation.

“We have a healthcare system designed to make enormous profits for insurance companies and drug companies,” Silverstein said. “Disease prevention is not very high on their list.

She said recent polls, including one conducted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, suggests residents are becoming more open to the idea of a single-payer healthcare system.

“A single-payer system would change the current healthcare system by using taxes to expand Medicare coverage to all Americans,” Silverstein said. “Allowing anyone to access care whenever they need it.”

Karl Liski used his five minutes to discuss wealth inequality.

“The most wealthy nation has a huge problem with the concentration of wealth in a relatively small number of families, which corrupts our government,” Liski said.

Liski believes both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of allowing corporations to influence public policy.

“We are a very, very corrupt country,” Liski said.

Karl Martin, a 37-year Kent resident, also raised concerns about wealth inequality.

“Capitalism and democracy are not the same thing and don’t coexist very well,” Martin said. “Democracy is the best way to achieve our ideals, but it’s not individual. It’s collaborative.”

After the five residents finished their prepared remarks, Mayor and City Council President Jerry Fiala took a moment to address those in attendance.

“With no more said, the council will take all your concerns, put them in writing and once again will send them to the people that we need to,” Fiala said. “This is our third one and I do not remember getting a response back from anyone in the last two years, so it does not hurt you to also write a letter from your own personal desk.”