Council establishes 'Democracy Day'

By TODD HELBERG @cntoddhelberg Published:

A special day to consider the impact of money on political speech has been officially established in Defiance.

Defiance City Council not only passed an ordinance to that effect, but also approved four other legislative items, including an ordinance concerning its long-term sewer control plan. Earlier, council congratulated two city employees for workplace accomplishments (see related story below.)

An amended ordinance establishing a "Democracy Day" on the second Thursday of February in each odd-numbered year was the first legislative item approved Tuesday by council.

On that day, the city will hold a public forum to discuss "the impact of money on the democratic process." A ballot issue approved by city voters in November required council to hold the forum, and was put on the ballot via an initiative petition brought forward by the Occupy Defiance Group.

The measure is related to a nationwide group's effort to amend the U.S. Constitution "to establish that corporations are not people and money is not speech."

Originally, the ordinance had stated that "Democracy Day" would be held on the first Wednesday of February in each odd-numbered year. But it was amended two weeks ago to change the date to the first Thursday.

Dolores Whitman -- a Washington Township resident who assisted the Occupy Defiance Group in getting the issue on the ballot -- offered her assistance Tuesday night to the city in setting up "Democracy Day."

Also Tuesday, council approved an emergency ordinance amending a consent order concerning its long-term sewer control plan with Ohio EPA.

The plan was adopted by council years ago, and committed the city to spending millions of dollars to remove combined sewer overflows over a 20-year period. However, OEPA has determined that the program is unaffordable for the city, and has given officials a moratorium on projects while less expensive ways are studied to comply with state mandates.

Tuesday's ordinance reflects the revised schedule.

Law director David Williams praised the OEPA for its cooperation. He described OEPA as "the only ally we had that the (federal EPA) was willing to pay attention to" in the discussion about long-term mandates.

The consent order was originally issued in Defiance County Common Pleas Court.

The ordinance contains an emergency clause, meaning it becomes law upon the mayor's signature rather than after the regular 30-day waiting period.

In other legislative business, council:

• approved an emergency resolution stating the municipal services to be extended to property proposed for annexation on lots 63-64 in the Saunders-Snyder Addition in section 30 of Richland Township.

• passed an emergency resolution stating municipal services to be provided on property proposed for annexation on part of lot 2 in Degler's Second Addition in section 30 of Richland Township. This and the above annexation must be approved by county commissioners before coming back to council for final approval.

• approved an ordinance allowing the issuance and sale of $3,139,000 in notes for past sewer work. Lehner indicated that one-year notes have been issued for this work in past years due to attractive interest rates. The original principal was $5,224,000.

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