Democracy won in Ohio (and it could be spreading).
Ohio voters overwhelmingly defeated a Republican effort to weaken the democratic ability of citizens to amend the state constitution and secure reproductive rights in the constitution. The Washington Post offers four takeaways about the election that are worth reading, and The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner sees it as a possible turning point. “The Republican grand strategy, quite apart from Trump’s efforts to become dictator, has been to push issues that are at odds with the views of most voters, and then prevail by destroying democracy. They have done this via voter suppression, extreme gerrymandering, rigging courts, having red-state governors countermand the preferences of citizens in blue cities, and by restricting reproductive rights. But that strategy may have just reached its limits.”
School kids won in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts became the eighth state to make public school meals free after Gov. Maura Healey approved a measure passed with bipartisan support in the state legislature. The Bay State joins California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Vermont in providing the free meals and extends the number of students receiving them to nine million nationally. “The movement among states to permanently allow access to free meals to any student grows out of pandemic-era waivers issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2020,” explains Education Week. “That allowed any student across the country—regardless of family-income level—to access free meals at school with the help of federal funds. But those funds expired in June 2022, leaving states to decide whether to carry on with open-access programs or return to their pre-pandemic policies.”
Public utility customers and workers won in Merrimac, Massachusetts.
A proposal by the board of the Merrimac Municipal Light Department put before the city’s Board of Selectmen to privatize the light department was beaten back by a small—quite small—AFSCME local. Local 939’s seven members swiftly organized a campaign that mobilized local union members and residents. The effort turned out more than 800 people for the meeting and the proposal to privatize the light department went down by a vote of seven in favor, 782 opposed.
People who use (and pay for) the sewer system won in East Whiteland Township, Pennsylvania.
A Pennsylvania state court has reversed a Public Utilities Commission decision to approve the sale of East Whiteland Township’s public sewer system to Aqua Pennsylvania. The court ruled that “the Commission erred and/or abused its discretion in concluding that Aqua established substantial affirmative public benefits that outweighed the acknowledged harms of Aqua’s acquisition of the System.”
Warehouse workers and New Yorkers won in New York.
A new law to protect worker safety in New York State, prompted by workplace injuries at Amazon warehouses in the state, took effect in June. The law “requires distribution centers to disclose work speed data to current and former employees to inform them about their job performance and rights in the workplace. The legislation also protects workers from disciplinary action or firing exclusively because of a failure to meet undisclosed speed quotes or quotas that do not allow for proper breaks. Workers are also protected from retaliation for making a complaint because they believe a quota violates their right to proper break time.”
Public employees and retirees won in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson approved a two percent sales tax ordinance to shore up its city worker pensions. Some of the revenue generated will also go toward public safety. The tax is expected to raise nearly $200 million in additional funds next year.
Lower income people awaiting trial won in Illinois.
The Illinois Supreme Court has cleared the way for the state to become the first in the nation to eliminate cash bail for criminal defendants awaiting trial.
Humans won in Carbondale City, Illinois
The Carbondale City Council adopted new ordinances on medical care and human rights.
“It is the policy of the City of Carbondale to assure that all persons within its jurisdiction shall have equal access to public services and shall be protected in the enjoyment of civil rights, and to promote mutual understanding and respect among all who live and work within this city,” the additional language states.
It further affirms that “prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, and the discrimination occasioned thereby, and sexual harassment, threaten the rights and proper privileges of the city’s inhabitants and menace the institutions and foundation of a free and democratic society,” and that “behavior which denies equal treatment to any individual because of that individual’s race, color, sex, gender identity or expression, age, religion, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, military status, source of income, credit history, or criminal record or criminal history undermines civil order and deprives persons of the benefits of a free and open society.”
Advocates of public banks—and cities needing financial services to fund small business and projects like low-income housing—won in Los Angeles.
Earlier this summer, the Los Angeles City Council took one more step toward creating a city-owned public bank by voting to fund a feasibility study. In October of 2021, Council voted to study the viability of forming a city-owned bank and to create a business plan for doing so. The city is now following through on that plan and is devoting $460,000 toward the study’s first phase.
How would a public bank work? Public Bank L.A.’s proposal for the Municipal Bank of Los Angeles (MBLA) states its bank “will be a non-profit financial institution owned by the city, established to serve and meet the needs of the local community. Unlike private banks, which operate for the benefit of shareholders and are profit-motivated, public banks are owned and controlled by local governments or municipalities. This means that they are accountable to the public and operate with the goal of serving the public interest rather than solely focusing on increasing profits for private shareholders.”
The idea is not new, as Kent State University Professor Mark Cassell has written.
Young Montana environmentalists—and the planet and everything and everybody in it—won in Montana.
In a victory for a group of young Montanans, a judge ruled that the state’s failure to consider climate change when approving fossil fuel projects was unconstitutional. The “Youth Plaintiffs’” complaint “challenged the constitutionality of fossil fuel-based provisions of Montana’s State Energy Policy Act…which forbids the State and its agents from considering the impacts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or climate change in their environmental reviews.” Advocates expect to see similar challenges in other states.
“As fires rage in the West, fueled by fossil fuel pollution, today’s ruling in Montana is a game-changer that marks a turning point in this generation’s efforts to save the planet from the devastating effects of human-caused climate chaos,” said Julia Olson, the founder of Our Children’s Trust, a legal nonprofit group that brought the case on behalf of the young people. “This is a huge win for Montana, for youth, for democracy, and for our climate. More rulings like this will certainly come.”