Canton Ohio City Hall Digital art

Art by BZTAT

The efforts by the Trump Administration and the Republican Congress to destroy policy advances made in recent years is alarming. Whether it is protecting the environment or workers’ rights, they are intent on wrecking progress on all levels to the detriment of the country.

In an era where the executive and legislative branches of government are failing the American people, other elements of government have been called upon to stand up.

In order to protect initiatives already in progress to address climate change, criminal justice reform, immigration, minimum wage increases, etc., cities like New York City, Seattle and Los Angeles are leading the charge of resistance.

Larger cities have the influence and resources to challenge the federal government on specific issues in demonstrable ways. Smaller cities may have less influence and resources, however, by banding together, they too can have a powerful voice in representing their constituents on a national stage. All cities have the opportunity to become “nodes of resistance” to the Trump agenda.

Urban centers across the country tend to have Democratic mayors, and often, their city councils tend to have high Democratic representation. This can offer a great arena for progressive action. According to social scientist Benjamin Barber of Fordham University, “Cities are going to become the most important, constructive alternative to a Trump agenda. Over the last 10 years we have already seen a powerful emergence of cities as primary spaces for progressive and majority action, for the protection of diversity, for dealing with immigration to the US, higher minimum wage, gender relations and so on.”

Smaller cities may have less opportunity to pass legislation that directly impacts major progressive action. They can, however, make powerful statements on behalf of their citizens.

In Canton, OH, we have an Independent mayor and all Democratic City Council. After seeing news reports that Cleveland City Council had passed a resolution against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), our Ohio District 7 Indivisible Team approached City Council Member John Mariol. We asked him if council would consider going on record to oppose the Republican effort to repeal ACA as Cleveland had done. He felt that they would enthusiastically embrace the idea, and he went to work on drafting an informal resolution to present to the rest of the council.

Rep. Bob Gibbs celebrating with Trump after taking healthcare away from millions

Rep. Bob Gibbs celebrating with Trump

When congress failed to put the repeal effort to a vote in March, we put our resolution on the back burner. We quickly put it on the fast track again, however, when the House of Representatives passed the draconian American Health Care Act (AHCA) on May 4, 2017, which would put affordable healthcare out of reach for millions of Americans. We were mortified that our own Representative Bob Gibbs not only voted for the AHCA, he was among the heartless legislators who celebrated with Donald Trump in the Rose Garden after passing legislation that harms many of his own constituents.

We had to act, and we had to act fast.

Mr. Mariol quickly placed the resolution on the council’s agenda. We organized a rally across from City Hall on May 8, 2017. After the rally, we proceeded to the council meeting. We had group members speak during “Public Speaks” on behalf of the Affordable Care Act and the council’s resolution. Council President Allen Schulman and other members voiced strong support and commended our efforts for resisting the ACA repeal.

Due to procedural limitations, the resolution did not come up for a vote until the following week. Members of our group again spoke in favor of the resolution during the “Public Speaks” at the next meeting. The resolution was passed with unanimous support on May 15, 2017.

We were grateful that Mr. Mariol took on the effort to draft the resolution and shepherd it through to passage. We were grateful that the entire council found the measure to be important, and that they valued our efforts. Our city took a stand and showed that they cared for the health of the people in their city, and that is important.

The resolution is not binding and it causes no specific legislative action. It is an important symbol, though, and it will be sent to the Governor’s Office and the offices of our members of Congress. We also received coverage in the Canton Repository on both May 8 and May 15.

So far, we know of 2 cities who have passed resolutions to oppose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Since our resolution was passed, we have been contacted by other resistance groups who are appealing to their city councils to follow suit. One action has begun a movement. We are planning a statewide effort to get cities across the state to stand up for healthcare.

How will this matter?

Ohio Senator Rob Portman is one of the more moderate Republicans who has voiced ambivalence about the Senate’s repeal of the ACA. When he receives copies of resolutions from across the state opposing that repeal, IT WILL MATTER, as it will be a clear message about constituent sentimentThe resolutions will also be strong reminders in 2018 and 2020 elections of how representatives across the state voted against their constituents’ interests and celebrated that fact in the Rose Garden.

We have started a statewide effort in Ohio to get city councils to stand up for healthcare in Ohio. We would love for it to go nationwide. If you are interested, here are some tips and resources to help you get started:

  1. Find a council member or a group of members who will help you get the resolution drafted and be willing to garner support on council.
  2. All city councils have a “Public Speaks” portion to regular meetings. Identify city residents who can speak compellingly about healthcare with personal stories and/or specific knowledge about how healthcare affects people in the city. Have them speak when the resolution is on the agenda. 4-6 speakers are optimal. (You don’t want too many, as that makes the meeting go long and that annoys council members). Most councils limit speaking time to 3-5 minutes so have speakers practice their timing in advance.
  3. Gather a group of supporters to attend the meeting to show support. Their presence speaks volumes, even if they do not speak in the meeting.
  4. Hold a rally before the meeting and march to the meeting together. (Keep in mind that signs may be prohibited in the meeting.)
  5. Have a press strategy to maximize coverage. Local media tend to cover city council meetings so it is a good place to get press for your resistance activities. Send out media releases and contact reporters on Twitter to notify them of your plans. At the meeting, make contact with reporters and have speakers and organizers prepared for interviews.
  6. Here are public comments from both council meetings taken from online minutes to give your speakers ideas: Canton Public Speaks Remarks for Healthcare Resolution.
  7. Press we received:  Canton Repository 5/8/17; Canton Repository 5/8/17.
  8. Feel free to use the Canton resolution as a template for your city’s document: Canton City Council Resolution #26-2017 Opposing Repeal of ACA.
  9. The Cleveland Resolution can be used as a template as well: Cleveland City Council Resolution No. 173-17 Opposing Repeal of ACA. 
  10. View the Video of our rally here. Please view other videos on our Facebook page including the council public speaks and other activities.
  11. The Ohio District 7 Indivisible Team follows a theme of “WE CARE” in all of our resistance efforts. We are caring people who resist government actions that are harmful to our communities, our country and our world. We follow the values and principles of the Indivisible Guide. We have developed a set of graphics that follow this theme. Feel free to download, use and adapt our graphics for your own groups’ initiatives, provided that you follow these values and principles. We request that these images not be used for other purposes than those designated.

I hope that you will consider appealing to your local government about becoming an element of institutional resistance in these trying times. i would love to hear about your efforts! Please share your story about working with your city council in the comments below.

Resist and persist!

BZTAT