State amendment has Geauga roots
By now I’m sure many of you folks have heard of the amendment HC 1793, popularly becoming known as the “shut up or go to jail” amendment to the state budget bill. Many of us feel this amendment would allow a probate judge to fine or jail individuals who criticize park district actions. You likely are asking why an amendment having nothing to do with the state budget has been stuck into the current budget bill.
Well folks, the answer is simple. This is a common sleaze bag political tactic of sneaking an item into state law without anyone noticing and in this case it’s been stuck into the state budget bill a bill that must be passed. Well over 1,000 amendments have been added or stuck into this bill. How could our reps possibly scrutinize all these amendments prior to voting on the budget bill? In this case someone did notice. Shame on the author of this amendment who submitted this amendment on April 7, the last day possible, perhaps to reduce the possibility of it being noticed?
Rep. William Seitz, R-Cincinnati, is the legislator who introduced this amendment. A Seitz associate stated that Seitz and Geauga County Probate Judge Timothy Grendell worked closely together on the formulation of this amendment. Believe me, it was like pulling teeth to find this out.
So why would Judge Grendell like this amendment to become state law? Since his leadership of the Geauga Parks began, he and most of his appointed park minions have consistently taken action to stop public comment, criticism or questions about the activities of the Grendell Park District. Why would Grendell like to stop public comment? What are the citizens complaining about?
Maybe the spending of well over $100,000.00 of park district funds for television commercials, many featuring Judge Grendell and his wife?
Maybe the spending of public funds for full page newspaper adds?
Maybe the parks failure to acquire parkland, some at nearly no cost, except moving quickly to acquire parkland adjacent to one of the park commissioners residence and paying about 30 percent more than a professional appraised value?
Maybe the park district making no effort to acquire a property, up for auction, that shelters an endangered animal species?
Maybe the park director issuing illegal trapping permits in a state nature preserve?
Maybe the park district allowing noisy snowmobiles on park property ?
Maybe the park district not adopting management practices to sufficiently protect an endanger or threatened species in our parks?
I could fill this entire newspaper with more of the above. It’s time for we citizens to object to and change a system allowing a Grendell style park system to exist and prosper. It’s time to go back to the professionally managed type of park district we were privileged to enjoy for over 50 years.
—John G. Augustine, Parkman Township
Issue violates right of free speech
letter is in response to the proposed amendment HC1793, to the Ohio Budget Bill, which clearly calls for unjust limits on speech. I don’t usually write about the parks issues (they don’t need me) and focus on the children’s issues in Geauga County, a system in which there are plenty of problems that hardly a soul writes in about, unless it involves money. I simply cannot be silent about this affront to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Ohio Constitution, Article One-Bill of Rights!
Please take action! To even hope to see changes in government, people cannot simply write letters to the editor and complain to the people they know. A person does not have to join a political party to become active either. Most people do not do that and would not do that. It takes becoming an activist and personally contacting your local, state, or nationally elected officials. With today’s technology, it has become a lot easier. I have been told by many an aid that those e-mails, calls and letters are counted on issues and if they are not all seriously considered, they are at least read.
I did write to my state representative and senator and all the Ohio State Budget Finance Committee, as recommended by the Protect Geauga Parks updates. That is another important aspect to weighing in on issues, following or receiving e-mail updates from groups who are like-minded. I am not active in that group, nor do I have money to donate, but I can pay attention and add my voice.
This latest nonsense is another sign that the judicial branch in Ohio has way too much power. Some of the founders of our nation expressed concerns about the third branch, soon after my own ancestors, Richard Tennant and John Boone, fought for America’s independence in the Revolutionary war. There are states within the United States which do not give the Judicial branch as much power as Ohio does. That is one of the broader and underlying problems this particular issue exposes, an issue we should not ignore, before more rights are attacked. This problem, HC1793, is an opportunity to beat back power-mongering, an age-old problem throughout the history of man. An opportunity for all who wish to be part of protecting our right to free speech and to petition the government to take positive action.
—Robin Neff, Chardon
Citizens hold power in democracy
Are Ohioans to be punished for behaving like actual citizens? The first three words of the U.S. Constitution are “We the People” – not “we the judges,” “we the corporations,” or “we the elected officials.” In a monarchy, the monarch is sovereign. In a democratic republic, citizens hold the sovereign power. We’d better start acting like it.
In Geauga County, members of Protect Geauga Parks are doing just that. They are battling county Probate Judge Timothy Grendell, who apparently regards himself as a potentate and the Geauga Park District as his personal fiefdom. This affects all of Ohio because due to an unexplained (and inexplicable) act of the state legislature in 1917, one probate judge in each county holds the sole authority to appoint 3-member boards for that county’s park districts. Judge Grendell has abused that privilege by dismissing board members who disagreed with him, eliminating public comments at board meetings, supporting an executive director who refused to respond to written comments and dictating other egregious policies.
Now this: A proposed amendment to the state budget bill would give probate court judges more power over park districts, including the ability to fine or penalize outside groups that ‘interfere’ with a park district’s purpose or mission.
As volunteers with the Move to Amend Ohio Network, a nonpartisan citizens’ group, we seek to lift up the sovereign power of “We the People” by working for the passage of a 28th constitutional amendment stating:
- Only human beings, not corporate entities, are entitled to constitutional rights.
- Money is not equivalent to speech.
We as representatives of Move to Amend Ohio Network, stand with Protect Geauga Park activists as they courageously oppose Judge Grendell’s threats to democracy, and we hope all Ohioans will do so.
—Carla Rautenberg, Cleveland Heights AND Madelon Watts, South Euclid
PGP Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, May 2, just prior to the publication of these letters in the Chagrin Valley Times, the Ohio House Finance Committee voted to remove HC 1793, the Grendell-Seitz amendment, from the budget bill. The full story of the House action can be found in previous articles on this website at the links below.