OHIO CITIZEN ACTION is the state's largest environmental organization, with 80,000 dues paying members, and the largest canvass-based state organization in the nation. Sandy Buchanan has been Ohio Citizen Action's Executive Director since 1993.
The organization was founded in Cleveland in 1975 as the Ohio Public Interest Campaign, a coalition of union, senior citizen, church, and community organizations. Responding to a wave of factory closings in Northeast Ohio, the coalition proposed state legislation to require advance notice to employees before a closing (1977). The Ohio legislature balked, so U.S. Senator Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH) sponsored it as a federal bill. It became federal law in 1988.
Economic hardship also produced a fiscal crisis for the City of Cleveland, which began selling off its assets: the port (1969), SEWERS (1972), STADIUM (1974), and the TRANSIT SYSTEM (1975). In 1976, Mayor RALPH PERK proposed the next sale, the Municipal Power System, and began granting multi-million dollar tax abatements to downtown developers. The Ohio Public Interest Campaign joined with neighborhood groups associated with the COMMISSION ON CATHOLIC COMMUNITY ACTION, and the UNITED AUTO WORKERS union to oppose tax abatements and the sale of Muny Light. These two issues triggered an electoral revolt, dubbed the "Tuesday Night Massacre" (1977); Mayor Perk and one-third of City Council lost their jobs. The DENNIS KUCINICH sided with the citizens coalition, setting the stage for a showdown with the city's major banks and the CLEVELAND ELECTRIC ILLUMINATING COMPANY (now FirstEnergy). Amid the political battle, Clevelanders voted to keep Muny Light (1979), and tax abatements were suspended for a decade.
In 1983, the Ohio Public Interest Campaign won a federal anti-trust suit against three northeast Ohio grocery chains — Fazio's (see FISHER FOODS, INC.), PICK N PAY, and Stop N Shop — for price-fixing, resulting in $20 million going to a million Cleveland, Akron and Lorain-area households, the largest private consumer anti-trust settlement in U.S. history. The organization also led campaigns to pass toxic chemical right-to-know ordinances in Cleveland and other Ohio cities. The Ohio ordinances became the model for Congress in enacting federal right-to-know laws and creating the national Toxic Release Inventory (1986).
In the 1990's, the organization developed the "good neighbor campaign" model, using the power of community organizing to cause major polluters to prevent pollution at their facilities. These campaigns included, for example, BRUSH WELLMAN (1999-2003) and, currently the ARCELOR MITTAL complex in the FLATS.
In 1989, the Ohio Public Interest Campaign changed its name to Ohio Citizen Action to reflect its change from a coalition to a membership organization. When the organization's first office in the WILLIAMSON BUILDING was demolished to make way for the SOHIO building (1982), the group moved above the New Yorker Deli on Chester Avenue, Keith Building, TERMINAL TOWER, Burgess Building, and now the ROCKEFELLER BUILDING.
Marschall, Dan, ed. The Battle of Cleveland: Public Interest Challenges Corporate Power (1979).
Ryder, Paul, ed. Good Neighbor Campaign Handbook (2006).