Blocks Youngstown Drinking Water Protection Initiative from May ballot; community turns to Ohio Supreme Court
A Press Release from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, from March 19, 2018.
YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO: For the second time in six months, the Mahoning County Board of Elections (BOE) unanimously blocked Youngstown residents from voting on a duly qualified citizen initiative entitled the Youngstown Drinking Water Protection Bill of Rights (Water Protection BOR). The measure was advanced by FrackFree Mahoning, a local community group. The group filed a lawsuit against the BOE with the Ohio Supreme Court on Friday. In an election case last October, the Court ruled in favor of Bowling Green residents, ordering their citizen initiative on the ballot.
Since 2013, Youngstown residents have worked with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to protect the city from fossil fuel extraction and waste disposal and to defend their democratic right to vote. With each community effort, proponents are met with strong opposition from the oil and gas industry, local elected officials, and the media. CELDF has provided legal assistance to Youngstown residents, including filing last week’s lawsuit.
CELDF also assisted in drafting the Water Protection BOR. The proposed charter amendment includes protections for water maintenance funds. These funds are collected from residents in their water bills. Rather than using these funds solely for water and sewer infrastructure projects on behalf of the people, the city draws from it for private economic development. The Water Protection BOR prohibits this siphoning of the people’s money for private gain. Having the required number of signatures, the city council passed an ordinance ordering it on the ballot. MORE…