Think of a city’s charter as a Con- stitution, a document that succinctly sets forth the principles under which government is supposed to operate.
The preamble to the United States Constitution is 52 words long.
Now consider the proposed amendment to the Youngstown City Charter that will appear on the May 7 primary election ballot. It would add a 1,360-word section to the preamble to Youngstown’s city charter.
And it wasn’t even written in Youngstown for Youngstowners. It was lifted from a form prepared by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which is headquartered in Pennsylvania and is happy to provide the text to any group that wants to fight fracking — or coal mining, factory farming, the use of sewage sludge as fertilizer or uranium mining. That is the beauty of the document to those who see themselves as the only true protectors of the environment. It is written broadly enough that, if enforceable, it could be used to shut almost any enterprise down.
And that’s the best reason for its defeat.
An impractical exercise
This is not a serious piece of legislation. It clearly contradicts state law. If it were enforceable under Ohio law, it would be unenforceable under the U.S. Constitution. It would infringe on established property rights of people using a fanciful notion that ecosystems have inalienable rights.
Any Youngstowner who is inclined to vote for this amendment owes it to himself and to every other city resident to read the entire amendment. (It was printed in the April 15 Vindicator and can be found on the Mahoning County Board of Elections website and other Internet sites.)
A voter who wants a sense of how unrealistic this amendment is and only has time to read one paragraph, should try Section 6, which purports to supersede the Constitution of the United States.
There are legitimate questions to be asked about gas and oil extraction through hydraulic fracturing, and people would do well to be vigilant. But they shouldn’t waste time tilting at windmills.
The “Community Bill of Rights” on the May 7 ballot is not a serious response to whatever challenges fracking presents and should be defeated.
Vote no on the proposed charter amendment.