Despite questions about whether a citizen-organized charter-amendment proposal to ban fracking in Youngstown is enforceable, city council members applauded the work by those behind the initiative.
Council approved an ordinance Wednesday to place the proposal on the May 7 primary election ballot.
Council had no choice but to pass it, said Law Director Anthony Farris, and then send it to the Mahoning County Board of Elections.
The board will check to determine if the charter-amendment petitions contain enough valid signatures to get on the ballot.
Frack Free Mahoning Valley, the group behind the petitions, has about 4,000 signatures. The group needs 1,562 valid signatures to be placed in front of voters.
“It’s pretty awesome to see citizens engaged in the process over something they feel strongly about,” said Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th.
“The people did everything they needed to do, and it will be up to the voters to decide,” added Council- woman Janet Tarpley, D-6th.
The proposal includes language that would make it illegal to drill for gas and oil in the city.
Because the state has complete control over regulating fracking, however, Farris and other city officials said the charter-amendment proposal is “unenforceable.”
Frack Free members disagree.
If the proposal gets on the ballot, the city could object to the legality of the issue, Farris said. No decision has been made.
Terrance P. Esarco, a Green Party candidate for council president, asked council and the administration at Wednesday’s meeting why it ignored the request a year ago from those opposed to fracking to demand the state return control of the process to local government.
Esarco also asked if city officials had spoken to Catholic Diocese of Youngstown’s Bishop George V. Murry about the possible move of Cardinal Mooney High School out of the city, and about the creation of a downtown business association.
Mayor Charles Sammarone, who is the lone Democratic candidate for council president, said he opposed the loss of local control to the state over fracking a decade ago, and despite his request for assistance, no one joined him then.
He also said he’s spoken twice with the bishop about Mooney, and the Downtown Business Alliance of Youngstown is announcing its formation today.
“Don’t come down here and campaign and talk against me and tell half-truths,” Sammarone told Esarco.
The mayor added: “Speak the truth or shut your mouth.”
After the meeting, Esarco said he was just asking questions. “He didn’t have to go ballistic,” Esarco said.
Sammarone said Esarco shouldn’t have been allowed to speak at council’s meeting because he is a candidate.
There are no restrictions in council rules as to candidates speaking at meetings.
But a document that is filled out by those wanting to speak to council states: “Candidates who have filed for local elected office are not permitted to speak after the filing deadline,” which was Feb. 6.