Anti-fracking charter issue will litter city ballot — again

Given that Utica shale explora- tion is virtually nonexistent in Mahoning County, what purpose does the pretentious Community Bill of Rights proposed amendment to the Youngstown charter serve? The answer is the same as it was in May 2013, November 2013 and this past May — when voters rejected the amendment.

It serves no legitimate purpose. And given that the underlying reason for the so-called bill of rights no longer exists, Youngstown residents should conclude that the refusal of the proponents to accept defeat is nothing more than a bid for media attention.

The proposed charter amendment to ban hydraulic fracturing was unenforceable when it was written, it would have been unenforceable had the voters approved it over the past 15 months, and it will be unenforceable if, by some outside chance, it passes in November.

As we’ve argued ad nauseam, the amendment will not give Youngstown city government any of the rights detailed in the 1,300-word tome. On the key issue of hydraulic fracturing — fracking in common parlance — the Ohio General Assembly years ago gave the state Department of Natural Resources sole authority to oversee the process used to extract oil and gas from shale formations deep beneath the earth’s surface.

The Ohio Constitution, which supersedes the Youngstown Home Rule Charter, gives the Legislature the authority to act on issues of statewide importance. That authority has been upheld by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Community Bill of Rights would place the city of Youngstown outside the reach of both the Ohio Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.


But try as we — and thoughtful city voters — may, we’ve been unable to persuade the proponents to abandon their fool’s errand.

“The only way we lose is if we give up,” Susie Beiersdorfer, a member of Frack Free Mahoning Valley, said at a news conference last week. Beiersdorfer, her husband, Ray, and others were on hand to announce that 2,045 signatures had been collected to get the charter amendment on the November ballot. A total of 1,126 valid signatures are required for certification by the board of elections.

So, if fracking is no longer on the table in Youngstown, why are the proponents of this self-aggrandizing amendment unwilling to take no — three times — for an answer?

The underlying reason came through loud and clear during the news conference.

Asked by Vindicator reporter Burton Speakman to explain the necessity for the Community Bill of Rights when there is no drilling for oil and gas occurring in the city of Youngstown, Ray Beiersdorfer replied: “Those were corporate decisions and not community decisions.” He went on to say that residents have the right to decide what businesses locate in the city.

It is noteworthy that Beiersdorfer is a public employee whose salary is partially paid for by the taxpayers, including businesses in the city. He is a geology professor at Youngstown State University.

It should also be pointed out that every time the charter amendment issue is on the ballot, it costs money (public dollars). And yet, individuals who claim to be so concerned about the welfare of Youngstown residents have no qualms about taking money out of the public treasury in pursuit of an issue they concede will end up in the courts.

If the amendment is adopted in November, city government will be required to enforce it. And the first time it attempts to do that, there will be a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Community Bill of Rights. And that means a further drain of the public treasury.

As we’ve said before, “Enough’s enough.”

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