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Youngstown voters again kill anti-fracking charter change



Published: Thu, May 8, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

Proponents of the charter amendment to ban fracking and other related gas and oil exploration activities in Youngstown have been shunned for the third time by city voters, but they’re refusing to take “no” for an answer.

They have promised to keep placing the issue on the ballot until they get a “yes” vote. Should they make good on that promise, they will be deserving of city government’s contempt and Youngstown residents’ ridicule.

Enough is enough.

Not only has this exercise in futility become a waste of taxpayer dollars — it costs money to place an issue on the ballot — but it is an abuse of the electoral process.

There aren’t any new arguments the proponents can make that will change the minds of the voters. The fracking-is-evil mantra has been heard over and over, and each time the results at the polls have been the same.

A defeat is just that after the third time — and the margin does not matter.

Ever since the issue was unveiled in 2013, we have tried to find some basis for supporting the amendment. We’ve failed in that regard.

Instead, we keep returning to the foundational argument against the charter amendment: It is unconstitutional and, therefore, unenforceable.

There also is the inconclusiveness of the science as to the dangers that may be presented by the hydraulic-facturing process used to extract oil and gas from shale formations deep beneath the earth’s surface.

The debate over fracking boils down to this: Supporters of the process contend it has been used for generations with few or no documented causes of a direct link between fracking and, for instance, the contamination of well water.

Opponents argue that fracking is a grave threat to the environment, and that the chemicals used in the process could ultimately affect our drinking water. They also point to recent tremors in Poland as proof that drilling deep into the earth is a disaster waiting to happen.

In the end, however, residents of the city of Youngstown were faced with this question: If the charter amendment violates the state and U.S. constitutions and is, therefore, unenforceable, what’s the point in passing it?

The results of Tuesday’s primary election make clear they don’t see a reason to adopt something just to make themselves feel good.

The vote

The issue failed by a vote of 3,674 to 3,100, according to complete but unofficial totals from the board of elections.

Last November, the charter amendment was defeated 5,824 to 4,831. In May 2013, it was rejected by a vote of 3,837 to 2,912.

In light of those results, we urge proponents to abandon this exercise in futility and adopt another strategy for achieving their professed goal: protecting the environment.

Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally, former city law director and former county commissioner, is not an unreasonable man. We’re confident he would be willing to work with the anti-fracking coalition to address members’ legitimate concerns, such as the protection of Meander Reservoir, the source of drinking water for Youngstown, Niles, McDonald and suburban communities.

That said, the time has come to pull the plug on the anti-fracking charter amendment.


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