Saturday, November 12, 2016
Once again on Tuesday, voters in Youngstown resoundingly said no to a misguided effort to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city. And once again, the self-righteous leaders of the charter amendment refused to accept defeat and are now contemplating a seventh futile try in the May 2017 primary.
The only difference in this fall’s sixth attempt at passing the unconstitutional ballot initiative came in the size of voter turnout. As this was the first time the misnamed Community Bill of Rights appeared on a presidential ballot, some 22,000 voters had their say on the matter, the largest chunk of the city electorate by far since the measure first began polluting municipal elections in 2013.
But bigger wasn’t better for its supporters. Once again, a strong 55 percent to 45 percent majority wisely said no.
That clear and hulking defeat should serve as a clue to the FrackFree Mahoning Valley organizers that enough is enough. But some of the clueless organizers of the campaign refuse to respect the clear-cut will of the people and vow to press on.
It’s time now for a concerted effort to explore legal avenues to ban the anti-frackers from continuing their exercise in futility. We would urge city leaders, state legislative representatives and civic groups such as the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber to brainstorm options to put in place reasonable limits to the number of times a defeated ballot issue can reappear before voters.
The 12,143 voters who opposed the measure Tuesday clearly understood the foolhardiness of the measure.
First, even if it had passed, the courts likely would have struck it down. The Community Bill of Rights would not have given city government many of the rights dreamed about in the proposal. As we and others have repeatedly pointed out over the years, it is unenforceable under current state statutes. That’s because the Ohio Constitution gives the Ohio Department of Natural Resources exclusive authority to oversee the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract oil and gas from beneath the earth’s surface.
In addition, as organized opposition from the business and labor communities has repeatedly pointed out, other aspects of the Bill of Rights could threaten jobs tied to the drilling industry in the city, including hundreds at Vallourec Star.
And practically speaking, the measure has no viable application. As Mayor John McNally has noted time and time again, no company has any serious plans to drill for oil or gas within city limits.
On another practical plain, it’s quite unlikely the collective mindset of the city electorate will change dramatically within the span of six short months. We’re confident Youngstowners would show similar wisdom in wisely defeating the measure next May.
It’s therefore time for the anti-frackers to exhibit similar wisdom by abandoning plans for any doomed-to-fail encore presentation of its initiative.