Mahoning elections board rejects 2 Youngstown charter-amendment proposals

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By David Skolnick


After the Mahoning County Board of Elections rejected putting two charter amendments on the Youngstown Nov. 7 ballot, supporters of the proposal said they would file legal action as soon as today to overturn the decisions.

The supporters vowed to file a mandamus act with the Ohio Supreme Court.

“We want to get this resolved in time for [the Nov. 7 ballot], but if the court doesn’t decide quickly, there may need to be a special election after the court rules in our favor,” said Susie Beiersdorfer, who backs the two charter amendments. “We will not stand by quietly.”

The board Wednesday unanimously rejected putting the charter amendments on the ballot saying they violate state law.

One proposal would ban fracking and fracking-related activities – city voters have rejected similar ballot initiatives six previous times – and the other would change how elections are conducted in the city, including restricting who can give campaign contributions.

A new state law, House Bill 463, requires a board of elections to invalidate a local initiative petition if it determines any part of the petition falls outside the local government’s constitutional authority to enact it.

That law “has provided clarification that boards of elections do have an obligation to determine whether a municipal charter amendment falls within the scope of a city’s authority to enact via initiative, and that a municipal charter amendment shall be invalid if any portion is not within the municipality’s initiative power,” said Mark Munroe, board chairman and head of the county Republican Party. “The plain reading of both of these measures” show “that both contain provisions that are beyond the scope of cities to enact via initiative.”

State law gives jurisdiction over fracking to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. But the proposal’s supporters say whether that’s enforceable is something the courts should decide.

The election measure restricts political contributions to $100 per ballot measure and candidate and only permits registered city voters to contribute. The proposal also bans corporations, labor unions, political-action committees, political parties and other campaign funding entities from giving any contributions to city candidates and ballot measures.

That could conflict with free-speech issues and campaign-contribution court decisions.

“Both [proposals] contain provisions that are outside the scope of Youngstown’s power to enact via initiative,” said David Betras, board vice chairman and head of the county Democratic Party.

While Betras has said before he opposes the anti-fracking proposal – he hasn’t given an opinion on the other initiative – he said the board’s decision was “not a consideration of the legality or illegality or of the merits or demerits of the proposal, but rather whether the power sought to be exercised is permitted by law.”

Lynn Anderson, who backs the two charter amendments, said HB 463 is “an illegal and unlawful law passed” by the state Legislature.

Also, the board rejected protests filed by Corrine Sanderson, a Youngstown school board member, to invalidate signatures on the nominating petitions of Ronald Shadd, a board member seeking re-election, and Tina Cvetkovich, a school board candidate.

Sanderson contends some of the signatures on the petitions of Shadd and Cvetkovich don’t match the actual signatures of those signing the petitions and should be disqualified. The board said there wasn’t enough proof to back Sanderson’s claims.

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