Anti-frackers hope to fool Y’town voters in primary

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Opponents of fracking in Youngstown are hoping the lipstick they’ve put on the pig – the proposed charter amendment in Tuesday’s primary election – will fool the voters.

We hope it doesn’t.

Youngstown residents have said “no” on six separate occasions to the group of self-appointed paragons of environmental virtue pushing an amendment to the Youngstown Home Rule Charter to ban fracking.

We have long characterized the effort as a nonissue because there are no plans by any energy companies to drill for oil and gas in the city by use of hydraulic fracturing.

Nonetheless, the anti-frackers, led by Ray and Susie Beiersdorfer, have adopted the attitude that they alone know what’s in the best interest of Youngstown residents.

But it is revealing that the defeat of the anti-fracking charter amendment going back to the 2013 primary election has prompted the Beiersdorfers and their cohorts to change their strategy. They’re now using scare tactics.

The issue was on the primary and general election ballots in 2013 and 2014, and the general elections of 2015 and 2016.

In those years, it was called the “Community Bill of Rights” in support of their argument that the rights of Youngstown residents are being usurped by outside entities.

This year, however, the issue carries the ominous title “Drinking Water Protection Bill of Rights” (the lipstick on the pig). The claim underlying the title is clear: Fracking in Youngstown will poison the city’s water.

But before Youngstown residents start having sleepless nights about the drinking water that could burst in flames due to all the chemicals, here’s a reality check: Fracking is not in the city’s future.

Thus, the bottom line: The city’s drinking water is not in danger of becoming undrinkable.

How can residents be so sure?

It’s a matter of trust – in the community and political leaders who are opposing the charter amendment issue in next week’s primary.

Here’s a partial list of the leaders: Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel; Mayor Jamael Tito Brown; the Rev. Kenneth Simon, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church; the Democratic and Republican parties in Mahoning County; county commissioners Anthony Traficanti, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and David Ditzler; the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber; various labor organizations.

Commitment to Youngstown

Would the anti-frackers dare assign ulterior motives to the opposition from President Tressel, Mayor Brown, Rev. Simon and others? These are individuals whose commitment to improving the quality of life of Youngstown residents is well-documented. They would not do anything to endanger the lives of society’s most vulnerable.

Why would they come out against the so-called Drinking Water Protection Bill of Rights?

Here’s what a flier sent to city residents states:

“Out-of-state activists changed the name and sued local leaders to place it [the issue] on the May ballot for the 7th time! This bad idea could drive good-paying jobs out of Youngstown. And it could punish hardworking families by driving up utility rates.”

The charter amendment proposal, which made it onto the ballot via a ruling of the Ohio Supreme Court, would ban fracking and anything related to the extraction of fossil fuels in the city.

In other words, jobs in the city tied to the drilling industry, including hundreds at Vallourec Star, would be threatened.

It is true that the Supreme Court reversed a decision by the four-member county board of elections – two Republicans and two Democrats – not to place the issue on the ballot.

But it’s also true the city would be hard-pressed to enforce the provisions of the amendment if the issue is approved next week. The Ohio Constitution gives the Department of Natural Resources exclusive authority to oversee the fracking process to extract oil and gas from beneath the earth’s surface.

Thoughtful residents in the city of Youngstown have rejected the charter amendment six times. Saying “no” a seventh time should be a no-brainer.

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