Wednesday, May 9, 2018
By David Skolnick
And on the seventh try, the anti-fracking initiative in Youngstown failed again.
But supporters won’t rest.
“It’s not like we’re going to stop,” said Susie Beiersdorfer, a member of the Committee for the Youngstown Water Protection Bill of Rights, which backed the proposal. “Our motto is we don’t lose until we quit.”
The initiative lost 56 percent to 44 percent, according to final but unofficial results.
The proposal was to ban fracking and anything related to the extraction of fossil fuels in the city.
Unofficial election results
City voters had rejected similar ballot measures six times: twice in both 2013 and 2014, and once each in 2015 and 2016.
Members of the Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth, which again opposed the anti-fracking proposal, said they’re not surprised backers of the initiative won’t give up.
“I’m glad to see the voters made this choice again, but I’m disappointed we have to do this over and over,” said Guy Coviello, Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber vice president of government affairs.
“I wish they would take the hint, but we’ve learned by now they’re not going to.”
Bill Padisak, president of the Mahoning-Trumbull AFL-CIO, said: “I’m pleased the people of Youngstown have once again rejected this ill-conceived charter amendment. I wish the anti-frackers would stop wasting taxpayer dollars, but I expect them to be back on the ballot.”
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled April 24 in a 5-2 decision that the Mahoning County Board of Elections exceeded its authority by rejecting the initiative at a March 13 meeting.
The board voted 4-0 then to keep the question off the ballot pointing to House Bill 463, which requires election boards to invalidated local initiative petitions if they determine part of the petition falls outside a local government’s authority to enact them.
State law gives jurisdiction over fracking to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The court’s decision came about six months after it ruled 4-3 in October 2017 on a largely similar proposal that the board made the right decision not to put that initiative on the November 2017 ballot.
However, the court decided that one difference between the two proposals made the new one valid.
The rejected initiative would have authorized “private citizens to enforce their rights through nonviolent direct action or by filing suit as a private attorney general.”
But in the initiative on Tuesday’s ballot, that provision is not included. The court wrote in its decision that because of that “the board offers no clear support for its conclusion that relators’ current proposal is beyond the scope of the city’s legislative power.”
It added: “Although the proposed amendment would not necessarily be constitutional or legally enforceable if enacted, the board abused its discretion in finding that the measure exceeds Youngstown’s legislative power.”