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City voters to decide fracking ban, council term limits

By Justin Wier

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

By Justin Wier

jwier@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A perennial anti-fracking charter amendment will make it on the ballot this year without a court battle.

The Mahoning County Board of Elections certified the ballot issue at Tuesday’s meeting along with two measures that would eliminate term limits for members of Youngstown city council and council president.

An identical anti-fracking proposal, called the Youngstown Water Protection Bill of Rights, had been unanimously rejected by the board of elections in March, but the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the board exceeded its authority by rejecting the initiative and ordered it on May’s primary ballot.

Board Chairman Mark Munroe said the language of this fall’s proposal matched the language that the court ordered on the ballot in the primary.

“It was certainly appropriate that the board approved it,” Munroe said.

“We made the conscious decision to use the same wording that we did in May,” said Susie Beiersdorfer, a member of the committee that backed the proposal.

In March, the board cited House Bill 463, which requires election boards to invalidate petitions if they determine they fall outside a local government’s authority.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources regulates fracking under state law, so parts of the local charter amendment may not be enforceable.

City voters have rejected different versions of the measure in seven previous elections dating back to 2013.

Business and labor groups routinely turn out to oppose the measure, but Beiersdorfer said she’s optimistic about its chances this fall.

“I think more people are becoming aware,” she said.

The proposal includes a measure that would forbid city government from using water and wastewater funds for economic-development projects.

As for term limits, council members now can serve a maximum of two consecutive four-year terms and must sit out a term before running again.

Several council members said the amendment would restore the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches after voters approved a charter amendment to eliminate term limits for the mayor in 2012.