A state constitution is the governing document of a U.S. state, like as the United States Constitution is the governing document of the United States. Then, a county charter can rightly be compared to a constitution at the local level. It spells out the powers, duties and structures of government and the rights of county citizens.
While county charters are not common in Ohio, of Florida’s 67 counties 19 have charters, none of which they have ever repealed. Not all state constitutions afford the counties the right to charters, but the Ohio constitution does (Article X; Section 10.03). Like the purposed Meigs County charter, many of Florida’s county charters contain the rights of initiative and referendum, as well as the right to recall local officials.
In Ohio, like in Florida, people are recognizing they are without a voice in what affects them locally; that at the county level there is no democratic process without a charter. Oh we get to vote for President, but are denied our inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In the “statutory” county government setting, without a county charter, the state makes decisions about what can and cannot take place in a county and the commissioners and township trustees are helpless but to allow it, whether or not it is harmful or a violation of citizen’s rights. Therefore, realizing their inalienable rights are actually unprotected by the law, an example of which is the current threat to having safe water with no say in the matter, more and more Ohio counties are seeking charters. Protecting our inalienable rights and keeping our water safe is fundamental to these charter initiatives, for within the charters is a clause which prohibits the injection of hydraulic fracking “flowback” or waste liquid in the counties. With over one million gallons annually injected in Meigs County alone, and having already suffered as a result of the C-8 scandal, these are obviously legitimate concerns.
One of the most fundamental facts which many people confuse about county charters in Ohio is the conflict of existing laws. The conflict of laws regarding the injection of hydraulic fracking waste and citizen’s rights to reject and prohibit the practice is not created by their adoption of a county charter. For separate and apart from county charter initiatives, the conflict of laws already exists. It exists between the Ohio State Constitution and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) regulative policies. Article 1 – Bill of Rights, of the Ohio Constitution, (§ 1.01 Inalienable Rights), states, “All men are, by nature, free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and seeking and obtaining happiness and safety.” Obvious then is the fact that the current ODNR regulative policies and practices regarding the injection of hydraulic fracking waste denies the people these “inalienable rights,” a clear violation of the Ohio Constitution. The people cannot enjoy and defend life and liberty, nor can we protect our property or seek and obtain happiness and safety, while being denied what the Ohio Constitution affords us by the ODNR policies. So the conflict of law has nothing really to do with a county charter, for it already exists between the Ohio State Constitution and the ODNR regulative policies and practices. The people just do not realize the conflict until a charter petition is initiated, so they then sometimes presume it is because of the charter. Not so.
Then, also under Article 1 – Bill of Rights of the Ohio Constitution, is another conflict with ODNR policies and practices. Section 1.02 (Right to alter, reform, or abolish government, and repeal special privileges) states, “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform, or abolish the same, whenever they may deem it necessary; and no special privileges or immunities shall ever be granted, that may not be altered, revoked, or repealed by the general assembly.” But how can the people “alter or reform” their government, when the government that they are attempting to reform can ignore their constitutional rights and block their efforts? If County Commissioners refuse to obey the law requiring them to certify our valid charter to the ballot, they deny the people due process of law at the local level. If the Ohio legislature passes laws that benefit the oil/gas industry but deny the people’s constitutional rights, and the courts uphold these unjust laws, it becomes impossible for the people to assert their inalienable democratic rights. If the Secretary of State, a single person, can rule as if he is the Supreme Court and keep citizen initiatives off the ballot how can the people “alter, reform, or abolish” such a system? When such is the case, and it is, then clearly “All political power is” NOT “inherent in the people.” So while a charter is absolutely needed at the county level, changes at the state legislative level are also needed to stop any corporation, industry, or enterprise from paying to get all kinds of laws that benefit them passed, while at the same time leaving the people without our constitutionally stated rights. Again, these rights were already being denied we the people, we just were not as aware of it until having initiated a county charter petition.
The purposed CHARTER OF THE COUNTY OF MEIGS, OHIO is in accordance with both the Ohio Constitution and the Ohio Revised Code. The charter is a constitutional tool to help the people assert their constitutional and inalienable rights. It will help us to protect our water and property value. Really understanding what a county charter is, and that it creates no conflict of law, helps us to realize its tremendous worth in providing democracy for all, that is, at the most local level. Good public officials (e.g. local, state or federal) never oppose or deny the people’s rights. Nor do just and good public officials have reason to fear the charters recall provision, or the inclusion of all the people in all of the democratic process.
Will we the people do nothing, or will we exert our right to protect our water and our property? Will we allow the current government to deny us the constitutional right to alter and reform it? If we cannot use the current system to protect our families and our homes, are we willing to stand up for our constitutional rights so that our children and grandchildren can have water to drink that will not make them sick? Protect our water, vote for the county charter.