The Community Rights action in Warren City, Warren County, Pennsylvania has been a dramatic chapter in rights-based organizing. On September 8th, 2011, CELDF filed a lawsuit against the Warren County Board of Elections to demand a Home Rule Charter Amendment, petitioned successfully by the West Side Alliance, appear on the ballot. On August 9th, Barb Lucia of the Alliance had submitted petitions to place the amendment before the voters, but the County Board voted unanimously to block the measure, without benefit of legal counsel.
With the filing of CELDF’s complaint and a review of the decision by the County Solicitor, the Board of Elections voted on September 12th to reverse its decision and allow the measure to go forward. But on September 28th the Warren City Council filed a twenty page lawsuit against the County Board of Elections to block it from placing the charter amendment question on the ballot. Using logic similar to that which prevailed in Peters Township that same week, CELDF filed on behalf of the West Side Alliance, asking the Court for Intervenor status to argue for the right of the community to vote on the measure. On October 6th the court ruled that the City Council had no standing to block the amendment question appearing on the ballot, and the injunction was denied.
City Council wasted no time filing an appeal, attempting once again to block the citizens of the City from seeing or voting on the charter amendment, which would, if adopted, establish a local Community Bill of Rights and prohibit corporations from extracting fossil gas or transporting, storing, treating or disposing of waste products from fracking. The citizens prevailed—the Warren County court found for the people.
With the measure on the ballot, the citizens voted on November 8th, 2011. Facing tremendous political opposition from local officials and the gas industry, the charter amendment was soundly defeated, garnering 38% of the vote.