People of Medina Forced to Appeal to Ohio Supreme Court
5,500 Residents Signed Petitions to Qualify Measure for Vote in November
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Organizer
BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, OHIO: Today, citizens of Medina County filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court to reverse a decision of the Medina Board of Elections and Secretary of State (SOS) Jon Husted to keep their County Charter initiative off the November ballot.
The citizen-sponsored measure, which received more than enough signatures of voters to qualify for the ballot, recognizes the people’s right to local self-government, including the right to prohibit fracking, dumping of oil and gas waste, extraction of county water for fracking, and new fracking infrastructure projects such as the Nexus pipeline and compressor station.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has been working with the Medina group, Sustainable Medina County, since 2014 and is providing them with legal assistance in filing with the Supreme Court.
The SOS, in his tie-break decision to the Medina Board of Elections last week to keep the measure off the ballot, is once again attempting to interpret and rule on the legality of the Charter being proposed.
Last summer, Secretary Husted attempted to keep three County Charter measures off the ballot, including in Medina. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled against him, finding that he had no authority to block the Charters based on their content. Those measures also sought to secure local democratic control over fracking activities. Husted has received political contributions from the fracking industry.
According to Terry Lodge, attorney for the Medina residents, “Secretary Husted is attempting to thwart, for the second straight year, the people’s right to vote on a vital matter of local control. More than 5,000 registered voters in Medina County have indicated they believe that a county charter with a ban on fracking and mega pipelines is crucially important and want the ability to cast their vote.” Lodge went on to say, “Is Secretary Husted worried that somewhere, someone might finally have a democratic say in the fate of their community?”
Residents in Athens, Meigs, and Portage Counties, filed protests with the SOS in response to votes by their local Boards of Elections to keep similar County Charters off the ballot. The Secretary of State’s office notified legal representatives of the oil and gas industry of the protests, inviting them to send in amicus briefs and other documentation before he makes his decision on these other county measures.
Tish O’Dell, CELDF’s Ohio Community Organizer, stated, “It is becoming blatantly obvious that representatives in Ohio government are more interested in representing the interests of the oil and gas industry than in protecting the constitutional right of the people to petition for change to their government. People in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and other states are also realizing this, as they face a similar situation, and it’s why they are joining together to form the Community Rights Movement.”
Since 2012, Ohio communities have been protecting themselves from fracking through CELDF-drafted Community Bills of Rights laws. Yellow Springs, Oberlin, Athens City and Broadview Heights adopted Community Bills of Rights in the last few years. These local laws codify community rights to self-governance and a healthy environment, and the rights of nature to exist and flourish – while prohibiting frack activities as a violation of those rights.
Ohio Communities Part of Growing Movement
Ohio residents are advancing Community Rights as part of the broader Community Rights Movement building across the United States. Local communities and state Community Rights Networks are partnering with CELDF to advance fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They are working with CELDF to establish community rights and the rights of nature in law, and prohibit extraction, fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other industrial activities as violations of those rights. Communities are joining together within and across states, working with CELDF to advance systemic change – recognizing our existing system of law and governance as inherently undemocratic and unsustainable.
For additional information regarding petitioning communities, contact CELDF at email@example.com. To learn about the Ohio Community Rights Network, visit ohcommunityrights.org. To learn about the Community Rights Movement, visit www.celdf.org.
About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.