Let the People Decide



Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Organizer

COLUMBUS, OHIO: As state government and industry attempt to strip local self-governing authority from communities across the state, residents refuse to surrender their democratic and environmental rights. Working through the Ohio Community Rights Network (OHCRN), today they submitted two proposed state constitutional amendments to Attorney General Mike Dewine’s office.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted in the drafting and legal review of both amendments.

The Ohio Community Rights Amendment codifies the right to local community self-government, enabling local governments to protect and expand fundamental rights and prohibit corporate activities that violate those rights. It also secures the authority of communities to put in place stronger environmental rights and protections than those recognized at the state, federal, or international level.

The Initiative and Referendum Amendment for Counties and Townships amendment extends the right to initiative and referendum to residents living in townships and counties. Today, only city and village residents can exercise their inalienable right to propose and repeal laws, which is recognized under Article 2, Section 1b of the Ohio Constitution. However, nearly 39% of Ohio’s population resides in townships and counties. They do not have the same constitutional right to legislate. This amendment extends equal rights to local self-government to all Ohio residents, regardless of jurisdiction within the state.

Communities in localities across the state are faced with fracking, LNG pipelines, compressor stations, and other fossil fuel projects threatening clean air, water, and soil. Since 2012, residents have advanced and adopted Community Bills of Rights laws to codify their democratic and environmental rights, and stop the harms. Government officials, the courts and industry have stepped up their efforts to quash citizen initiative and quell community resistance.

Similar efforts by government and industry are taking place across the country. Residents in other states are also responding by insisting on their democratic and environmental rights via local laws and state constitutional amendments. In 2014, Colorado was the first state to advance a Community Rights amendment. In 2015, Oregon did the same. In 2016 and again this year, New Hampshire is advancing a similar amendment. Today, Ohio joins them.

Greg Pace, a member of the OHCRN stated, “For years we have tried to protect our communities from harmful corporate projects. Today, we understand why we can’t get what we want: We are blocked by a system designed to force the harms in against our will. It is a system that refuses to recognize our right to govern our own communities. The Community Rights Amendment is the people’s way to change that.”

“This goes beyond fossil fuel industries,” stated Tish O’Dell, CELDF’s Ohio organizer. “The right to pass local laws regarding fracking, gun control, predatory lending, minimum wage, and more, are thwarted by state preemptive laws. And those laws are often written by industry.”

She continued, “Ohio communities today are saying, ‘We don’t have a fracking, pipeline, or development problem. We have a democracy problem!’ The constitutional amendment to establish and protect the right to local community self-government, takes direct aim at corporate exploitation of communities, and elevates communities to be the lead protectors of public health, safety, and welfare.”

Submitting the petitions to the Attorney General is the first step to place the initiatives on the ballot. The OHCRN and its allies invite residents from across the state to join the fight for rights! Sign up to volunteer at www.ohcommunityrights.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.


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