The right to community self-government is the essence of American revolutionary doctrine. But in Ohio, communities are governed by a patchwork of constitutional and statutory laws that grant unequal self-governing authority to home rule municipalities, statutory municipalities and unincorporated townships. By granting a bland and narrow spectrum of powers to these variously constituted communities, the right to local self-government is procedurally denied to all Ohioans.
In 2012, the first communities in the State – Yellow Springs and Broadview Heights – challenged these denials, adopting Community Bills of Rights that assert their rights to clean air and water, the rights of nature, and their right to local self-governance. Shale gas drilling and fracking is banned in these local laws as violations of those community rights. In 2013, Oberlin residents adopted a similar initiative by 70% of the vote, followed by the city of Athens in 2014. Today, many communities and counties are engaged in Community Rights campaigns to protect themselves and local ecosystems from fracking, disposal of waste, and pipelines.
In November 2013, communities came together to launch the Ohio Community Rights Network (OHCRN). Attendees published the Columbus Declaration, calling on communities across the State to join the Community Rights movement, whereby community rights are elevated above corporate claimed “rights” and state attempts to usurp local self-governing authority. Ohio communities and counties are supporting one another in their organizing with the ultimate goal of making change at the state level through a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment that recognizes and codifies the right of the people to local self-governance.
For more information on the Ohio Community Rights Network, contact OhioCRN@gmail.com.