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Top Ohio court must guide charter cities on fracking – Vindicator Editorial Board

It’s no secret that we view the proponents of the ban on fracking in the city of Youngstown as self-styled protectors of the environment – when no protection is necessary on the highly charged issue of hydraulic fracturing and other related oil and gas activities.

And it’s also no secret that we consider the proponents’ refusal to take “no” for an answer from the voters of the city of Youngstown as an abuse of the electoral process.

Indeed, last November, after city voters had rejected a ban on fracking for the fourth time, we criticized two of the main instigators, Ray and Susie Beiersdorfer, for refusing to accept the will of the people.

“We don’t lose until we quit, and we won’t quit because this is too important,” said Susie Beiersdorfer in the aftermath of last November’s defeat of the anti-fracking issue – for the fourth time.

Such arrogance – their argument can be summed up thusly: We know what’s best for you – makes us cringe.

And yet, today we find ourselves supporting Youngstown city government in its quest to have the Ohio Supreme Court weigh in on a decision by the Mahoning County Board of Elections not to place an anti-fracking citizen initiative on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

The board, made up of two Democrats and two Republicans, unanimously voted to keep the charter-amendment proposal off the ballot on the strength of a February ruling by the Supreme Court ruling.

The ruling says the state of Ohio’s constitution’s home-rule amendment does not grant local governments the power to regulate oil and gas operations in their limits. The court also said that Ohio law gives state government – specifically the Ohio Department of Natural Resources – the exclusive authority to regulate oil and gas wells.

Thus, from the board of elections’ perspective, the anti-fracking initiative violates the decision of the top court.


However, the administration of Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally is of the opinion that the board overstepped its authority when it refused to accept the anti-fracking charter-amendment proposal.

City Law Director Martin Hume made it clear that the city’s filing of the complaint for a writ of mandamus was not an endorsement of the content of the ballot proposal. Instead, the complaint seeks to reaffirm the proposition that citizens should have the right to petition government in accordance with Youngstown’s Home Rule Charter and the state and federal constitutions.

With that narrow issue as the backdrop, we support the city’s asking the Ohio Supreme Court for a definitive answer to the question, “What rights do residents of a charter city like Youngstown enjoy when it comes to ballot initiatives?”

It’s an important question because the answer from the justices will determine whether we will have to suffer the continued we-know-what’s-best-for-you attitude of the Beiersdorfers and their ilk, or whether we will be spared another anti-fracking ballot issue.

Youngstown voters have rejected the issue four times, and yet the proponents of the campaign to ban fracking in the city of Youngstown contend that not all the people have spoken.

Last November, the issue went down to defeat by the largest margin, 15.7 percent, but the Beiersdorfers and their colleagues were undaunted.

We have argued ad nauseam that the fracking foes are on a fool’s errand and that no argument they make will win over a majority of the voters.

They continue to turn a deaf ear to government and business leaders who have warned of the economic fallout if the Community Bill of Rights is enshrined in the Youngstown Home Rule Charter.

And, they have ignored the reality that there are no plans by oil and gas interests to explore in the city of Youngstown.

So, this entire exercise in futility comes down to one word: ego. The proponents are of the opinion that they’re better than the rest of us.

It is to be hoped that the Ohio Supreme Court, in its ruling on the Youngstown lawsuit, will give us the chance to tell the Beiersdorfers and their companions to find some other issue to embrace. How about crime in the city of Youngstown?

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