Bowling Green voters mull fracking-inspired ‘bill of rights’

November 2, 2013
Tom Henry

Bowling Green voters mull fracking-inspired ‘bill of rights’
Defiance residents asked to support constitutional rights for humans, not corporations

BOWLING GREEN — Voters across northwest Ohio are being asked to decide a variety of issues that go beyond the usual assortment of school districts seeking approval for tax levies and businesses seeking authorization to sell alcohol on Sundays.

One is a proposed community bill of rights for Bowling Green residents. It is a ballot initiative brought by residents opposed to hydraulic fracturing of shale bedrock, or fracking, a drilling technique used to unleash trapped oil and natural gas reserves.

The proposed community bill of rights does not mention fracking by name, but it asks voters to assert they have certain rights as individuals not explicitly outlined in the U.S. Constitution, such as the right to clean air, land, and water.

The business community doesn’t like the proposal because it believes, if passed, it could make it more difficult to build or expand industry.

Supporters say it is necessary to help close potential loopholes of an anti-fracking ordinance Bowling Green city councilmen passed a few weeks ago.

In Defiance, voters also are being asked to decide a citizen-led initiative.

In that one, Defiance would join other cities across America in urging a constitutional amendment that declares only humans, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights and that money is not equivalent to speech.

Dolores Whitman, of Defiance County’s Washington Township, said the initiative is in response to a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision which overturned some provisions of the federal Campaign Reform Act that was enacted in 2002, giving corporations and labor unions the same rights as individuals to unrestricted spending on political speech.

That, she said, has opened the floodgates for abuses by political action committees and lobbyists.

The Defiance initiative is part of the national Move to Amend campaign and is represented locally by a group that calls itself Occupy Defiance, an outgrowth of the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011.

Pam Schroeder, Defiance County elections director, said organizers had enough signatures to get their proposal on the 2012 general election ballot but erred by submitting them to the county elections office instead of first getting them certified by Defiance city officials.

They didn’t leave enough time to correct the procedural error, so the ballot question was held until the 2013 general election, Ms. Schroeder said.

Greg Coleridge, coordinator of Move to Amend’s Ohio network, claimed 500 communities are part of the campaign, many with council resolutions the general populace knows little about. Defiance-area residents went the petition route to force a discussion on the issue, he said.

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