Green says no to gambling, Broadview Heights against new gas well in voting on Tuesday

November 8, 2012
Tom Feren

Voters used local ballots to take a hard line against gambling in Green and gas wells in Broadview Heights. In two Cuyahoga County communities on Tuesday, they also rejected the idea that corporations are people.

Bedford Heights residents, meanwhile, got quick action on an advisory question asked of them. After the people voted 2-to-1 to take former mayor Jimmy Dimora's name off the city's community center, it was down by early Wednesday.

In Strongsville, people interested in the outcome of a school bond issue rode a seesaw all night as they watched election returns. The current three-vote margin of victory is now subject to change when provisional ballots are counted. After that, an automatic recount is likely.

While the top of the ballot may have commanded the most attention Tuesday, the election also supported the adage that all politics is local.

• In Summit County, Green voters passed a charter amendment to ban casino gambling and horse racing in the community. It was a preemptive strike, but quite possibly a futile victory. Only the state can regulate gambling, said Stephen Pruneski, the city law director.

The ballot issue was sparked by talk last year of the Thistledown racino in North Randall moving to Green. But facility owner Ohio Rock Caesars decided to keep the racino in place, at least for now.

Still, a petition initiative landed the measure on the ballot, and nearly 59 percent of the voters approved it.

"It's so premature because nothing is even brewing anymore," Pruneski said.

• Broadview Heights voters overwhelmingly approved a charter amendment to ban new gas and oil wells in their community. The city already has about 90 wells, most of them sunk in the past five years, scattered in its 13 square miles.

Called a "Community Bill of Rights," the measure also prohibits the use of such new drilling methods as horizontal fracking in existing wells, and bans the storage, transportation or deposit of drilling-waste products in the city.

The city administration and most of council opposed the measure, maintaining it was unenforceable because of a state law that gives the Ohio Department of Natural Resources authority over decisions about drilling.

"They didn't take away our right to petition, and the residents spoke loud and clear," said Tish O'Dell, who co-founded Mothers Against Drilling In Our Neighborhoods and helped collect more than 1,700 signatures to put the initiative on the ballot. "We're looking to the future of the community."

Brecksville voters narrowly approved an issue that ultimately seeks to repudiate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United.

The issue, that also started with a petition drive, requires the city to hold a "Democracy Day" and public hearing every two years to discuss the influence of corporate spending on political campaigns. It then requires the mayor to send letters to state and federal officials saying that Brecksville residents believe money is not speech and corporations are not people with First Amendment rights.

A similar issue passed by a whopping margin in Newburgh Heights, where it was introduced by Mayor Trevor Elkins.

"We're proud to take the lead," he said. "People are tired of money polluting elections. More and more communities are going to pass this type of initiative to demand change."

Brecksville Mayor Jerry Hruby does not share that opinion. He said it is a federal issue outside the bounds of municipal government.

• Bedford Heights Mayor Fletcher Berger wasted no time yanking Dimora's name off the community center. "My position was we should change it if he was convicted, and my feeling was we should let the community decide."

Voters also changed the charter "so the community won't have to go through this again," Berger said. The amendment says no municipal property can be named for a living person, and the naming requires a citywide vote.

Dimora, mayor of Bedford Heights from 1982 to 1998 is in prison after being convicted of racketeering and other corruption while a Cuyahoga County commissioner.

• The $81 million Strongsville bond issue went from trailing late by more than 200 votes, to leading by 28 when Cuyahoga County quit counting. But the tally did not account for a precinct of neighboring Columbia Township that is in the district. The numbers from the Lorain County have the issue losing there 32-7.

The unofficial result is now 11,229 to 11,226. Provisional ballots won't be counted for more than a week.

• In Brook Park, a charter amendment to make elections for municipal office nonpartisan was rejected by a wide margin.

• One of the biggest surprises in Cuyahoga County was the defeat of Judge Joan Synenberg in her bid for re-election to the Common Pleas bench.

The Republican, a former Cleveland municipal judge, was one of only two candidates among the 28 in contested races rated excellent by all four law associations involved with the website

Endorsing her, The Plain Dealer editorial board said her re-election would be "perhaps the easiest judicial decision for Cuyahoga County voters this fall."


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