August 12, 2019
The Bryan Times,
The past few weeks I’ve heard some blowback on the charter that was proposed for the fall ballot in Williams County.
The Ohio Constitution gives us the right to propose a chartered county government and to alter or amend the government when it no longer functions to protect us.
A chartered county means that we would have a local constitution. Citizens would have the right to initiative, the ability to propose law; referendum, the power to repeal an existing law; and recall, a procedure for submitting to popular vote the removal of officials from their office before the end of their term.
The charter contains language stating that the Michindoh aquifer, as well as the people in the county, have a right to a healthy environment and should be able to flourish and be free from activities that would violate these rights. It specifically states that the sale of water outside aquifer boundaries would be a violation of our rights.
Giving rights to nature is a relatively new concept. CELDF (Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund), the group that is helping the Alliance defend the charter in court, is on the forefront of this movement. CELDF did not lie to the Alliance. They made it clear that there were going to be hurdles in the process of becoming a chartered government.
There are other communities in Ohio that have been legally stonewalled during the process. In the past few years, legal ballot measures have been removed time and time again on issues pertaining to pipelines, fracking waste disposal and drinking water protections. Clearly the work of CELDF, which is attempting to bring rights back to the local level, has stuck a nerve with the state.
Citizens’ right to initiative has been free from government interference for over 100 years. This changed in 2016 when a foreclosure bill, HB463, was passed by the legislature.
People worked for decades so that we could have local rights. For over 100 years those rights were protected. What has changed in the past few years that these rights need to be stripped from us? Who is our government writing law for? If government is instituted for our protection and benefit, shouldn’t the government write bills that protect us?
The current law, which was inserted into the recent budget bill, does not prevent people or corporations from marketing water outside the Michindoh boundaries for profit.
Staci Stevens Bryan