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Supporters keep up push to put Lake Erie Bill of Rights on ballot

By Sarah Elms/The Blade

Published on Oct. 23, 2018 | Updated 6:43 p. m.

John Durback, left, talks with his son, John Michael Durback, center left, during a rally organized by Toledoans for Safe Water on Tuesday at One Government Center.

Citizens behind the Lake Erie Bill of Rights initiative are keeping the pressure on Toledo City Council to send their proposal back to the Lucas County Board of Elections for reconsideration.

About 20 people stood outside One Government Center ahead of city council’s meeting Tuesday, carrying signs that read “Protect Our Water,” “Let Us Vote,” and “Clean Water is Our Right.”

The demonstrators — members of Toledoans for Safe Water and Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie — want council to pass an emergency ordinance to allow voters to weigh in on a ballot initiative that aims to amend the city’s charter to include language that gives the Lake Erie watershed rights to “exist and flourish.”

The Ohio Supreme Court and the Lucas County Board of Elections each voted to keep the citizen-led initiative off the November ballot, but advocates argue that city council still has the ability to ask the elections board to put the question in front of voters.

The protest came two weeks after council voted to send another citizen-led initiative to the polls after similar rulings from the state supreme court and county board of elections. That initiative, lead by the Keep the Jail Downtown group, aims to ensure a Lucas County jail must stay within downtown Toledo.

Council took an emergency vote Oct. 9 after the Supreme Court ruled that proper procedures were not followed because the local legislative body did not approve an ordinance to submit the proposed charter amendment to the elections board.

“They changed their mind after Keep the Jail Downtown went through … We would like city council to reconsider our initiative as well,” Toledoans for Safe Water organizer Markie Miller said.

Council President Matt Cherry addressed the issue at the beginning of council’s meeting Tuesday.

“I know you were hoping council would pass an ordinance today instructing the Lucas County Board of Elections to put the proposed appointment on the ballot for a special election,” he said. “Unfortunately, under the advice of our law department, we are not in a position to do that today.”

He said the Keep the Jail Downtown group filed a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court, and it’s his plan to wait to see what the high court says before acting on anything regarding the Lake Erie Bill of Rights initiative.

“Please know that our decision not to vote today does not mean that we will not possibly take action on this issue in the future,” Mr. Cherry said.

Mrs. Miller said she and other environmental advocates plan to continue attending city council meetings to urge councilmen to allow the initiative to go up for a vote. She believes Toledoans want to weigh in on the issue at the ballot box.

“We hope that the Lake Erie Bill of Rights would be enacted to the city charter, and it would recognize the inalienable rights of Lake Erie, saying that it has the right to exist, and flourish, and thrive,” she said.

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.


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