Written by HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor
Thursday, 31 October 2013 09:31
Bowling Green voters will decide Tuesday on a proposed charter amendment that supporters say will effectively ban hydraulic fracturing and related environmental problems in the city.
Opponents believe the proposal will clutter the city charter with vague language that has the potential to vastly increase utility rates, expose the city to needless litigation and threaten the stability of business and industry in the city.
Both sides have developed and distributed four-color brochures to promote their arguments.
The full text of the proposed charter amendment can be found in the 2013 Voters Guide at the bottom of the Sentinel-Tribune homepage, www.sent-trib.com. The guide was published in the Oct. 16 Sentinel-Tribune.
Proponents argue that putting The City of Bowling Green Community Bill of Rights into the city charter provides the city "true protection" from fracking. "Charter Amendments like Bowling Green's have not been challenged in court, have not been preempted by the state and cannot be revoked by city council," according to a brochure paid for by the Freshwater Accountability Project.
The brochure indicates that no law prohibits oil and gas drilling in the city, or prevents destruction of personal and city property, gives citizens a voice in the future development of the city's economic plan, allows for a healthier, more sustainable Bowling Green and elevates the voice of the citizens above those of corporations.
"This charter amendment prohibits only fracking-related processes. It doesn't affect business growth or raise utility rates," the brochure states.
A brochure under the auspices of the BGCDF PAC alleges the proposed amendment is "a boilerplate creation which is being circulated to university communities." It lays the origin of the proposal to an unnamed Pennsylvania environmental group "and counts on the fact that voters will not read the actual content."
The brochure and several city officials have alleged that passage will result in an 86-percent increase in electric rates and 35-percent increases in water and sewer rates, states drainage ditches in the city could not be maintained, the city could not use salt brine on city streets in the winter and the potential loss of 1,000 jobs.
It also points out that city council passed an ordinance Sept. 16 to ban fracking in the city.
On Oct. 7, Mayor Richard Edwards named a "Bowling Green Coalition for Preserving the Charter" to educate citizens about the city's charter.
Discussion of the issue has been a regular part of BG City Council meetings the past several months.
A similar proposal is on the ballot in Youngstown, an eastern Ohio city, for the second time in six months. Voters turned down the proposal in May by a 57-43 margin. Proponents immediately circulated a new petition to place the issue on the Nov. 5 ballot.
A charter amendment was also sought in the south-central Ohio community of Athens, home of Ohio University. There the Athens County Board of Elections ruled the question could not go on the ballot. Proponents have since set about plans for a new effort in 2014.
Voters in Mansfield approved a similar amendment by a 62-37 percent margin, and in Broadview Heights, a community east of Cleveland, with 66 percent in favor, both in the November, 2011, election.
In Randolph Township, a limited home-rule township in Portage County in eastern Ohio, voters turned down a charter amendment in the November 2012 election. The vote was 291 yes, 2,431 no.
In Yellow Springs, east of Dayton, council adopted a bill of rights by ordinance on a 3-2 vote in October 2012.