Youngstown is being held hostage by a band of radicals forcing it to vote over and over again on an extremist measure called a “Community Bill of Rights” that is aimed at frustrating capitalism, jobs and development of natural gas that 88% of the city uses.
Less than four months ago, the voters of Youngstown, Ohio soundly rejected a “Community Bill of Rights” that would have banned natural gas development in that city of 65,000 people. The referendum margin, at 57% to 43%, was even close but this hasn’t stopped the radical organization proposing the measure, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, from taking another run at it in November using the same old story.
That is the nature of these folks, of course. You beat them soundly and they reappear like some mole or malignant cancer. The new referendum, approved for placement on the Fall election ballot will propose the same old amendment to the city’s home rule charter. It reads as follows:
“Shall the Youngstown Home Rule Charter be amended to add a Community Bill of Rights which protects those rights by prohibiting natural gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing, bans the establishment of infrastructures supporting gas production, and bans the storage, transportation or depositing of gas drilling waste products within the City of Youngstown, Mill Creek MetroParks and the protected drinking watershed of the Meander Reservoir?“
The actual “community bill of rights” may be found here and Shawn Bennett at Energy In Depth – Ohio dissected it here. Suffice it to say the thing is extreme to the core, stating that “natural communities and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, wetlands, streams, rivers, aquifers, and other water systems possess inalienable and fundamental rights to exist and flourish within the City of Youngstown” and stating “residents of the City shall possess legal standing to enforce those rights on behalf of those natural communities and ecosystems.” Just think about that for a moment, please. And, then remember the same sort of language is included in the proposed Youngstown charter amendment.
Call me old-fashioned, but my recollection of our Declaration of Independence, which undergirds our Constitution, is that it says “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and there’s nothing in there about streams having such rights.
After all, if a stream has unalienable rights, where does it all end? Does a rabbit or tree have unalienable rights? No doubt the authors think so, but let’s make it tougher, shall we? Does a mosquito? Does a bacteria? Does a virus? Does a rock? They are, after all, equally valid parts of ecosystems, are they not?
And, if all these things have unalienable rights, then certainly natural gas, an entirely organic thing that seeks to be free, must have them also. If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because the entire “rights of nature” concept is ludicrous once one gets beyond protecting all the warm and fuzzy stuff that environmental extremists and sentimental fools suppose are somehow superior to human beings
The concept hails from a radical group known as the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), which has authored not only the Youngstown version but also a similar provision in the socialist constitution of the nation of Ecuador. That’s a strong clue as to what the whole thing’s about and it has little or nothing to do with the environment. A further clue is provided by the over-the-top use of the word “corporation” in the proposed Youngstown bill of rights. It pops up 20 times in statements such this very convoluted one:
It shall be unlawful for any person or corporation or any director, officer, owner, or manager of a corporation to use a corporation to engage in the siting within The City of Youngstown of infrastructure supporting the extraction, processing, or transportation of shale gas or oil, including, but not limited to, compressor stations, pipelines, processing facilities, storage facilities and transportation facilities.
Notice the ban is on using corporations, not on doing any of things that corporations are prohibited from doing. The language is so poorly crafted, in fact, that an individual not using a corporation to engage in the nefarious acts would presumably be free to proceed, although I doubt strongly that is the intent. The authors are so determined to stick it to corporations, they miss the obvious with their overkill. No wonder these folks almost always lose in court (see pages 23-25). Logically, though, there’s an even bigger problem in that the law gives a person’s pet rabbit the same unalienable rights as the individual possesses. Therefore, as long as the enterprise is conducted in the name of the family pet, it’s legit. Ain’t it grand? What a country!
Ok, I know we’re drifting to the edge of the road again, but isn’t that the point? The kind of thinking behind the “rights of nature” is bizarre and only makes sense in the context in which the CELDF offers it; trashing capitalism. That’s what it’s all about, that and advancing some statist scheme with a shallow appeal to environmentalism. That’s who the CELDF is; a band of folks who would have us believe they speak for the common man as they seek the overthrow of civil society and an opportunity to impose their own agenda.
The CELDF is decidedly uncommon, however, and does the bidding of big money folks while pretending to be the little people. Visit their website and see some of the ideas they have, ideas such as outlawing all corporations, nullifying the National Animal Identification System, prohibiting “genetically modified seed planting and transferral” and preventing the conduct of agriculture by corporations – all by local ordinances they claim take precedence over state law, Federal law and our Constitution while claiming their authority from the same documents.
Check out this “Local Self-government Ordinance Warrant Article” which denies corporations “the protections of the Contracts Clause or Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution,” as an example. It also says “any Town resident shall have standing and authority to bring an action under this Warrant Article’s civil rights provisions, or under state and federal civil rights laws, for violations of the rights of Town residents, our community, or our natural assets, as recognized by this Warrant Article.” Get that? Any resident, can challenge anything anyone else does on the basis it violates the rights of natural assets.” Talk about a recipe for unending chaos and paralysis by lawsuits!
That, of course, is exactly what’s happening in Youngstown as CELDF sycophants operating under the name of Frackfree America National Coalition (FANC) and the Community Bill of Rights Committee force the city taxpayers into the expense of a second referendum on the same subject only nine months after the first goes down in flames by a margin of 15%. Here’s how Media Trackers reported the whole thing:
With the assistance of anarcho-socialist Occupy Youngstown, FANC gathered enough petition signatures this summer to put the ordinance before voters a second time.
Despite being soundly rejected by Youngstown residents in the spring, Beiersdorfer vowed to keep placing her measure on the ballot, explaining to Youngstown Vindicator reporter David Skolnick that the radical environmentalists won’t stop submitting the proposal “until we win.”
There’s something profoundly undemocratic about manipulating referendum rights to hold a community hostage to vote and revote until you win. That’s a schoolyard bully tactic, in fact. They aren’t interested in democracy or the environment. Rather, their sole interest is in using the tools of democracy to wear it down and collapse it so they can impose their own narrow vision.
Fortunately, for us, people tend to see through this nonsense and with 88.1% of Youngstown’s 28,000 households using natural gas to heat their homes, most of which is shale gas these days, they are very likely to do so again. They may have to do so several times, though, until even the spoiled children running this enterprise realize their efforts would be better spent on some other radical cause like outlawing radical lawyers from operating under the protection of a non-profit corporation, for instance, which is what the CELDF does.