COLUMBUS, OHIO - A group of concerned citizens submitted over petition 13,500 signatures to the City of Columbus Thursday in hopes of placing a city bill of rights charter on the November ballot. The group is part of growing community rights movement across the state.
The Columbus Community Bill of Rights, CCBOR, follows similar initiatives that have successfully passed in Mansfield, and Broadview Heights. Currently, four Ohio counties, Medina, Fulton, Athens and Meigs, and the city of Youngstown, are working toward towards placing similar charter amendment on the November 2015 ballot. A similar bill of rights passed overwhelmingly in the city of Athens in 2014.
In a media release, CCBOR organizers said the bill of rights is needed to ensure community’s right to preserve clean air, water, and soil, and assert their right to local self-government. The group says Columbus residents, along with many others throughout the state, are facing environmental consequences from shale gas drilling, fracking wastewater disposal and liquid natural gas (LNG) pipelines.
Columbus resident and CCBOR organizer Greg Pace stressed the need to reinforce democratic principles. "Democracy is a participatory process. If you don’t use it, you lose it,” Pace said. “At stake is control over our personal and collective health and safety.”
“Most people don’t know that there are 13 active frack waste water injection wells in the Columbus watershed," said Deb Crawford, a Columbus resident and petitioner. “People grew concerned when the Ohio EPA permitted potentially radioactive frack waste drill cuttings to be processed along Alum Creek. Radioactive frack waste could increase the risk of cancer and illness in our community.”
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund Ohio, CELDF, community organizer Tish O’Dell said most of these residents attempted to work within the current system of laws and regulations, and quickly realized no one was looking out for their communities.
“It is clear to each community group that it is the people of the community, who are directly affected by the permitted harms, who must fight for their rights and the community’s future. We are at the beginning of a new movement, the Community Rights Movement,” O’Dell said.
Karyn Deibel, a Columbus resident and petitioner said the effort is about the future. “I’m doing this for my grandchildren,” Deibel said.