By Bob Downing Published: July 2, 2015
From a Thursday press release:
BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, OH: Yesterday – in time for the July 4th celebration of American Independence and democracy – the Cuyahoga County Court dismissed a class action lawsuit filed by residents of Broadview Heights to protect their inalienable right to local self-government. The suit was filed against the state of Ohio and the oil and gas industry, as fracking is being forced into communities without their consent.
In November 2012, Broadview Heights residents, with 67% of the vote, adopted a Community Bill of Rights codifying their right to local, democratic self-governance, and rights to water and a healthy environment – banning fracking as a violation of those rights.
In June 2014, two oil and gas corporations sued the City to overturn the bill of rights, claiming it violated their corporate “right” to frack. When City residents attempted to intervene, they were denied by the judge, who indicated residents had no legal interest in the case. In deciding the outcome of the case this spring, the judge agreed with the corporate frackers: that their claimed right to frack claimed “right” to frack was superior to the rights of the people of Broadview Heights. The will of the people, as expressed through their democratically adopted bill of rights, was nullified by the judiciary.
Yesterday’s decision in the class action lawsuit further reveals what more and more people are coming to realize: our existing structure of law denies local, democratic self-governance, it denies communities the authority to protect themselves from fracking, and it denies communities the authority to protect their water and the natural environment.
The judge, refusing to hear oral arguments and refusing to speak to the democratic rights of human beings, focused solely on the authority of the state and corporations to disregard the will of the people. He ignored arguments the citizens made that were based on the Ohio Constitution’s guarantee that empowers the people to terminate unjust laws. It appears as if the people of Broadview Heights do not exist under the law.
There was a time when women and African Americans were invisible under the law. It required thousands of people, in communities across the country, to change that – to insist that women and African Americans had natural and inviolable rights as human beings, and that those rights could not be subordinated under unjust law.
CELDF’s community rights organizer Tish O’Dell stated, “Today, our communities and the people who live in them are invisible under the law. The people of Ohio, however, are insisting otherwise. Regardless of any court decision, they know they have the inalienable right to govern their communities, to protect their air and water, and to create the future they envision for themselves and their children. And they are acting on that knowledge as they continue to advance community rights across the state of Ohio.”
Broadview Heights residents are appealing yesterday’s ruling. And residents of four counties, as well as the City of Columbus, have turned in initiative petitions to place community rights initiatives on the ballot in November. They understand inalienable rights are inherent in communities, and not bestowed by any court.