(Submitted by Bowling Green Climate Protectors)
On Monday July 31, representatives of Bowling Green Climate Protectors (BGCP) charter amendment group submitted a ballot initiative to the City of Bowling Green. In total, 1,231 signatures were turned in; 714 valid signatures are required to get the issue on the November ballot. Following ORC-731.28, once City officials have reviewed the initiative, they will hand it to Wood County Board of Elections (BOE), which has 10 days to verify the sufficiency of the signatures. Once sufficiency has been determined the charter amendment will go on the November 2017 ballot.
The issue sought for the vote is whether the citizens of Bowling Green care to amend the Bowling Green City Charter with the 5-section article, Community Rights to a Healthy Environment and Livable Climate. Part of the inspiration for this initiative was to provide the citizens and the city of Bowling Green a legal platform to resist harmful fossil fuel projects such as the Nexus pipeline. BGCP worked with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) in drafting the initiative.
If passed, this amendment would codify and uphold the rights of the citizens and environment of Bowling Green above the interests of “new infrastructure for fossil fuel transportation within the city of Bowling Green or on property owned by the city of Bowling Green” (section A).
Through the petitioning process, BGCP learned the majority of Bowling Green residents want to safeguard their public health and safety. The group expects public officials to work with the people of Bowling Green to protect their rights. The BOE is charged with ensuring the citizen-led initiative goes on the ballot, and city officials must ensure the measure is enacted and enforced once it passes the election.
Petitioner Lisa Kochheiser stated, “We expect no less than full cooperation from all local officials. After all, how can it be “legal” for a pipeline corporation to poison the water and people of Bowling Green, yet be “illegal” for the people to alter their local constitution (the city charter) in order to protect themselves? What kind of a system of law do we live under if corporations have more “right” to harm our community than the people have the right to protect themselves using their constitutional right to initiative?”
Bradley Holmes, President of BGSU’s Environmental Action Group stated, “The people of Bowling Green have spoken. We cannot put a price tag on water. We hope our city elected officials who have taken an oath to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of Bowling Green will work with us and support the people’s effort to amend our city charter to protect our rights and our water supply.”