By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The effort to get a pipeline charter amendment on the ballot for Bowling Green voters is facing another challenge.
Last week, the Wood County Board of Elections voted to allow the November ballot to include the charter amendment, which was petitioned for by people opposed to pipelines that could negatively affect the city.
However, this week the charter amendment faces a new challenge.
A Bowling Green resident, David W. Espen, has filed a protest with the board of elections about the charter amendment.
Espen’s objections cite two possible problems with the charter amendment petition, according to Wood County Board of Elections Director Terry Burton.
First, Espen claims the petition did not have a sufficient number of valid signatures. His complaint questions five specific signatures. Normally, that might not matter if a handful of signatures were found to be invalid. However, the pipeline petition had only one more signature than required to appear on the ballot.
A total of 1,230 signatures were collected on the petition. By law, to make it on the ballot, the petition needed 714 valid signatures. It had 715.
Second, Espen is challenging whether or not the charter amendment exceeds the city’s role allowed in the Ohio Constitution. The protest claims the issue goes beyond the limits permitted to municipalities, Burton said.
A hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning at 8:30, in the fifth floor hearing room of the Wood County Office Building.
Espen is being represented by the Columbus law firm McTigue & Colombo. The group supporting the petition will be represented by Toledo area attorney Terry Lodge.
“The Charter Amendment belongs on the ballot,” citizen activist Lisa Kochheiser said after the latest challenge was filed.
Burton said if the decision on this challenge is appealed, the issue will go straight to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Last week, the board of elections voted with three in favor of the charter amendment being placed on the ballots. John Cuckler, Dick Newlove and Mike Zickar voted in favor, while Mike Marsh recused himself since he is the city attorney for Bowling Green.
“This board has traditionally, philosophically had a tendency to put things on the ballot and not keep them off,” Newlove said prior to last week’s vote.
Prior to last week’s decision, Kochheiser urged the board to let Bowling Green citizens vote on the issue.
“I speak for the people of Bowling Green who want to protect their community from corporations, like Nexus pipeline,” Kochheiser said.
Kochheiser said the charter amendment gives city residents a right to “peacefully enforce these rights.” That means, according to Kochheiser, giving people the right to hold sit-ins or put up blockades on roads to prevent deliveries.
“We’re talking about peaceful demonstration kind of stuff,” she said. “To try to stand up for our rights.”