Last night, voters in the City of Youngstown roundly rejected an ill advised “Community Bill of Rights” charter amendment that threatened the city from regaining its status as the economic powerhouse it once was. The final vote tally shows the charter amendment was handily defeated by a 57% to 43% margin. In the end 3,821 voted against the measure while only 2,880 voted to enact the amendment which sought to place a ban on the use of hydraulic fracturing within city limits.
The ballot initiative was brought to a city wide vote after Frack Free Mahoning put oil and natural gas development in its sights earlier this year. The group succeeded in duping 4,000 residents into signing a petition to ban oil and gas development as well as other potential industries by seeking to approve the so-called “community bill of rights”.
However, after thorough review, many saw this effort for what it truly is. An attempt to not only stifle economic development in the city that would be entirely unenforceable. For this reason, many stakeholders from local chambers of commerce to local union organizations rallied to defeat the measure. As a result, many people who originally signed the petition rethought their support and voted against the measure as support on election day fell by over 1,200 people.
To combat this measure a group representing the diverse stakeholders opposing the measure - called the Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth and Investment - was formed. The group was a partnership of local businesses, trade unions, chamber of commerce and civic leaders who recognized the measure would be devastating to the city’s continued economic progress. The group held a press conference in April that outlined their concerns in which they condemned the ballot initiative.
“The problem is they took a shotgun to kill a fly and they are harming a whole lot of people in the process. This piece of legislation is government by chaos because you are creating private cause of action,”- Mahoning Democratic Party Chairman Dave Betras (Group lobbies against anti-frack ballot issue, 4/6/13)
The ballot initiative created more questions than answers. In fact, it was so hyperbolic that Energy In Depth took a closer look at how improperly written the “Community Bill of Rights” was and therefore the possible implications its enactment could bring to the city.
Luckily the people of Youngstown saw through the scare tactics put forth by Frack Free Mahoning and their supporters. Oil and gas development is helping re-ignite the passion of Youngstown and its residents for which they are well known. It is providing an amount of jobs and economic opportunity that haven’t been seen here in years. In fact, just this morning it was announced the Northeast region of Ohio has seen $1.8 billion investment with over 36,000 jobs created in 2012, many of these investments and jobs were created by oil and natural gas development.
Of course, this charter amendment would have tried to reverse this trend and put a closed for business sign on Youngstown. Had the measure passed companies would have thought twice before they moved to Youngstown because of new improperly vetted regulations.
“Our elected officials, labor, business and community leaders have worked very hard to get Youngstown moving in the right direction. Factories are opening, office space is being leased and workers are being trained for good paying jobs. Thankfully, the voters rejected a very bad law that would have hurt our progress.”–Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber President Tom Humphries
In the end, the community recognized the effort for what it was, namely an albatross of ill conceived anti-development rhetoric. Last night was a victory for the people of Youngstown as they can continue to pursue an economic renaissance being realized thanks, in large part, to increased oil and gas development. Case in point, the City is now the 5th fastest growing manufacturing city in the nation and with the no vote on the “Community Bill of Rights” on Tuesday, it will continue to move in the right direction.