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By Tish O’Dell and Michelle Aini
Why are Broadview Heights, Ohio residents accepting the loss of their rights? Is it because many of them don’t even realize that their rights, their children’s rights and the rights of our local officials have been taken away by the state and oil and gas industry?
When many people purchased or signed rental agreements for their homes in Broadview Heights, Ohio, they did it thinking that their homes were in residentially zoned areas and neighborhoods. Today, to their surprise, as trees are cleared and trucks move in, residential neighborhoods are no longer residential. Rather, they’re being converted into industrial zones for the oil and gas drilling industry. Broadview Heights has nearly 90 wells in backyards, next to playgrounds and on school properties in its 13 square mile suburb.
When council representatives were contacted, residents were told that the State of Ohio has taken all control away from local officials when it comes to the oil and gas drilling industry. Shouldn’t the city have a constitutional right to self governance? Or is a rich and powerful industry able to usurp that right by lobbying for or purchasing control of our government? Once they control the government, it is easy to pass laws and regulations to deny citizens their rights in favor of the industry.
Fracking and drilling in our neighborhoods is not inevitable unless we surrender through inaction. Inaction means continuing to live with the risk of explosions, methane leaks, oil spills and toxic chemicals being deposited into our air, water and soil. Inaction means continuing to not be concerned for the welfare of our own health and the health of our children due to exposure to these chemicals. Inaction means continuing to suffer the decline in property values that so many residents are now experiencing. Inaction means continuing to allow Broadview Heights to become a toxic dumping ground for the gas and oil drilling industry.
We are Americans, and as Americans we have inalienable rights. The state has authority only by consent of the governed. The state has no authority to issue permits to state-chartered corporations that deny Americans their inalienable rights. Some may argue for the rights of residents and businesses to sign leases to allow fracking and drilling on their property. Leaseholders have exactly the same right to the peaceful enjoyment of their property as their neighbors. But, no one in the city has the right to use their property in a way that threatens or harms the rights of their neighbors or the community as a whole.
As Americans, we have fought for our rights for more than 200 years. We must continue to fight for our rights or risk losing more of them. In Broadview Heights, some residents have decided to try and stop the madness. They have attempted to educate their elected officials on the importance of protecting residents and the environment of Broadview Heights. Unfortunately, these elected officials are not standing up to the industry and politicians in Columbus. Therefore, the residents of Broadview Heights have launched a petition drive to place a Community Bill of Rights into the city charter by a vote of the people.
If residents can collect enough signatures to get this bill on the November ballot and get the residents to pass it, this Bill of Rights will prevent more drilling from taking place in their city and neighborhoods. This is the first step to assert our rights, take back control of our community and send a clear message to the state that we will not surrender our rights as Americans.
Let’s stop being complicit in the ruination of our city, state and country. Let’s stop settling for regulating the rate of destruction of our neighborhoods and communities.