The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has filed an injunction to end Toledo’s Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) charter amendment while the organizers behind the initiative have vowed to continue the fight.
The AG’s office was granted the right to intervene in the lawsuit in May while Toledoans for Safe Water (TSW), the organization behind LEBOR, was denied that right.
Toledo residents passed the LEBOR amendment earlier this year with the intent of giving the lake rights, such as to exist and flourish, and give Toledoans the right to stand up for it.
Drewes Farms filed a lawsuit against it the next day.
“It’s kind of been a hurry-up-and-wait situation, we don’t really know what is going on,” said Crystal Jankowski, a TSW organizer. “Judge (Jack) Zouhary had a behind-the-doors conversation with the City of Toledo. He wouldn’t let any representatives of TSW or Toledo residents in. So, we were kind of miffed about that one.”
According to published reports, the AG complaint is proposing to invalidate the charter amendment because it “purports to grant rights that exceed the city’s authority and conflict with Ohio environmental, agricultural, natural resources and corporate laws. Thus, the charter amendment is preempted by the general laws of Ohio.”
The complaint also states that Ohio regulates, administers and enforces laws and rules affecting Lake Erie and contends the amendment would conflict with the lake’s status as a public trust, according to published reports.
“The charter amendment seeks to recognize the ‘Lake Erie Ecosystem’ as a legal entity by utilizing a natural rights theory that unlawfully undermines Lake Erie’s status as public trust waters and lands reserved to the State of Ohio and by attempting to confer legal standing to the Lake Erie Ecosystem separate and distinct from the State of Ohio’s trust estate,” the complaint says, according to published reports.
Because TSW was not allowed to intervene, the defense is being handled completely by the City of Toledo.
Drewes Farms had until Friday to disclose documents to the City of Toledo — the defendant in the case — and to file motions for judgment.
Toledo’s response is due July 8.
If the lawsuit is successful and LEBOR is invalidated, Jankowski said they “will do it again.”
“Here’s the thing: A lot of this, what we’ve seen in the system, has kind of opened our eyes a little bit,” she said. “It’s not just LEBOR, anymore ... It’s the process of citizens trying to enact their own rules when the government is not listening or de-regulating or doesn’t care about their health and safety or the environment.”