The Bryan Times,

As I’ve observed the recent attacks on the county charter effort, I question how much effort some people have taken to examine information that has been widely available for months in newspaper articles or if they took advantage of the public community meetings that were hosted by the Williams County Alliance.

Some of the accusations that are being made describe the charter as misleading, a dictatorial power grab and poorly drafted. These allegations are far from the truth.

In March of this year, when the Alliance announced the charter effort, the Bryan Times wrote an article in extensive detail, citing the difficulties that community rights-based county charter initiatives face in reaching the ballot. This same story also included information on the five community meetings to be held in April, in addition to sharing the website where the charter could be viewed and that paper copies of the charter would be available at all libraries in the county.

If critics of the charter are truly being objective onlookers, they should take time to better understand the history of the county charter initiative effort in Ohio over the past few years and also examine the actions of the state with the same level of scrutiny. In December 2016, the Ohio legislature included controversial provisions in HB 463 which went against more than 100 years of precedent that protected citizen initiative from governmental interference.

This year, the state legislature again used the same tactic of inserting language into a bill (HB166), bypassing the normal legislative process, with no opportunity for debate or public comment. The language dealing with groundwater oversight in the bill does not specifically prohibit the sale of water outside the aquifer boundaries and basically equates groundwater with other natural and mineral resources in the state. The legislature also inserted language that defines “nature” and “ecosystem” in law and goes on to ban legal actions on behalf of or by nature or ecosystems. Our legal system recognizes corporations and even ships as having rights. Why not ecosystems that are critical for survival.

When all authority remains with the state, can we be confident that the concerns of communities dependent upon the aquifer as their sole source of water will take precedence over the needs of powerful interests who can market water as a commodity? The continued tragic state of the western basin of Lake Erie suggests otherwise.

Sherry Fleming

Bryan

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