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Every Ohioan retains an unalienable right to participate in community local self-government in the place where they live. But every citizen of Ohio is denied the full enjoyment of that right, and many are denied it completely.

State laws that deny the authority of community governments to protect their health, safety, welfare, and quality of life violate fundamental rights. State laws that exempt agribusiness and fracking corporations from being governed locally, place the privileges of wealth and property over the democratic rights of citizens to determine the future of their own communities. Local officials regularly confess to their constituents that they wish they could do more, but their “hands are tied” by state preemptive law. These officials are told that if they honor their oaths to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community, they will be breaking state law.

The first communities in Ohio – Yellow Springs, Broadview Heights, Waterville, Oberlin and Athens – have adopted Community Rights Amendments/Ordinances which ban fracking and injection wells. These local laws passed by the people of these communities, not only prohibit specific activities that will cause harm to the community, but they also challenge state preemption and corporate powers by codifying our rights to local self-governance, to clean air and water, and the rights of nature – and removing corporate privileges and state authorities when they violate those rights.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for! On November 16, 2013, citizens from 11 counties in Ohio gathered in Columbus to form the Ohio Community Rights Network (OHCRN), a project supported by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). At the convention, attendees signed the Columbus Declaration resolving to form a network of people committed to securing for all Ohioans the right to local, community self government through the formation of county chapters.