Ohio Court of Appeals Denies the People’s Right to Local Community Self-Government
Affirms corporate “rights” and state preemption over community rights in Broadview Hts.
March 8, 2016
Last week, the eighth appellate court of Ohio ruled against Mothers Against Drilling in Our Neighborhoods (MADION) in a class action lawsuit brought by Broadview Heights residents in 2014. The lawsuit was filed against the State of Ohio and two corporations seeking to drill for gas within the City. In the filing, MADION asserted the people have a community right to local, democratic self-government to protect their health, safety, and welfare. The people of Broadview Heights exercised that right in November 2012, adopting a Community Bill of Rights banning fracking with 67% of the vote. The lawsuit was filed to enforce their Community Bill of Rights.
The court, however, was not moved by the will of the people, and affirmed the decision of a lower court – disregarding that this nation was forged in battle over the inalienable right to local, democratic self-government.
Instead, the court affirmed the corporate claimed “right” to bring industrial drilling and fracking into residential neighborhoods against the will of that community.
The court affirmed the state legislature’s claimed authority to strip people of their right to self-govern and protect their families and community from the environmental and economic harms brought by fracking.
The court affirmed the corporate claimed “right” to use communities as resource colonies for the benefit of a few people, living far removed from the harms – people who hide behind the corporate shield, and, with permits in hand, site harmful projects for the sake of profits.
The court affirmed the right of the state legislature to legalize these harms.
Despite the court’s ruling, it did acknowledge that MADION was asserting a people’s right distinct from a municipal power. This was key to MADION’s case, and marks the first time a court recognized the distinction. They refused, however, to recognize the authority of a people’s right.
In their decision, the court removed the illusion that we live in a democratic republic. It revealed our inability to obtain a remedy through the judiciary. And it laid bare that law does not necessarily have anything to do with justice.
The court demonstrated that it remains steadfast in protecting the status quo, regardless of harms to communities. We, the People, have no authority recognized by the court or legislature to create the sustainable and safe communities we envision. We, the People, cannot decide how we would like to provide energy to our communities; what minimum wages laws should be in our communities; how guns should be regulated in the places where we live; and not even the right to know if the food we are eating contains GMOs – let alone deciding we want to create local, sustainable, GMO-free food systems.
Last week, Broadview Heights residents – 19,400 people – were told by three people that they must now watch as drillers invade their community, inject thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals into the ground…and do nothing. Do nothing but wait: wait for the effects of the harms to surface in their air, their water and in their children. The people of Broadview Heights have been informed that their will, expressed through a democratic vote, is meaningless in Cuyahoga County, and that their community is nothing more than a resource colony for corporate and legislative exploitation.
The Court rendered Article 1, Section 2, of our Ohio State Constitution, meaningless:
All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform, or abolish the same, whenever they may deem it necessary.
The court’s decision falls in line with other recent court decisions, such as those in Oregon and Washington State, where judges are attempting to strip the people of their inalienable rights to local self-government, and their right to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their communities.
Of course, such decisions are not new. Slavery and women as property were legalized by legislatures across the nascent United States, and upheld decade after decade by the courts. With every unjust legislative act, and with every unjust court decision, the truth of our legal and governing structure was revealed to growing numbers of people – and those people took action. They refused to accept the authority of the legislature or the court. And when they were denied their rights over and over again, they refused to accept this denial – over and over again.
Our ancestors challenged those laws, just as the people of Broadview Heights are challenging unjust law today. Just as the people of Athens, Medina, and Portage Counties and the people of Youngstown and Columbus are advancing community rights and challenging every barrier the corporate state erects.
Broadview Heights and the dozens of other communities across the state – and hundreds of communities in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Colorado, Oregon, Washington State, and elsewhere – are forcing into light the truth of our anti-democratic legal and governing structure. The people of Broadview Heights, like their allies in Lafayette, CO; Spokane, WA; Coos County, OR; Grant Township, PA; Alexandria, NH; and many others – are in the front lines of a movement that is building the momentum necessary to drive community rights forward for social and political justice, and the sustainability of the planet.
Join us. For more information, visit www.ohcommunityrights.org.