In what is becoming a scene in Groundhog Day, anti-development groups are again pushing so-called Community Bills of Rights (CBORs) in several Ohio cities for November’s election. The groups gathered enough signatures to advance the issue to the respective county boards of election for Columbus, Youngstown, and Toledo. Both the Toledo and Columbus measures were ruled to exceed the authority of a municipality to enact and were rejected by the election boards. The measures’ backers appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio where the Ohio Chamber of Commerce joined several other groups in urging the Court to keep them off the ballot. The Court agreed with the Ohio Chamber in the Columbus case and the Toledo decision is still pending.
The CBORs differ from city to city but all contain language that purports to stop lawful business activity. The Toledo issue endows Lake Erie and its watershed with judicially-enforceable rights and nullifies state and federal environmental permits issued to businesses operating in the city. The Columbus issue would have outlawed the extraction of hyrdocarbons in the city, nullified state and federal environmental permits and stripped corporations of their ability to argue that the measure is unlawful. Finally, Youngstown voters will be asked for the eighth time whether to endow ecosystems with rights that would be violated by normal business activities.
The common thread linking these initiatives is a radical, out of state organization called the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a group known for convincing communities to enact CBORs and then leaving local taxpayers on the hook for the inevitable successful legal challenges against the measures. The group has wasted enough judicial resources that a federal court in Pennsylvania sanctioned CELDF attorneys.
These anti-business, radical initiatives harm the state’s business climate and the Ohio Chamber urges their defeat.