Opinion: Community Bill of Rights would hurt Kent

Ray Paoletta is a junior political science major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

Ray Paoletta

On Nov. 4, Kent voters will have the opportunity to vote for Issue 21, also known as the Community Bill of Rights. Advocacy groups claim that this issue is a pro-environment issue that saves the city of Kent from the effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Regardless of one’s opinion on the bill of rights, this issue should not fool voters.

Issue 21 is a vaguely worded issue that would have crippling effects on current jobs, future jobs and everyday life in Kent. The law states that Kent Citizens, communities and ecosystems have a right to pure water and air free of toxins, carcinogens and any other substance that is known to cause harm to health; that is not explicit. Kent’s City Law Director James Silver, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, has listed a number of things that can cause pollution, including road salt, windshield cleaner, stove fuel and fertilizer. Does this mean cars that burn fuel and lawn mowers that use gas will be banned?  

Furthermore, the issue bans the extraction of hydrocarbons by any corporation, person or government in the city of Kent. This goes far beyond a ban on fracking. The vagueness of this part of the issue raises many questions. Silver raised the question of whether removing oil during an oil change is an extraction of hydrocarbons. The law does not specify where and under what cases it will be forbidden to extract hydrocarbons.

In addition to these problems, the law is arguably obviously unconstitutional. The proposed bill of rights would bar corporations found in violation of the charter from being deemed a person. In other words, corporations would be denied any legal rights. The United States Supreme Court has ruled and affirmed in Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward and Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania that private corporations are people and hold the same rights as an individual person.

Furthermore, the Charter states: “No permit, license, privilege, charter, or other authority issued by an state, federal or international entity which would violate the prohibitions of this Charter or any rights secured by this Charter, the Ohio Constitution, the United States Constitution, or other laws, shall be deemed within the City of Kent.” As Mr. Silver put it, this section would require Kent to ignore any state or federal laws that interfere with the Community Bill of Rights.  

The Community Bill of Rights has opponents from all sides of the political spectrum, from conservative groups to labor unions. Along with Silver, those who oppose Issue 21 are Jerry Fiala, mayor; Dave Ruller, city manager; Gene Roberts, service director; Bridget Susel, community service director; and council members Roger Sidoti, Garret Ferrara, and Wayne Wilson. A number of local business figures and the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 219 union also oppose this issue. Kent voters need to know all the facts about this bill of rights. It could lead to expensive lawsuits just to figure out what exactly the charter means because of how vaguely it is written, and/or it could lead to a ban on a number of everyday items. It could lead to a complete halt in job creation in Kent. Become informed, know the truth about Issue 21, and vote no on Nov. 4.