Frequently Asked Questions About the Charter (FAQ):
Why should we have a county charter? Aren’t Local, State, and Federal laws enough?
Current Ohio State laws limit counties’, cities’, towns’ and townships’ legal authority. Residents of townships do not have the same rights of initiative & referendum that urban residents have. As a statutory county, which Portage currently is, our local elected government can only do what the state has told us we can do. Representative Democracy occurs when a majority of people who live in a community decide what laws will govern their community, and elect a local government that enacts and carries out laws to protect.
Aren’t Ohio counties sub-divisions of the state and subject to state laws?
Partially true under existing law. However, our inalienable rights are “higher law” and more basic than any government-created law; therefore, we, the citizens of Portage have the right to alter or reform their government in ways that will ensure the protection of our health and safety and the environment on which we depend for life.
Will the charter radically change the government of our county, city, village or township?
No. All local government structures (county, city, village, township) will remain the same; the County Charter secures the authority of the commissioners and the people who live in Portage, as well as existing chartered municipalities and their residents, to propose laws that protect our health, safety and environment. Laws that infringe on individual rights or that treat classes of people unfairly are expressly prohibited. The Charter gives everyone in the county equal rights of initiative, referendum and recall at the county level. Chartered municipalities retain local rights within their municipality.
Will the charter require all local laws to be approved on the ballot?
No. Local elected officials will have the authority to enact laws to protect residents’ health and safety, but, in addition, citizens will have the right of initiative and referendum under the charter.
Do our local elected officials support the county charter?
Our elected officials work for us, whether or not they support this charter. “We the people” create government to protect our rights. If elected officials cannot or will not do what a majority of the citizens want, then they are not doing their jobs. Government is established to protect the citizens. Elected officials are legally and morally obligated to work in service of the health and safety of the citizens who elected them.
What if a lawyer for our local government or other critic says this charter is “illegal” or “unconstitutional”?
The job of any local government attorney is to represent the interests of the municipal corporation, or in the county's case, the county---by interpreting existing law. The attorney’s job is to protect the government the way it is now, not to protect the citizens who elected the government. We are exercising our right to create the local government we want.
In our form of government (a democratic republic), citizens must be able to change laws that limit or violate people’s rights. Laws once supported slavery, women once were legal property of their fathers or husbands; these laws violated human rights. When the people acknowledged that those laws violated human rights, they changed those laws.
Will a County Charter get the county sued and bankrupted?
Anyone can sue or be sued, even for frivolous reasons. Any lawsuit brought against the Portage County Charter would have to argue that citizens of the county do not have the democratic right to protect their water, air and way of life. Any suit would have to argue against our Ohio Constitution’s assertion that governments are created to protect our rights; or against the idea that human rights are more important than corporate privileges.
Will the Charter hurt local businesses?
The only charter restraints on any business are on new activities that violate the human rights of the community’s citizens or the rights of nature in that community. Restraints already exist. Mechanics can’t pour chemicals down the garage drain, your neighbor can’t burn tires in the backyard, etc.. The charter secures our rights to local self-governance and to clean water and air to live.
Is the Charter’s only purpose to ban drilling or waste injection wells?
No. The proposed County Charter broadly protects our rights and forbids any activity by governments or corporations that violate our rights.
What about the rights of landowners who leased for drilling?
The Charter protects the rights of all county residents and landowners. No resident of the county should be allowed to use their property in a way that harms the local community as a whole or violates the rights of other residents in the county. But the county voters as a whole should be able to decide whether a business would violate the basic rights of the citizens. For example, if the citizens of the county decided that a factory would not violate our rights, they could choose to allow it.
But we need energy.
Of course we need energy. We should be able to choose, locally, whether we want to continue supporting fossil fuels for energy or to support sustainable energy from sun and/or wind. www.thesolutionsproject.org shows how we could use existing technology to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2040. Also see: http://ieefa.org/solar-industry-job-force-maybe-greater-oil-gas/ ; http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2336594/balcombe-residents-ditch-fracking-for-solar-power ; http://www.triplepundit.com/2015/02/burlington-vermont-runs-100-renewable-energy/