Sunday, April 07, 2013

home-rule & economic fairness arguments may propel May 7 anti-fracking vote

The recently-formed opposition to the "Community Bill of Rights" charter amendment contends the proposed ballot language is not well-crafted, and in practice, unenforceable. (Link to story in the local press)

However, that same argument of not being enforceable is not a bone of contention, but is interestingly shared by some of the supporters of the "Community Bill of Rights" that Youngstown voters will consider in the May 7 primary.

So while enforcement may not be the critical differentiation between the two sides, the resulting message that the Mahoning Valley's largest political entity by population could send through its vote has resulted in the creation of  "Coalition for Job Growth and Investment" this week to oppose the amendment.

But is the main reason for people voting in support of this amendment a reflection of their attitudes on hydraulic fracturing activities, or something much larger?

As the Frack Free Mahoning Valley group was successful in collecting the thousands of signatures to create the ballot initiative, the organization has hit the pavement and attended numerous neighborhood meetings and community events in recent months sharing their beliefs to the voters.

One may think their presentations focus only on environmental issues (and with earthquakes and waste dumpings in recent times, there is plenty to discuss there), but they are not.

By watching the crowds' discussions, the topics are much more complex.

Take home rule for example.

It's a hot topic on many issues, from the ability of a state to regulate same sex marriage, or having residency requirements for employees on the public payroll.

In this case, some supporters of the Bill of Rights have shared that the state should not have this responsibility over local control in managing natural resources, which does not go over well with the audience. So while voters may be actually ambivalent to the environmental issues, they may view kindly on an issue that drives the sentiment of more local control.

Now take economic fairness for another example.

On this topic, some supporters of the Bill of Rights have shared that if the local manufacturing base is growing, then it needs to hire individuals from diverse racial backgrounds or hire citizens living in their neighborhoods. People are asked to recall if they know people who have benefited from the shale industry, and often they do not have any connections to people in their social circles who have experienced a growth in wealth.

They ask: is there is mismatch or alignment between voters in a Youngstown and if they are workers in Youngstown?

Again, even as voters may be ambivalent to either of the issues as the environment or home rule, they may feel a connection to perceived issues of fairness.

The co-mingling of these various issues, connected or not connected, fair or unfair, is wrapped around that single vote on the charter amendment.

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As shown this week by the excellent blog Warren Expressed, sometimes it takes very few people to drive a local election outcome.

A very small minority of voters may wind up dictating the message.

And for this upcoming primary, perhaps tactics to engage people on topics such as the environment and the charter's enforcement are a little simplistic.

Those who take advantage of these additional issues, either to promote them or to counter them may have the upper hand - especially when it comes time to count the votes.