Thanks to our friends at Auburntownship.org for this article.
Mark your calendars, Northern Ohioans, for February 26. That is the date that voters in the City of Toledo will vote on a special charter amendment that will appear on the ballot because enough valid signatures from Toledoans were gathered. It is apparently insignificant to the issue that neither Toledo City Council, Toledo Board of Elections, nor the Ohio Supreme Court has supported the measure. On the contrary, these entities have expressed negative opinions about the measure, but voters will determine its outcome anyhow on February 26, just shy of three weeks from now.
What is the Lake Erie Bill of Rights [LEBOR]? If it is passed by voter majority on February 26, it is a charter amendment in Toledo that will give Lake Erie and the Lake Erie Watershed the right to exist and flourish, permitting organisms, soils, and ecosystems not only to exist but also to evolve and flourish.
If this charter amendment is successful on the February 26 Toledo ballot, any state and/or federal license granted to a Toledo business, industry, farm, or agribusiness [or those in the 36 Northern Ohio counties stretching east to west across Ohio] that violates the right of organisms, soils, and ecosystems of the Lake Erie Watershed to flourish shall be invalidated. Moreover, the City of Toledo and/or any citizen(s) are entitled to bring suit against the entity in Lucas County Court of Common Pleas Court. Not only will the business/agricultural entity be struck down, but also the plaintiff will have the right to recover ALL COSTS OF LITIGATION AND DAMAGES WITHOUT ANY LIMITATION. The damages will be measured by the cost of mitigation and restoration of the Lake Erie ecosystem, but at this time there is no understanding of what organization or which individuals will carry the responsibility of the restoration process. Understand additionally that the only place where the defendant can provide defense for his/her actions is the the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas Court. LEBOR, if successful would be the first Right of Natural Law in the United States to protect an ecosystem.
Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, an organization to which thousands of Ohioans belong as a result of purchasing Nationwide Insurance or identifying themselves as farmers, ranchers, raisers of livestock, has gotten involved in LEBOR. In the fall of 2018 OFBF filed an amicus curiae [a friend of the court] letter that successfully kept the issue off the Toledo fall ballot. As it became apparent that the issue would be offered again on the Toledo ballot on February 26, OFBF filed another amicus in January that was turned down by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Since Farm Bureau believes that farms, and particularly large livestock operations, will be the most obvious focus of attention from Toledo supporters of Lake Erie ecosystems, the organization is urging agricultural entities to enroll as an Agricultural District with their county auditors. Agricultural Districts provide some defense for farmers who engage in activities which might be identified by some residents as nuisance operations because of noises, smells, or unpleasant sights.
Farm Bureau in its publicity campaign has expressed its belief that any business operating within the Lake Erie Watershed could be targeted by Toledo residents if the Lake Erie Bill of Rights is successful on February 26. The result, according to Farm Bureau, is the possibility of thousands of lawsuits and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses to be realized before and until the Lake Erie Bill of Rights is determined to be unconstitutional. Farm Bureau notes that NO OHIO COURT has of this writing granted standing in a legal case to an inanimate object, such as Lake Erie, or a feature of nature, such as soils. Additionally, the Farm Bureau argument is that if the Lake Erie Bill of Rights is successful, the power of the City of Toledo and its citizens to bring litigation against individuals, agricultural entities, and businesses in 36 northern counties, including Geauga, Lake, Ashtabula, Portage,Stark, Summit, Trumbull, and many others, far exceeds its municipal authority.
We urge our readers to stay aware of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights and the negative consequences it threatens to hold for the economic survival all of Northern Ohio agriculture, agribusiness, business, and industry.