Monday, June 3, 2013



In the original blog yours truly inadvertently referred to Bob Downing (the actual author of the article referred to) as being Bob Dyer.  A SCPR apology to Mr. Dyer for the error.


It is beginning to appear that Republican Governor John Kasich only favors democracy when it is convenient to his purposes.  Like being elected governor.

Last Friday, the SCPR reported (LINK) on the legislation that his administration ramrodded through the Ohio General Assembly to prevent Republican State Auditor David Yost from auditing Jobs Ohio (a private entity which has taken over economic development for Ohio). 

He was aided in passing the legislation by Stark County Republicans Scott Oelslager (R, Plain, the 29th Ohio Senate District), Kirk Schuring (R, Jackson, the 48th Ohio House District) and Christina Hagan (Republican, the 50th Ohio House District).

So much for transparency in government, no?

And speaking of Oelslager, who in large part has made his legislative reputation by authoring several bills beefing up open "public' meetings and thereby has been thought (until his anti-transparency co-sponsorship of the audit ban of Job Ohio) to favor public accountability; one has to wonder what he thinks of the activity of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) ban on basic democratic rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution, the Ohio Constitution and Ohio's Open Meetings law in its administration of fracking-related issues.

For a definition of fracking for those readers who are not familiar with the term,  here is a LINK.

And a disclaimer on the SCPR's position on the issue.

Yours truly neither favors nor opposes fracking.

The Report's tack is to require the oil and gas industry as a matter of law to provide bonds/insurances in amounts to that will pay for any accidents that occur with which to fairly and adequately compensate Ohioans who suffer damages on account an mishaps which happen.  Moreover, the industry needs to be required as a matter of law to compensate local government entities through bonds/insurances for any damages which is sustained as a consequence of harm done to local government owned and managed infrastructure (e.g.roads, bridges, water supplies and the like). Finally, the industry must be made by state/federal government rules and regulations to reveal to the general public each and every chemical they use in the fracking process.

No matter what a particular issue may be, The Report is committed to the enhancement of the processes and procedures of our democratic-republic.

It is seeming more and more that the Kasich administration is willing to sacrifice democratic principles to achieving command and control of its overall state government agenda as most recently evidenced by the shutting down of audits of Jobs Ohio and ODNR's "chilling" of democratic give and take in its interaction with the Ohio public over a range of fracking issues.

A full blown emergence of an anti-democracy tilt of the ODNR was apparent by November 28, 2012.

The SCPR can trace the beginnings of the ODND adversion to democratic dialogue on fracking issues way back to December, 2010/January, 2011 when Plain Township trustee Louis Giavasis sponsored public meetings on the issue at a Plain schools site (LINK).

According to a report by Columbus Dispatch (LINK) on November 28th,  the ODNR held, at its regional office on East State Street in Athens, a meeting which it termed to be "an open house" on an issue that some Athens Countians had with the issuance of an fracking residue disposal "injection well" permit.

Originally, the Athens County Fracking Action Network (ACFAN) had asked for a "public hearing, but were denied and ODNR substituted the "open house" which theACFAN folks termed as being an effort "designed to diffuse agency accountability and community solidarity."

On the 28th, some 50 people crammed into the ODNR provided room and promptly took control of the meeting from ODNR officials (including Stark County [Lake Township] resident and Chief of the Division of Oil and Gas Resource Management Rick Simmers), in an attempt to convert into a de facto public hearing.

Simmers' (appointed division chief by ODNR Director James Zehringer [who is, of course, a Kasich appointee]) responsibilities include:

(1) enforcing Ohio’s laws related to oil and gas drilling,
(2) production,
(3) plugging,
(4) orphan wells,
(5) solution mining,
(6) ethanol recovery,
gas storage, and
(7) underground injection control operations.

A report of the event by the Frackfree America National Coalition (FANC - LINK) indicated that there were numerous law enforcement types at the meeting and the anti-frackers were ordered out of the "open house" where they were joined by some 100 protestors (pictured above) who had marched to the scene.

As relevant to this blog and the anti-democratic flavor of the "open house," catch this blurb from the Frackfree article, to wit:
Underscoring how opposed they were to receiving public input, ODNR designated an outdoor, “free speech zone” for the ralliers, and forbade the public from bringing in signs, banners, backpacks, or audio or videocameras.  One citizen was ordered to leave after recording officials' comments.  Ralliers brought their own solar-powered sound system, stage, and roster of speakers. "We will challenge these intolerable restrictions on our constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly," said Smiles Welch, the emcee of the event.
Fast forward to May 30, 2013 and see how the November 28th  "open house" euphemism morphed into being an "availability session."

The notice which appeared in area newspapers:
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is holding a meeting Thursday evening at Wingfoot Lake State Park to answer questions from the public about the state’s Class II injection wells.
Class II injection wells are used to dispose of wastewater produced by oil and natural gas wells.
The meeting will be held 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Pine Tree Lodge, 993 Goodyear Park Blvd., Mogadore [Portage County].
No video cameras, demonstrations, signs or banners are allowed inside the venue and all bags may be subject to inspection by law enforcement, according to ODNR. (emphasis added)
Here is the first e-mail report about the the "availability session" that came into the hands of the SCPR:
"Just left the meeting.  What a useless dog & pony show with 14 armed guards and a dog.  ... .
Bob Downing of the Akron Beacon Journal penned a piece (Security heavy at injection well meeting at Wingfoot Lake, May 30 (LINK) which focused on the extraordinary number of armed ODNR staffers (14) which were present at the meeting of a total of 30 staffers and the resentment that their presence engendered among the 55 community activists concerned about injection well safety.

Seven wells are presently in plans for Portage County.

Interesting enough Downing (the journalist he is)  chose to ignore the ODNR prohibition on videotaping, and on audio recording.

Sounds like he is a real stand up guy for government accountability and transparency, no?  (sarcasm)

It seems to the SCPR that if challenged in court, the ODNR would not impress Ohio's judiciary with the game playing it is doing with dubbing public meetings as being an "open house" or an "availability session" in a obvious legal technicality effort to avoid the Ohio attorney general's interpretation of Ohio Open Meeting Law as informed by existing case law to effect that public officials cannot prohibit videotaping and audio recording.

What appears to be an apt survey of the law of Ohio was published in an email which the SCPR received a copy of, to wit:

The Ohio Open Meetings Act
Chapter Two: Duties of a Public Body
A. Openness

4.0 Audio and Video Recording

A public body cannot prohibit the public from audio or video recording a public meeting.*843 A public body may, however, establish reasonable rules regulating the use of recording equipment, such as requiring equipment to be silent, unobtrusive, self-contained, and self-powered to limit interference with the ability of others to hear, see, and participate in the meeting.844

  • *843 McVey v. Carthage Twp. Trs., 2005-Ohio-2869, ¶¶ 14-15 (4th Dist.) (trustees violated R.C. 121.22 by banning videotaping). 
  • 844 Kline v. Davis, 2001-Ohio-2625 (4th Dist.) (blanket prohibition on recording a public meeting not justified); 1988 Ohio Op. Att’y Gen. No. 087 (opining that trustees have authority to adopt reasonable rules for use of recording equipment at their meetings). 
  • See also Mahajan v. State Med. Bd. of Ohio, 2011-Ohio-6728 (10th Dist.) (where rule allowed board to designate reasonable location for placement of recording equipment, requiring appellant’s court reporter to move to the back of the room was reasonable, given the need to transact board business).
Shame on:
  • Governor John Kasich,
  • ODNR Director James Zehringer, and
  • Stark Countian [Lake Township] Chief of the Division of Oil and Gas Resource Management Rick Simmers
for trifling with our rights as citizens to have accountability and transparency and to exercise our First Amendment guarantees.

Let's hope that someone will step forward and take them to court.

Those who favor fracking say that the ODNR can be trusted to protect Ohioans from a fracking disaster?

Doesn't the agency's apparent zeal to trample on the citizens' rights via the nuancing of meeting labels in service of legal sophistry put that confidence in question?

Certainly not be be counted among those trusting the ODNR is long time Stark County Concerned Citizens leader Chris Borello who lives in Stark County's Plain Township.

Here is her reaction to Thursday's Wingfoot Lake ODNR goings on.
First big oil/gas bombards the air waves/media night and day with their promotion of fracking to seemingly in part drown out any descent.   Now, it appears more stories are being put forth like the one below out of Youngstown, [LINK]  to plant the seeds that American citizens are to be feared and more, yes, even be armed against -  if they dare to exercise their right to speak out in order to raise public awareness about their legitimate and very real concerns regarding fracking & the accompanying waste disposal practices potentially destroying our country, via posing threats to communities'  health, safety, &  properties.  Great strategy to keep people in line:  Float articles like the one below suggesting these concerned Americans are possible domestic terrorists,  to instill fear and intimidation to hopefully prevent them from speaking out; demanding answers.

We only need to look to what happened in Portage County in Ohio the other night.  Thirteen armed guards and dogs hired by Ohio DNR  for a supposed public information meeting to discuss injections wells, with each citizen reportedly having a wand waved over them prior.....  Purportedly this armed back up was to  "protect" this Ohio agency from these terrible Ohio citizens, who simply came to ask questions/express their concerns about the massive amounts of what drilling poisons will be disposed underneath their area's water supplies, including dangerous, long lived radiation - Radium -  that one radiation expert said in their opinion was more harmful to a body than ingesting Plutonium because it is bone seeking.
Just bet the industry really loved that show of force on ODNR's part which served to nicely compliment the gist of the below article.

What would those armed officials have done, had citizens brought signs to protest outside the meeting, OR,  God forbid, insisted this public agency merely FOLLOW Ohio's SUNSHINE LAWS allowing recordings of such meetings, which had been denied by ODNR?  )

Yep.  It certainly appears the stage is being carefully set in America the Heartland here in Ohio,  to paint good, caring folks who don't want to see innocent children develop cancer and Leukemia as the villains, once again, for standing up to industry and these agencies.

I believe many of us would like to know:   If a foreign enemy came over here and dumped radiation/toxins near our water supplies, what would our government's response be then?  Wouldn't the FBI, Homeland Security  et al be called in?  But,  if this dumping is done by  "friendly fire", somehow it is not only apparently "ok" to do, but citizens should keep quiet and accept it all without a fuss, or risk being labeled/treated like this?!

1 comment:

ZorroGirl said...

In my opinion the whole "free speech zone" requirement is a violation of our first Amendment rights.