The Columbus Community Bill of Rights

Columbus Residents are working to ensure safe drinking water, clean air, and safe soil in the City of Columbus.


News Coverage Following CCBOR's successful campaign to collect more than 9,000 signatures to get proposed ordinance on November 2018 ballot

CCBOR Media Release


Carolyn Harding, Co-Organizer

William Lyons, Co-Organizer



Seven Ohio Supreme Court justices deny 565,000 Columbus Voters the right to vote to protect Columbus Water, Air and Soil from the toxic and radioactive gas & oil extraction & waste industry within the city, thereby risking the public health of over 860,000 Columbus residents, and over 2 million Columbus Metro residents who depend on clean and safe Columbus water.

On Friday, October 5, 2018, the Ohio Supreme Court refused to reconsider its blocking of the Columbus Community Bill of Rights (CCBOR) city ordinance from the November, 2018 ballot. After two rebuttals from our CELDF legal team, the seven justices made their decision in a 5-2 ruling, with no further justification.

Important Facts about the CCBOR Campaign:

  1. The Ohio Constitution, Article 2, gives citizens the right to initiate law and referendum;
  2. The Ohio Constitution, Article 1, gives citizens the “right to alter, reform or abolish government whenever they deem necessary”;
  3. The Columbus Community Bill of Rights passed all legal requirements to have this city ordinance placed on the ballot;
    • Franklin County Board of Elections (BOE) approved 12,134 valid Columbus voter signatures;
    • City of Columbus declared the CCBOR initiative Is legally sufficient;
    • Columbus City Council voted unanimously on July 30, 2018 to place the CCBOR on the ballot;
  4. OHIO HB 463, enacted in 2017, gave Ohio law makers an unconstitutional tool to block citizen initiatives that make it all the way through the system to the BOE. It gives appointed BOE members as well as the Secretary of State, the role of judge and jury to decide whether or not the People’s initiative goes on the ballot, even though Boards of Elections are not part of the judicial branch of government. This illegitimate law was used in two prior Ohio county BOE lawsuits. Each were overturned by the Ohio Supreme Court (OHSC), and both initiatives were placed on the ballot; (Bowling Green and Youngstown)
  5. Franklin County BOE received a protest against the CCBOR initiative petition, filed on the behalf of Loretta A. Settlemeyer, and later joined by Robert J. Wall, both with possible oil & gas connections. The BOE rescheduled the hearing TWO times. It also only informed CCBOR of one of the protesters, and then only after we approached them for any additional information filed against our initiative. The BOE failed to submit all requested documentation by not informing CCBOR of the additional protester;
  6. On the Friday, August 24 BOE Hearing, the four appointed members of the BOE took a vote before hearing any testimony - from legal council or Columbus Voters. They voted unanimously to deny the CCBOR’s passage to the Columbus ballot - citing HB 463 as their justification;
  7. CCBOR filed a complaint to the OHSC against the BOE’s decision, on August 28, 2018. On September 14, 2018, OHSC voted 6-1 to deny CCBOR’s complaint, using a pre-HB 463 decision;
  8. CCBOR filed a Motion of Reconsideration with the OHSC on September 17, 2018, because our objections are based on the constitutionality of HB 463, and the high court can not retreat to a sub constitutional basis to reinforce the validity of the BOE’s decision;
  9. CCBOR filed a Notice of Additional Authority on Sept. 20, 2018, in support of the Motion for Reconsideration based on the September 19, 2018 decision by the US District Court - Southern District of Ohio. The judge ruled against the Portage County BOE and the Ohio Secretary of State in their decision to keep two marijuana decriminalization initiatives from the ballot, and placed them on the ballot.
  10. OHSC denied CCBOR passage onto the Columbus, Ohio November, 2018 ballot on October 5, 2018 and dismissed the people’s arguments without any reason given.

This Issue is Still With Us. Columbus Residents Need to Know:

  1. If you live in the Columbus Metro area, your community buys its water from Columbus, and if you have your own water system, i.e. Westerville, you are still downstream from the Upper Scioto Watershed;
  2. There are currently 13 Active Frack Waste Injection Wells in the Upper Scioto Watershed, Columbus’ water supply. The gas & oil industry dumps millions of gallons of radioactive, neurotoxic, endocrine disruptive, carcinogenic Frack Water Waste into them;
  3. The state gave the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) complete jurisdiction over all gas & oil drilling and dumping of wastes via HB 278 in 2004, taking away municipal regulatory rights regarding gas & oil activities;
  4. The CCBOR ordinance would have given Columbus citizens the right to prohibit gas & oil extraction, waste dumping, and pipelines in our city and the right to Clean Water, Air and Soil, and the right to protect them. Without local self-governance, the gas & oil extraction industry continues to have the right to pollute and harm our Community and We, the People have No right to protect our Community from these harms.

“We are outraged by the unjust OHSC ruling, the illegitimate arguments justifying their decision and alarmed that they undermine the people’s right to initiative”, stated Charlotte Owens, a Columbus Metro resident and volunteer.

If you are upset by this injustice and want to get involved, please attend the next CCBOR meeting.

CCBOR Media Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 22, 2018

Carolyn Harding, Co-Organizer

William Lyons, Co-Organizer

PRESS CONFERENCE/RALLY - COLUMBUS, OH, Citizens Demand Supreme Court Justices Recognize the People's Rigths and Put the Columbus Community Bill of Rights Proposed Ordinance on the Ballot

12:00 NOON
65 S Front St., Columbus, OH 43215

The Columbus Community Bill of Rights supporters will give a Press Conference to update all interested media where this landmark city ordinance initiative stands with the Ohio Supreme Court, and emphatically draw a line: We can no longer default to the powers-that-be, if they fail to honor our democratic process and our inalienable right to protect our community. Currently the court has a motion to reconsider their September 14, 2018 decision to keep the people’s initiative off the ballot based on a decision from a federal judge on September 19 to allow two unrelated initiatives on the November ballot.

After two months of finagling, delay tactics, illegitimate protocol and legal maneuverings to attempt to keep the Columbus Community Bill of Rights (CCBOR) citizen initiated ordinance off the November ballot, supporters will confront the Ohio Supreme Court Justices who will decide the fate of our Community. The supporters will urge them to honor the 12,100 registered Columbus voters who signed the petition for their right to vote on this initiative.

“The Ohio Constitution gives citizens the right to initiate law and the right to direct democracy, and we (CCBOR) have honored the stringent requirements to get the Columbus Community Bill of Rights on the ballot. Now we hold the Supreme Court responsible to honor our Rights,” states Sandy Bolzenius, a Columbus author and voter.

“I’m in this for my Grandchildren. Who will speak for them?” offers Karyn Deibel, a Columbus business owner and voter.

“As the Director of SPAN Ohio, I’ve volunteered many hours to let the People vote to protect our most valuable resources. If we don’t have safe water, what good is all the health insurance in the world?” urges, Bob Krasen, Columbus voter.

“We can’t afford to allow Radioactive, Toxic Frack Waste to be dumped into the Columbus Watershed. The State agency, ODNR gets their funding from Fracking and Frack Waste Injection Well permits. Do you think they are looking out for our most vulnerable?” offers Carolyn Harding, a Bexley resident who volunteers for the campaign. “This doesn’t just affect Columbus residents. My community, my parent’s community, your community, 19+ Columbus Metro communities buy our water from Columbus. This city ordinance will give the People a Voice and Vote in what comes and goes into our community.”

“This group is not going anywhere. No Board of Elections or Supreme Court of Ohio is going to scare us away. Giving up on the environmental safety of Central Ohio is not an option. We’re in this to Win! Not Another Flint”, states Will Perkins a retired union member and Columbus voter.

CCBOR Media Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 16, 2018

Carolyn Harding, Co-Organizer

William Lyons, Co-Organizer

Ohio Supreme Court Joins with Legislative and Executive Branches to Strip the People of their Fundamental and Constitutional Right to Govern their Community and Protect their Water, Air and Soil

COLUMBUS, OH: On Friday, September 14th, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected the peoples’ arguments that the Franklin County Board of Elections (BOE) had violated the rights of the people to legislate directly by initiative and sided with the BOE to keep the Columbus Community Bill of Rights off the November ballot. The proposed ordinance, if enacted, would assert resident’s rights to clean water, air, and soil and ban oil & gas extraction infrastructure, particularly regarding radioactive, toxic waste disposals in the city of Columbus as a violation of those rights.

The court arbitrarily determined that the municipality and the people of Columbus do not have the same rights that the cities and people of Youngstown and Bowling Green have in placing initiatives on the ballot. After precedents set by the court’s own decisions for these cities, the Ohio high court reversed logic in Columbus and stated that municipalities do not have the rights to create new causes of action, based upon statements by a member of the Franklin County Board of Elections and reiterated by two citizen protesters.

The Franklin County BOE action and the Supreme Court decision rely on wording from House Bill 463, enacted in 2017, and a prior Youngstown decision from 2016. In dissent, Justice Fischer states that in the Youngstown decision, “I wrote an opinion concurring in judgement only in which I concluded that portions of H.B. 463 are unconstitutional and that certain pre-H.B. 463 decisions of this court had been decided in error and should be overruled.” In the Bowling Green decision, it was ruled that it was a violation of separation of powers for a BOE to “make substantive, pre-enactment legal evaluations … and is unconstitutional.”

Bill Lyons, co-organizer for CCBOR states, “By this decision Youngstown residents have more rights than the residents of Columbus because they get to vote for their Water Protection Bill of Rights in November, but the residents of Columbus do not. This is a gross miscarriage of justice.” He further adds that “What the court has ruled is that it is legal for the oil and gas industry to dump their toxic, radioactive waste in the Columbus watershed and illegal for the people of Columbus to protect themselves from the harms of those corporations. How long will the people accept being poisoned by their own government and their corporate masters?”

Co-organizer Greg Pace states, “The myths of democracy that we live under today were actually developed right after the Revolution by white, wealthy men. The myth is that all people have the same right to govern and that the people all have a voice in our democracy. What we are witnessing today in Columbus and around Ohio is that myth being exposed. The “rights” of corporations and property have been elevated by our three branches of government, which are controlled by the 1% elite minority, above that of the people to protect their health, safety and welfare.” Pace added “People need to see very clearly with this decision that the people cannot ‘alter or reform’ an unjust and corrupt government, when that government has complete control over them doing so. In other words, the system is not broken, it is working exactly as the founders and the elite 1% minority have intended for it to work all along.”

The Columbus Community Bill of Rights, an initiative by the people to protect their drinking water and environment, would enable citizens to directly address pollution and harm to their drinking water before the harm occurs. The community group poured many hours of sweat and sacrifice over an entire year to give the voters of Columbus a voice in passing this law. In a single coordinated effort by the government and the court, that voice was silenced.

The Columbus citizen group chose to work with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to draft the initiative as a result of frustration felt by residents after years of inaction by the government. CELDF has partnered with communities across more than 10 states to enact over 200 rights-based laws.

The Columbus Community Bill of Rights group hopes that people will not simply “accept” this unjust decision and will join their group and efforts to continue to fight to protect the community and the future. Visit for updates and ways to help.

CELDF Media Release


Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Organizer

Franklin County Board of Elections Denies Residents the Right to Vote

BOE refuses to place duly qualified Community Bill of Rights citizen initiative on the November ballot

COLUMBUS, OH. AUGUST 24, 2018: Today, the Franklin County Board of Elections effectively stripped 560,000 Columbus citizens of their right to vote on a ballot measure entitled Community Bill of Rights for Water, Soil, and Air Protection and to Prohibit Gas and Oil Extraction and Related Activities and Projects Ordinance. The local group, Columbus Community Bill of Rights, qualified the measure, gathering more than 12,000 signatures. The Columbus City Council approved the measure to advance to the ballot on July 30.

Columbus residents requested the assistance of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) in drafting the initiative. City residents face threats to drinking water from the disposal of toxic and radioactive fracking waste within the city’s watershed. The proposed ordinance recognizes democratic and environmental rights, including the right to pure water and the right to make decisions directly impacting the community’s health, safety, and welfare.

Similar measures were advanced in Youngstown and Bowling Green over the last year, where residents’ right to vote on their own legislation was recognized by the Wood County Board of Elections and the Ohio Supreme Court. The Franklin County Board of Elections is using HB 463 to justify their actions. HB 463 was adopted by the Ohio legislature on behalf of the oil and gas industry in December 2016. The House Bill takes direct aim at stopping Community Rights initiatives from advancing to the ballot, and goes against 104 years of precedent that protected citizen initiative from governmental interference.

“The Board of Elections meeting today was a farce. Board members began by stating they are not there as lawyers and are not in a position to vote on this – and then they proceeded to vote such that we, the people, cannot,” stated Bill Lyons of the Columbus Community Bill of Rights. “In fact, neither we, nor our attorney, was permitted to speak prior to their vote. We have a right to speak, we have a right to vote, and we have a right to clean water. Today, we’ve been denied each of them.”

Tish O’Dell, CELDF’s Ohio community organizer, added, “Some Ohioans have more rights than others. When Youngstown and Bowling Green residents’ rights to put laws on the ballot are recognized, while Columbus residents’ rights are denied – we have a democracy problem. The Franklin County BOE is acting outside of its authority by blocking the people’s ballot measure from a vote by the people.”

Citizen initiative is protected in the Ohio state constitution and in the Columbus city charter. Columbus residents are determined to exercise their right to initiative and to protect their health, safety, and welfare over harmful oil and gas industry projects. They are working with CELDF to challenge the decision.

Ohio Communities Part of Growing Movement

Ohio residents are advancing Community Rights as part of the broader Community Rights Movement building across the United States, where other localities are advancing similar measures to establish and protect their rights to a healthy climate, clean air and water, and the right to local community self-government.

Local communities and state Community Rights Networks are partnering with CELDF to advance these fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They are working with CELDF to establish Community Rights and the Rights of Nature into law, and prohibit extraction, fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other industrial activities as violations of those rights. Communities are joining together within and across states, working with CELDF to advance systemic change - recognizing our existing system of law and governance as inherently undemocratic and unsustainable.

Additional Information

For additional information regarding petitioning communities, contact CELDF at To learn about the Ohio Community Rights Network, visit To learn about the Community Rights Movement, visit

About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.

CCBOR Media Release


Carolyn Harding, Co-Organizer

William Lyons, Co-Organizer

Columbus, OH, will vote on citizen-initiated community Bill of Rights ordinance headed for ballot.

The people's initiative codifies the right to clean air, water, and soil and prohibits gas and oil extraction and related activities

COLUMBUS -- August 24. At a special meeting of the Franklin County Board of Elections (BOE), Friday, August 24 at 10:30am, the Columbus Community Bill of Rights attorney Terry Lodge will present the legal arguments in support of the Columbus Community Bill of Rights ordinance to clear its passage on the November ballot. Once on the ballot, all Columbus voters will have a voice in protecting their water.

After the citizen-led initiative qualified with enough signatures and was approved by the Columbus City Council to go on the ballot, a single Columbus citizen, Loretta A. Settlemeyer filed a protest with the BOE. It has been discovered that she is a legal assistant at the law firm Bricker & Eckler LLP, a firm that has been involved in other attempts by residents throughout the state to protect their communities from oil/gas projects. Her attorneys will present her case as to why her single voice should be allowed to take away the voices of all other Columbus voters.

Two different Columbus city attorneys on three different occasions have determined that the Columbus Community Bill of Rights initiative passes the legal requirements set forth by the Columbus City Charter. On July 30, 2018, the Columbus City Council ordered and provided for the submission of the initiated ordinance to the electors at the November 6, 2018 election. Settlemeyer never voiced her objections at any of the three city council meetings when the Community Bill of Rights initiative appeared on the agenda.

This is the third rescheduled BOE hearing. Each postponement has delayed the decision to put this hard-won citizen-led initiative on the November ballot.

Volunteers and supporters of the Columbus Community Bill of Rights will be attending this pivotal hearing and decision at the Franklin County Board of Elections.

CCBOR Media Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, June 25, 2018

Carolyn Harding - (614) 893-6314
Bill Lyons - (614) 551-6194


COLUMBUS – The citizen-led Columbus Community Bill of Rights, a city ordinance, restores Columbus citizens’ Rights to protect their water, air and soil from oil & gas drilling, toxic and radioactive waste and infrastructure within the city of Columbus. This city ordinance disallows road spreading of oil & gas produced brines within city limits. Recent reports show these products to contain radium-226 amounts in excess of 500 times the EPA’s drinking water limit. The proposed ordinance also ensures Columbus citizens legal teeth to hold corporations liable for hazardous oil and gas activities from neighboring municipalities should these activities harm the water, air or soil of Columbus.

With 13 active frack waste injection wells, and four more permitted in the Upper Scioto Watershed (Columbus’ water source), Central Ohioans recognize that they must take action to protect the health and safety of their environment. The majority of the Upper Scioto Watershed injection wells are abandoned vertical oil wells with no holding tank to contain the waste. In addition, the State of Ohio has recently permitted the oil & gas industry to dump potentially highly-radioactive frack drill cuttings in a landfill located within the city of Columbus - without testing for radioactivity.

Historically, Ohioans have had local control over decisions regarding oil and gas activities. That changed in 2004, when state lawmakers gave complete jurisdiction to ODNR (the Ohio Department of Natural Resources), a department that also takes funds for frack drilling and dumping of frack waste. This toxic radioactive frack waste (liquid & solid) comes from Ohio oil & gas activities, and from neighboring states, i.e. Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Recent State plans for an $83 billion petrochemical complex on the Ohio River will dramatically increase frack waste disposal in our State. We must ensure now that we protect our local water, air and soil.

The Columbus Community Bill of Rights, when adopted by Columbus voters in November, 2018, will restore Columbus citizens’ inalienable rights for local self-governance, regarding oil and gas activities, to ensure the safety of their water, air, soil, and their rights for a sustainable energy future.


CCBOR Media Release


Sandy Bolzenius,

Local Group Launches Local Campaign for
Local Control to Protect City’s Water

COLUMBUS – On June 26, the Columbus Community Bill of Rights (CCBOR) group launches its third campaign to put the CCBOR ordinance on the ballot. Grounded in both the United States and the Ohio Constitutions’ declarations that all humans have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the proposed ordinance asserts citizens’ rights to safeguard their water, air, and soil. Once passed, the measure will provide the City of Columbus and its officials the authority to protect local residents and their natural environment from fracking and its harmful waste products.

Two previous campaigns that collectively garnered nearly 25,000 signatures have raised local awareness of the shale gas industry. Columbus residents are appalled to learn that in the Columbus watershed just a half-hour's drive from Columbus, the fracking industry is using 13 injection wells, all with old pipes, as sites for forcing, under pressure, radioactive and toxic brine into the ground. To complacent residents of Columbus who see neither drills nor injection wells within their city limits, CCBOR co-founder Carolyn Harding sends a stark reminder: “We are all downstream.”

Considering the risks associated with fracking, CCBOR member and college Chemistry instructor Charlotte Owens warns, “After contamination, even if clean-up is possible, it is so much more expensive than prevention,” adding that “prevention is the best approach for so many reasons.” Sandy Bolzenius concurs: “Once the water and our children are poisoned, the catastrophic mess left behind cannot always be remedied by lawsuits and settlements.” Columbus resident Kathy McGlone knows first-hand that “fracking is a nightmare.” The retired high school science teacher worries about her former students living in the highly fracked region of Monroe County, lamenting that “people have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into.” Closer to home, CCBOR members find that Columbus citizens and some local officials and candidates for office are increasingly wary of fracking and the risk it poses to the Columbus area water supply.

CCBOR has a year to collect over 20,000 signatures and is actively seeking volunteers to help meet this goal.

Other News Links

Action Alert to Protect our Water, Soil and Air--Columbus Free Press, 2018

Demanding Our Right to Clean Air, Water and Soil--Columbus Free Press, 2016