Lake Erie Bill of Rights backers call on Toledo City Council to include ordinance in special election

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) – When it comes to Lake Erie’s health perhaps no other group of citizens is more passionate.

"I think it’s important that we have a strong local voice," said Markie Miller of Toledoans for Safe Water.

For months now those with Miller’s group and Advocates For a Clean Lake Erie have pushed to get a Lake Erie Bill of Rights on the ballot.

"Right now we just have to wait until the harm happens and then we get vocal and ask for cleanup," said Miller. "We want to be able to be a little more proactive and take some more preventative measures."

Under the initiative Toledo’s charter would be amended to give Lake Erie rights and allow citizens to target sources of pollution.

Backers initially tried to get the proposal on November’s ballot, but it was denied after legal concerns from the Lucas County Board of Elections. After going through Ohio’s supreme court it’s able to be in February’s special election, but needs Toledo City Council’s blessing.

"We’ve been patient. We’ve been waiting," said Miller. "We did what we were supposed to do, and we would like them to step up and do the same."

Miller says her group feels slighted by council after she says members acted quickly to place a keep the jail downtown initiative on February’s ballot.

"If you can do it for the jail I don’t see why you can’t do it for this issue," said Miller.

For councilman Tom Waniewski the so-called delay hasn’t been intentional.

"We’re trying—at the advice of our law department—trying to follow all of the rules to make sure we’re doing it right," said Waniewski. “If the signatures are valid, and the petitioners have followed the legal process to get it on the ballot, then it should be on the ballot.”

He says both the jail and Lake Erie Bill of Rights issues have come with lots of red tape and needed careful consideration.

"We just wanted to make sure all the T’s were crossed and the I’s were dotted—nothing nefarious about delaying it any longer," said Waniewski.

As city council continues to consider the issue supporters hope a decision is made with enough time to campaign.

"We don’t lose until we quit, and we’re just going to keep coming right back every time they try to stop us," said Miller.

City council is set to vote Tuesday on allowing the Lake Erie Bill of Rights to be in February’s special election. Waniewski tells 13abc he expects council to make a "yes" vote on the issue.

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