Monday, August 8, 2011

Mayor "Withholding Signature" on Marcellus Drilling Ban Referendum

MAD UPDATES, see below.

... effectively smothering it*, by means of running out the clock.

I have several reasons for this action. Chief among them is the message that we are sending when we are essentially blocking an industry from investing in our City and region. Additionally, legal concerns have been raised about the language proposed by this ordinance and I have reservations about incorporating a drilling ban into our City's Home Rule Charter. On top of these standing issues I must note my grave concern for the expedited process that was utilized as the state-created statutory timeframe for referenda neared. (Mayor Ravenstahl)

The line for scheduling gas extraction industry events begins to the left; for opening corporate headquarters, to the right.

MUCH MORE: City Paper Slag Heap.

*-UPDATE: Or not; see P-G Early Returns. Council's majority in favor of the ban may try to obviate the deadline by means of sending an "interim letter" to the county Elections Division. Of course the County Executive is chairman of the Board of Elections and no fan of the referendum either.

SO MUCH MORE: Slag Heap. And. There is yet another possible outlandishly contentious world developing: one in which the County Elections Division, on the advice of its Law Department, rejects the attempt to put the referendum on the ballot for either process or specifically inherent concerns. City Council's issue-specific supermajority then appeals that ruling in Common Pleas court. Since the City's Law Department is already conflicted (having spoken already on the issue) Council would have to hire an attorney for this task -- by interim approval of course, during the recess -- and at a weird time to do such a thing to boot. The judge would then invite objectors against this appeal to the bench -- the most conspicuously aggrieved of which during this process might be our Mayor himself, inasmuch as his Charter-given prerogative to smother legislation for the good of the City would be under challenge.

Talk about your blazes of glory.

**-UPDATE (Orange): The Allegheny County Elections Division does in fact deny the drill ban referendum, stating that the bill was not made a valid ordinance by the deadline, and that the interim approval is "legally inconsequential". The letter is silent on the matter of the propriety of the ballot question at issue. In related news, the Elections Division officially approved the library funding property tax referendum.

Later came this Facebook posting from Councilman Shields, which does not make a legal challenge sound particularly likely: