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Yes – 42% for Right to Self-government, Ban Fracking, No – 58%: Still a Strong Showing o

2 hours ago  •  By Nick Mariano

VIENNA – A divisive and what many called a confusing ballot question seeking local Johnson County control over fracking failed at Tuesday’s polls with nearly 60 percent of votes going against it.

Many believe the non-binding referendum led to an usually high turnout, 49.9 percent, for a primary election.

With all 16 precincts and absentee ballots counted, the countywide referendum failed by a vote of 2,223 against to 1,602 for the measure, or 58 percent to 42 percent, respectively.

The question asked voters should “the people’s right to local self-government be asserted by Johnson County to ban corporate fracking.”

Mike McMahan, treasurer of Citizens Opposed to Johnson County Fracking Proposition, was equally pleased with the outcome and the turnout.

“That says a lot about the concern that is within the community,” he said.

He noted that within his group, the issue was not so much over fracking as it was concern that the referendum could lead to a “community bill of rights” that would be used to curtail other industrial practices, such as the use of chemicals in agriculture.

Proponents of the measure maintained as they have throughout the pre-election debate that the issue was only about fracking, a controversial drilling method using a blend of chemicals and water to extract gas and oil formally known as horizontal high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

They say their opponents – with a $20,000 war chest largely, at least one county commissioner on their side and local media blackouts – confused voters by distracting from fracking as the central question.

“That’s why they have to focus on the bill of rights and take away the real focus of fracking because it’s so very bad for everyone. You can’t drink and breathe oil,” said Belinda Halvorsen of rural Vienna, visibly upset but vowing the “fight” would continue.

She and others maintained the opposition funds came from oil and gas sources funneled through the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. McMahan acknowledged money coming from the chamber, but said none of it was from oil and gas.

Following the final vote tally, County Commissioner Ernie Henshaw, a member of the opposition group, said in a prepared statement that the referendum would have been an economic disaster for the county.

“There was a lot at stake with this proposition. Had it passed, it would have threatened jobs, diminished farming and tied our county into expensive legal knots,” he said in an opposition group news release.

The release referred to the so-called community bill of rights and said the referendum was placed on the ballot by activist organizations opposed to fracking.

The measure was placed on the ballot with 1,000 signatures from residents when about 370 were needed.

One of those groups, the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, issued a statement on behalf of residents represented.

“It is no surprise … given the obvious collusion between local and state elected officials, the industry and the media to impede the democratic process,” the group said.


Thanks to Nick Mariano again for not contributing to the recent Johnson County media blackout and for his original 3/19/14 article which can be read in The Southern by clicking the following web address:


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