published April 14, 2001
Activists, Marion resolve
Canvassers argued curfew was
BY JAMES DREW
COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
MARION - Ohio Citizen Action
announced yesterday it has settled a lawsuit in which Marion
officials were accused of violating the U.S. Constitution by
slapping a curfew and registration fee on activists who go door to
door handing out flyers and soliciting donations.
As part of
the proposed settlement, Marion will change its ordinance to allow
canvassing until 9 p.m. In exchange, Citizen Action will comply with
city hall’s requirement that each canvasser pay a $7.50 registration
fee, said Simona Vaclavikova, Columbus area director for Citizen
Action, Ohio’s largest consumer and environmental group.
city of Marion would pay Citizen Action $25,000 in damages and
attorney’s fees, Ms. Vaclavikova said.
"We are looking
forward to talking directly with the residents of Marion about the
problems at the River Valley Schools," she said.
Russell, Marion’s law director, said yesterday’s announcement was
"extremely premature," because city council has not received or
acted on any pact reached during settlement talks.
council has to decide whether to settle the lawsuit. They’re the
decision-makers," he said.
The lawsuit, filed Feb. 5 in U.S.
District Court in Cleveland, said in early 1999, Marion city hall
began to enforce a 7 p.m. curfew as controversy grew over the River
Valley middle and high schools.
The schools were built in
1962 on 78 acres where the military used to burn or bury tons of
highly toxic chemicals. The River Valley school district has signed
an agreement with the state and federal governments to build new
schools, but they won’t open until 2003.
The suit said
Citizen Action canvassed in Marion for several years before 1999
until 9 p.m. and without charge. Attorneys cited several federal
court decisions declaring that curfews are unconstitutional if they
halt canvassing for political or civic purposes by 9
Citizen Action will resume canvassing in Marion next
week, with 12 to 13 activists hitting the streets. The group already
has canvassed in the River Valley school district, which is not
within the Marion city limits.
"We do believe apart from
extending our membership in Marion, we will help people realize what
is really going on and that the students should be immediately
relocated," Ms. Vaclavikova said.
Ms. Vaclavikova said she
hopes the canvassers will prompt more letters from Marion area
residents urging Governor Taft to immediately relocate the students
from River Valley schools.