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Voters should decide ban issue

Members of the Denton City Council listened to hours of public testimony before voting 5-2 against a proposed ban on hydraulic fracturing inside the city limits, and we believe they made the correct call.

In our view, the proposed ban should go before voters for a final resolution. As evidenced by testimony at a meeting that began Tuesday night and ran into early Wednesday, this is an emotional and complicated issue and all residents of Denton deserve to have a vote.

And that’s just what will happen now. After rejecting the petition, the council called an election on the proposed ban for Nov. 4.

We realize that some disagree with the council’s decision.

Nearly 2,000 registered voters signed a petition calling for the ban after residents organized the initiative drive this spring, leaving the council with two options under the city charter: accept the ordinance banning fracking as written or send the matter to the voters.

At the council meeting, several dozen people offered testimony, including statewide elected officials, the retired executive director of the Texas Railroad Commission and Denton residents.

More than 600 residents and industry representatives filled the council chambers, overflow rooms at City Hall and the neighboring Civic Center to participate in the meeting, officials said. In addition to the speakers, a total of 161 people submitted comment cards supporting the ban. Another 46 submitted cards opposing it.

The number of speakers for and against and those who submitted comment cards are easily tallied, and the names of those who signed the petition are on record.

But what about Denton residents who oppose the ban — other than those who spoke at the meeting? That number is not so easy to establish, and that’s why a public vote is the right solution in this case.

It’s the American process and gives all registered voters an equal opportunity to decide the issue’s fate.

We commend council members for allowing open comment on this issue and for their patience in listening and evaluating the input. That, too, is part of our political process, and we believe the council’s approach in this matter is not only correct but fair to all.

Some expressed concerns about the effect a campaign in the community would have over the next few months, but we believe that residents can handle the pressure.

Denton residents have never been shy about standing up for their opinions or expressing viewpoints, and we believe they will turn out in high numbers to cast a ballot on this issue.

That’s the way it should be, and we appreciate the council’s decision to put the issue before all residents — not just those who could attend this meeting.

Our elected officials should always be willing to listen to their constituents and they must also balance the needs and rights of all affected by issues like this one.

In this case, we believe, the Denton City Council has the right idea — let the people be heard.