Articles

Community Rights Lane County stands in unified support

Community Right Lane County  stands in unified support with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and the many tribes represented in North Dakota in their on-going stance to protect the water and cultural sites in North  Dakota.

“We believe that Standing Rock is a stark example of the perilous situation in our country as a whole. Multi-national corporations that are militarized by our government, seek to overpower and silence peaceful human beings—historically some of the most disenfranchised—in order to advance unsustainable and toxic, fossil fuel infrastructure, that threatens to contaminate life-sustaining water.”
—Ann Kneeland, Community Rights Lane County

We support:
1. The rights of the Standing Rock and all First Nations people to clean water, soil, and air.
2. Protection from toxic threat.
3. Sustainability: The right of Nature to live and flourish.
4. The uncontested right to sacred sites, without threat of harm or disturbance to The People’s cultural past, present and future.
5. The right to peaceful protest, free from physical threat.

Furthermore, we see the large numbers of poorly trained military-style contractors and police as a threat to peace in North Dakota and everywhere. We demand a halt of aggressive militarization and construction in the area of the DAPL and the beginning of mediations to diffuse an extremely volatile situation.

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Dismantling Corporate Control Isn’t a Spectator Sport: An Interview with Thomas Linzey

By Simon Davis-Cohen

Editor’s Note: Thomas Linzey is no stranger to Rural America readers. His Community Rights Papers are a staple on the site. In fact, his essay, “The Spirit of 1773 and the Right to Local Self-Government,” was the very first story this project published one year ago. In the months since, we’ve featured seven other of his essays, but until now we have never interviewed the man behind America’s “community rights movement.”

For 20 years, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has been taking a stand against the long-held—though rarely discussed—assumption that corporations in the United States have the power to override a community when the locality passes a law that compromises profitability.

To date, the Pennsylvania-based, non-profit law firm has advised almost 200 municipalities in 10 states in drafting and defending “Community Bills of Rights.” These documents are often adopted to stop harmful corporate projects by elevating local governments’ authority above anti-democratic state preemption and the legal protections corporations enjoy as “persons” under the U.S. Constitution (and international trade agreements).

CELDF has spearheaded the introduction of legally enforceable rights for ecosystems; over three dozen of the communities they work with have enshrined such “rights of nature” into local law. CELDF has also aided the special Ecuadorian Constituent Assembly in its successful effort to include enforceable rights of nature in the country’s 2008 constitution. Most recently in 2016, the Green Party of England & Wales worked with CELDF to include rights of nature in its official party platform.

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Let the People Decide

Submitted by Lincoln County Community Rights, March 8th, 2016

Right now, the right of the people of Lincoln County to decide is under attack.

A judge of the Lincoln County Circuit Court will soon determine whether or not to allow gathering signatures for an initiative petition, based on arguments heard in court, representing the profit-driven interests of industry invested in aerial spraying of pesticides in our county on the one hand, vs. the right of the people to use the initiative petition process to propose new law to protect their safety and that of the environment on the other. The answer should be clear – let the people decide.

The initiative petition in question is titled “Freedom from Aerially Sprayed Pesticides of Lincoln County” and has been put forward by Citizens for a Healthy County. It asks the people of Lincoln County if they want to ban the practice of aerial spraying of pesticides (a practice that has already been banned in federal forests for 30 years) in order to protect our right to clean air, water, and soil and to stop our continued exposure to toxic chemicals.

The judge is not considering whether aerial spraying of pesticides should or should not be banned, but whether the people of Lincoln County can be asked that question through circulation of a petition which could only become a ballot measure if it receives the required number of signatures.

The government of Lincoln County already decided that asking the question is reasonable and should happen. However, on February 29th, the attorney for the party opposing circulation of the petition argued in court that wanting clean air, water, and soil somehow entails a hidden threat to voters; that questioning the authority of industry profiting from aerial spraying of pesticides and the state to force toxic chemicals on our forests, watersheds, and people also entails that threat. Perhaps worst of all, the opposing attorney argued that people wanting to defend their constitutionally-guaranteed rights, even when our government and the courts may fail to do so, is again a threat that voters need to be protected from.

We must let the people decide. The petition must go out for signatures. With enough signatures the initiative becomes a ballot measure. Then the people – not vested interests – and not a single judge – decide. What is at stake here is much bigger than the question of aerial spraying of pesticides. The real issue is our right, as the people of Lincoln County, to govern in matters that pertain to our fundamental rights.

People of all political stripes are sick and tired of having money influence how we vote. If the judge stops circulation of the petition for signatures, thereby supporting the opinion of the attorney opposing our initiative, it means that money can influence not only how we vote, but whether we get to vote at all.

We believe in Article I, Section 1 of the Oregon Constitution, where it declares : “All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness; and they have at all times a right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper.”

We look forward to the judge in this case doing the right thing – letting the people decide. Otherwise, those constitutional words aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.

María Sause and other members of
Lincoln County Community Rights

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Impact of our Consumption

When we think about global warming many of us immediately think about cars and industry ruining the planet, but does this tell the whole story? While transportation, including travel by road, sea and air, contributes over 13% of our annual CO2 emissions there is another factor, which we may not initially consider, but which has a bigger impact.

Figures highlighted by Farm Machinery Locator show that there are nearly 8.3 million cows in the UK alone; cattle which provide us with hundreds of thousands of litres of milk and thousands of pounds worth of beef every day. We often assume that agriculture is natural and therefore can’t be damaging to the environment, but that assessment is wrong.

– See more at: https://www.farmmachinerylocator.co.uk/impact-of-our-consumption/#sthash.9qDMD4ts.dpuf

Thanks James Smith for pointing this insightful page out!

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Mendocino County, CA. Makes History and Passes Law Establishing Local Self-Governance

November 5, 2014

“The sacred rights of mankind, are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records.  They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”   ~ Alexander Hamilton

Mendocino County, Ca Makes History

by Jamie Lee

Mendocino County, in the pristine northern lands of California, where the magnificent ancient coastal Redwood trees meet the inland California Oaks, has voted itself into the constitution writing (righting) business.

Yesterday, by a significant margin, they became the first county in California, and only the second county in the country to pass into law a very powerful local ordinance that declares local self-governing rights in their communities over state and federal jurisdiction. Over 67% of the votes cast were in favor of the measure.

The ordinance provides for waters free from toxic trespass; preemptively bans all fracking activities countywide with heavy fines and penalties for violation of the ordinance; and establishes a Community Bill of Rights to, for, and by the residents of Mendocino County while checking corporate powers as well.

In addition, the newly created law gives the Rights of Nature to exist and flourish without toxic trespass whereas previously Nature had no standing in the court of law.

Here is some of the powerful language in the proposed ordinance which you can read (source):

“Right to community self-government.

All residents of Mendocino County possess the right to a form of governance where they live which recognizes that all power is inherent in the people and all free governments are founded on the people’s consent.

Use of Mendocino County government by the sovereign people to make law and policy shall not be deemed by any authority to eliminate or reduce that self-governing authority. Rights as self-executing, fundamental and unalienable.

All rights delineated and secured by this ordinance are inherent, fundamental and unalienable; and shall be self-executing and enforceable against both private and public actors.”

The people of Mendocino County have made history once again after being the first county in the nation to ban Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) in 2004. Now these Mendonesians of premier wine making, medical marijuana growing and self-declared independence are continuing to assert and reclaim their inherent rights to decide for themselves what the laws will be in their communities and their county.

What may seem radical to many is only following in declarations and rights acknowledged to, by, and for them by the California State and U.S. Constitution’s as well as the Declaration of Independence:

Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.

Article 1 of the California State Constitution of 1849:

Sec. 1. All men are by nature free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property: and pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.

Sec. 2. All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security, and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same, whenever the public good may require it.

Across the nation a truly grass-roots movement of taken back power by, and for the people at the local levels has begun in earnest.

Abby Martin of RT Int’l TV speaks with Jamie Lee, a farmer and activist, who helped craft a first of its kind fracking ban in Mendocino County, California that gives nature legal rights.

In California, in this election alone, two other counties, Santa Barbara and San Benito, put anti-fracking measures in front of the voters while Big Oil spent over $7 million to defeat them. Santa Barbara was defeated last night but San Bernardino County’s measure passed into law.

Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania have in recent years passed into law local ordinances banning everything from toxic pig sludge dumping to Community Bill of Rights legislation as well as legal standing for the Rights of Nature to exist.  In 2010, the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania made history by becoming the first city to pass a local ordinance banning hydraulic fracking.

So far, state courts have upheld these rights in Colorado and Ohio. However, a bigger challenge comes  in coming months as a federal judge will make ruling on Mora County, New Mexico’s recent local ordinance passed that bans fracking in their county. It will be high stakes for all as over 30% of the states revenues comes from the oil and gas industry.

Yet clearly the people of Mora County are choosing to protect their health and well being over profit, jobs and revenues for their county.

Last week NASA released photos taken from space showing mass methane gas releases from the four corners region of the Southwestern United States, stunning all as to the widespread drastic effects that intense and increasing fracking activities are having on our environment.

Up north in Oregon, Lane and Benton Counties are bringing to vote local ordinances to preempt Oregon state laws for the right to determine local food sovereignty.  Last year, Oregon had preempted local counties from banning GMO’s in their communities. Communities are now empowering themselves and fighting back.

Who is the Author of Authority?

The real basis of the question of the ability of local communities to write laws becomes just who is the final author of Authority?

Put another way, who has the power to make law, the people in the communities, counties and cities where they live or unreachable legislatures and Presidents residing hundreds and thousands of miles away?

Who are backed by huge corporate funding sources, that few can look, touch or feel, yet are called by many to be our “representatives” for what is best where we live, work and breathe.

It is estimated in the United States alone there are some 26 million plus laws, rules, regulations, permits, codes, violations, infractions, et. al., where ignorance of the these laws are not excusable in court and our government schooling never teaches to anyone.

And to enact state and federal laws, the powers that be must really on fear, force, coercion, ignorance and threat of being caged to get their laws obeyed. In other words, they demand obedience and compliance, or else coercion and force may be used no matter how amoral, immoral or destructive the laws may be.

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Ohio Supreme Court Rules Against Secretary Of State

Decides in favor of communities’ right to initiative; bars chief elections officer from keeping duly qualified initiatives off the ballot – even those involving fracking

COLUMBUS, OH:  Today, the people’s constitutional right to vote on local County Charter initiatives was upheld by the Ohio Supreme Court. The Court ruled that Ohio Secretary of State John Husted – who claimed “unfettered authority” to keep Home Rule county charter initiatives off the ballot – has no such prerogative.

On August 13th, Mr. Husted blocked citizens from voting on Home Rule Charter initiatives in three counties, declaring, “I find nothing to materially limit the scope of my legal review,” including ruling on the substance of the initiatives. The measures included provisions on fracking infrastructure development, alarming the oil and gas industry. Mr. Husted handed them a victory in his decision to remove the measures from the ballot. In doing so, he trampled on the rights of the people.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) filed a lawsuit against the Ohio Secretary of State on behalf of community members in Athens, Medina, and Fulton Counties, seeking to restore the initiatives to the November ballot.

In addition to barring Mr. Husted from keeping community measures off the ballot based on substantive review of the content, the Court also ruled that, because the charter initiatives did not create a new form of government, they cannot be on the ballot this November. Communities had kept the existing governmental structure intact, while adding initiative and referendum powers to residents.

CELDF community organizer Tish O’Dell stated, “Athens, Medina, and Fulton Counties have triumphed against a government official claiming ‘unfettered authority’ to rule on the content of the people’s initiatives – a dangerous threat to democracy. The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled on behalf of the people, safeguarding their inalienable right to advance and vote on their own initiatives.”

Dick McGinn, Athens County Board member of the Ohio Community Rights Network – a partner organization of CELDF – added,“The Ohio Supreme Court – rather than being influenced by the oil and gas industry – stood by the people’s rights. Communities across the state are celebrating this decision, and are ready to get to work to draft Home Rule county charter initiatives that meet the Supreme Court’s requirements.”

Added Kathie Jones of Sustainable Medina County, “We’re also fully prepared for attempts by the Secretary of State and the oil and gas industry to try and find other reasons to keep future measures off the ballot. But, the people will not quit fighting for their inalienable right to local self-government and the right to protect their health, safety and welfare, even if that means amending the state constitution itself.”

By Emelyn Lybarger

 

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