by Rebel Fagin
Last Fall Mendocino County passed a law banning fracking. Lots of communities have banned fracking only to have the Extractors sue them for restraint of trade or violating the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. What makes Measure S different is that it is first and foremost a community rights law, grounded in Article 1, Section 1 of the California Constitution. Article 1 reads: “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy:” Measure S secures the rights of the community to the people who live in the community, extending them to natural communities and ecosystems while denying personhood and its accompanying rights from corporations. It’s a bold move. We must make bold moves to reclaim our democracy.
Go back in time 200 years. Women, African-Americans, and First Nation people were not considered deserving of the same rights as white males. People took bold steps. There was struggle. Today if you told an African-American woman that she doesn’t have them same rights as a white male you’d end up with a well deserved knuckle sandwich. Change requires bold steps and a vision of what we want our world to be. We have to envision the future we want before we can create it and we are not alone.
180 communities in a dozen states or more have passed community rights laws. Mendocino became the first county to do so when they passed measure S
by 67%. Colorado may be putting a community rights bill on their ballot at the next election. If it passes they will become the first state to adopt community rights legislation. Defending Water for Life used community rights legislation to retain local water for the flesh and blood people in New Hampshire and not for corporate profits. It’s a movement that’s gaining momentum. Here’s how Community Rights of Willits (CROW) describes it. “Community rights is a paradigm shift, a move away from unsustainable projects and practices at the cost of communities and nature, and toward community decision making, while recognizing and protecting our interdependence with nature.”
Community rights laws can be applied to many community issues such as fracking, toxic dumping, herbicides, GMO’s, anywhere the corporate death state threatens life. Community rights laws have a broad appeal and naturally lend themselves to community based coalitions of homeowners, environmentalists, First Nation, parents, ranchers, youth, local businesses, and church groups – all of us. Global Exchange will walk your community group through the process. All you need to do is hold an initial meeting to decide who you are and what you want to accomplish then get hold of them at Globalexchange.com. With their help you can start localizing democracy today.
Community rights may be the civil rights issue for our time. In my internet search I didn’t find one case where community rights laws had been successfully overturned by the courts. The Community Rights law for New Hampshire is ten years old and still on the books. Still, I’m sure we’ll get sued, especially as the community rights laws jurisdictions grow larger. We’ll probably lose a few early cases and we will prevail. I have more faith in us then I do fear of them. Start your own community rights group today and return democracy to the people who live in your community. Life requires that we succeed.
Sources: Globalexchange.com, Mendocino Measure S, celdf.org, C.R.O.W. forum 3/15/15, Corporations & Democracy 4/14/15
Rebel Fagin can be read at the Sonoma County Peace Press and Dailycensored.com