Paul Cienfuegos’ May 5th, 2015 Commentary on KBOO Evening News
(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at PaulCienfuegos.com, CommunityRightsPDX.org/podcast, or subscribe via ITunes.)
Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.
This past weekend, I led a two-day workshop for 26 people in Ashland, Oregon, to help them to launch a new Community Rights local campaign group. There are many pressing issues in Jackson County, but perhaps the most worrisome to the local residents is a liquefied so-called “natural” gas pipeline that has been proposed to run for hundreds of miles through four Oregon counties including Jackson County, ending at a not-yet-built export terminal in a tsunami-prone location called Jordan Cove in Coos County.
For decades now, when a local community was opposed to a corporate development like this one, they would form yet another isolated single-issue group and would try to battle the proposal by pleading with regulatory agencies to not allow the permit. But these days, the political and cultural landscape of Oregon is beginning to shift in ways that will ultimately cause the kinds of earthquakes that most of us would find exciting. These days, there are now so many local Community Rights groups across Oregon that the primary campaign working to stop this pipeline and export terminal on the coast in Coos County is also a Community Rights campaign. It’s called the Coos Commons Protection Council.
This Community Rights group in Coos County has already written and filed their ballot initiative with the local elections office – calling it The Coos County Right to a Sustainable Energy Future Ordinance. They have already collected enough signatures to put it on the ballot this November. It contains a Community Bill of Rights that defines a new set of protections for all human and non-human inhabitants of Coos County. They include:
Right to a Sustainable Energy Future
Right to Scenic and Recreational Preservation
Rights of Natural Communities and Ecosystems to Thrive
Right to Local Community Self-Government
Right to Assert the Right to Self-Government
Here’s the text for the clause on Governmental Legitimacy:
“All governments owe their existence to the people of the community that those governments serve, and governments exist to secure and protect the rights of the people and those communities. Any system of government that becomes destructive of those ends is not legitimate, lawful, or constitutional.”
Those are fighting words! You can find out a lot more about their campaign by visiting their website at CoosCommons.org.
Journalist Simon Davis-Cohen wrote a story about the Coos County campaign this past week in Earth Island Journal. It’s called “Fighting Fossils, Letting Go of Regulatory Law”. In the story, Mary Geddry, a leader of the Coos Commons Protection Council was interviewed. She says, “I was just really frustrated with the whole regulatory thing…. I can’t even stomach attending [regulatory] meetings any longer because I feel like I’m giving credibility to a system that I feel is really illegitimate and has failed…. I was offended that we didn’t have any say really at the local level.”
With this ordinance, Geddry’s group is working to flip the current relationship between local democratic majorities and private corporations. By denying corporations constitutional “rights” and elevating “community rights,” the initiative challenges long-standing legal structures that have shaped this country for centuries. Says Geddry, “I see [the ordinance] as a peaceful revolution. I see it as a way to go forward to potentially solve many social ills, not just this particular project.” Passing this law could empower many different efforts to confront corporate “rights,” including anti-gentrification initiatives and anti-GMO campaigns, among others. A tall task for a small county on Oregon’s southern coast.
The article continues…
Benton County will vote on an anti-GMO ordinance this spring; last year Josephine County’s pesticide-focused initiative was defeated at the ballot after being vastly outspent by its opposition; and Lane County has been fighting pre-election challenge after challenge to get their anti-GMO bill on the ballot.
Again, I’ve been reading excerpts from Simon Davis-Cohen’s article – “Fighting Fossils, Letting Go of Regulatory Law”.
Now a new Community Rights group is about to form in Jackson County. They may very well join the effort already begun in Coos County to make sure that this dangerous LNG pipeline and export terminal are never built. Or they may choose a different issue of significance to their local communities. Regardless, the movement to begin to dismantle corporate constitutional so-called “rights”, and enshrine the inherent right of local communities to protect the health and welfare of local human and non-human residents is now firmly established in Oregon.
There are now Community Rights groups in ten Oregon counties – Benton, Lane, Multnomah, Josephine, Coos, Columbia, Jackson, Lincoln, Yamhill, and Marion. An impressive public interest law firm – the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund – has helped all of them to draft their local ordinances. Their website is CELDF.org
I personally have helped to spark seven of these ten counties to launch Community Rights efforts. I would be honored to give an introductory talk or workshop in your county. All you have to do is contact me.
Oh, and one last thing: The Benton County campaign to prohibit all GMO agriculture is in its final stretch as it approaches May 19th, when all ballots need to be handed in to the local elections office. They still need a lot of support from you. Please consider making a generous donation of your money or your time this week. For more info, visit their website at BentonFoodFreedom.org, or phone their campaign coordinator Laura Jean at 484-546-1341.
You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News in Portland, Oregon, and on a growing number of other radio stations. I welcome your feedback.
You can subscribe to my weekly podcast via I-Tunes or at CommunityRightsPDX.org. You can follow me on twitter at CienfuegosPaul. You can sign up for my newsletter at PaulCienfuegos.com. THANKS FOR LISTENING! And remember: WE are the people we’ve been WAITING for!