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Real grassroots democracy at work, the right to local self-governance

Our structure of law can either protect the “rights” of corporations or it can protect the rights of communities and nature, but it cannot do both.

Real grassroots democracy at work, the right to local self-governance
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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.

All too often, Coos County has been the victim of no doubt well meaning but nonetheless damaging legislation. Salem, for example, created special assessments and did away with the severance tax imposed on large tract timber properties. Unfortunately, 66% of the county’s taxable land base qualifies for these property tax benefits thereby significantly reducing needed funding for mandatory public services like road maintenance and sheriff’s patrols.

The National Defense Authorization Act includes clauses that arguably violate the civil liberties of average American citizens and would use our own law enforcement to boot.

State Senators Arnie Roblan and Jeff Kruse co-sponsored a preemptive law, dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” that denies counties the right to protect their own organic farmers from cross contamination or simply choose not to grow GMO foods within their respective boundaries. In other words, the State, not the people who live here and must live with the consequences, has the authority to make decisions on our behalf. This parent child relationship is referred to as Dillon’s Rule.

Local governments make deleterious decisions as well. Despite any evidence that expensive enterprise zone tax exemptions benefit the taxpayer officials continue with the practice at the expense of public services and schools.  Perhaps the biggest breach of local government legitimacy is looming on the horizon with the proposed privatization of our tax dollars through the Community Enhancement Plan.

Across the country communities are taking a dim view of distant bureaucrats, legislators and regulatory agencies making development decisions that are harmful to the local economy and adversely affect their quality of life. By asserting their right to use their local government to make law these counties and communities have democratically enacted rights-based ordinances that ban hydraulic fracturing, factory farms and the disposal of sewage sludge within their boundaries.

The people of Coos County possess the right to use their local government to make law, and the making and enforcement of law by the people through a municipal corporation or any other institution shall not eliminate, limit, or reduce their sovereign right to local, community self-government.

Naturally, not everyone agrees communities should have a right to local self-governance. The people of Grant Township, Pennsylvania and the Grant Township Board of Supervisors do not want oil and gas waste materials injected into land within their community on the grounds that it is economically and environmentally unsustainable and passed an ordinance to this effect. The ordinance asserts the peoples inalienable right to clean air and water. Pennsylvania General Energy has sued the township claiming the ordinance violates its constitutional right to inject fracking waste into this community. The township is vociferously defending its ordinance in court and the battle comes down to whose rights does the government protect, the corporation or the individuals who make up that community?

Landowners along the proposed Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline route feel their property rights may be violated if eminent domain is used to acquire their land against their wishes for the construction of the 36” pipeline. Local leaders and Astroturf booster organizations insist that even though this is our community and we must live with the consequences, the choice of whether to cite a LNG export terminal on the North Spit is not ours to make. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will make this major development decision on our behalf. Sure, we are allowed to comment into the public record and hope our concerns are given merit in the final decision but the process is by no means a democratic one.

Consider Denton, Texas near the epicenter of where fracking was invented and surrounded by oil and gas wells. The town decided clean air and water was more important to the health and happiness of its citizens and overwhelmingly passed an ordinance banning fracking despite being outspent 10 to 1 by the oil and gas industry. The State’s top regulator refuses to honor this law and the majority wishes of this community regardless of the negative health effects.

“It’s my job to give permits, not Denton’s,” Texas Railroad Commission Chairwoman Christi Craddick said. “We’re going to continue permitting up there because that’s my job.”

Again, there is nothing democratic about the regulatory process and clearly it is the regulators job to issue permits, not to deny them.

Coos County has a fundamental, individual political right, exercised collectively, to determine what’s in its best interests. For this reason a citizen initiative asserting our right to local self-governance entitled “The Coos County Right to a Sustainable Energy Future Ordinance” has been filed with the county clerk. Unlike Denton’s, this is a rights-based ordinance that when enacted will prohibit the acquisition of land for constructing infrastructure for non-sustainable energy systems. The ordinance will also refuse to acknowledge corporations as persons or as having rights greater than the individual.

Read the Coos Community County Bill of Rights

Sign a petition to put this on the May 2015 ballot by downloading and printing SEL 348 – 2014-I-002 Mail your completed and signed petition form to Coos Commons Protection Council, PO Box 2042, Bandon, OR 97411 – You must be registered to vote in Coos County.

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About magix

When my oldest son, a Marine, left for war and crossed the border from Kuwait into Iraq in March 2003 I started writing my conscience. After two tours that young combat veteran’s mother is now an ardent peace activist and advocate for social, environmental and economic justice. MGx has matured since those early vents and ramblings and now covers relevant and important local and regional matters in addition to national and global affairs.

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10 Responses to "Real grassroots democracy at work, the right to local self-governance"

  1. John Abbe  December 7, 2014 at 1:12 AM

    Nicely written. And if it takes a statewide ballot initiative to override Dillon’s Rule, we will do that too!

    Reply
    • magix  December 7, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      Thanks. The statewide initiative is next

      Reply
  2. Curt  December 4, 2014 at 10:20 PM

    I was just at a meeting in CB of Surfriders Foundation, and most people there signed the petition.

    Reply
    • magix  December 5, 2014 at 10:58 PM

      Hey, that is great news!

      Reply
  3. Nagir1994  December 3, 2014 at 3:01 AM

    I hope this effort of Coos County will gonna appreciated and honestly followed.All the best for the good work.

    Reply
    • magix  December 5, 2014 at 10:58 PM

      Thank you!

      Reply

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