To the Editor:
I am writing this letter in support of the Rights Based Ordinance (RBO) that the town of Plymouth is bringing forward in their special town meeting on January 31. A community group called Concerned Citizens of Plymouth has partnered with the Plymouth Board of Selectmen to put the ordinance on a warrant and hold a special town meeting. The aim of the ordinance is to stop the Northern Pass project from entering the town.
One might ask, “Why is this necessary? Why do these townspeople feel they must pursue this route of action?”. The simple answer is that because no matter what else we as citizens try to do- attend SEC and EIS hearings, write to our legislators, introduce bills at the state level, appeal to federal senators and legislators- the simple fact remains that corporations just have more power in our towns than we do. That is the truth. State and federal law can preempt any course of action that we take right now. As citizens, there is no recourse to oppose these giant corporate projects from forcing themselves into our towns- and the corporations know it.
So then, what are we to do? Plymouth and 11 other towns in New Hampshire have sought the help and guidance of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) through their New Hampshire organizer, Michelle Sanborn. CELDF and Ms. Sanborn clearly point out that we have three choices: 1) Do nothing, and get the project; 2) Oppose the project through the regulatory structure and get the project anyway; 3) Assert local governing rights and ban the project- do not compromise by voluntarily surrendering our local authority and force the powers that be to strip these rights from us publicly.
This is where the RBO comes in. It is our right to defend the health, safety, and welfare of our towns as citizens of the town. Please attend the information session on the RBO on Tuesday, January 23 at 6pm in the Board Room of the Plymouth Town Hall and get informed!
There are two main reasons for this:
1) State and federal government agencies issue operating permits that legalize harmful corporate projects and activities that would otherwise be illegal; and
2) Corporations routinely use their “rights of personhood” to prevent communities from using local lawmaking to stop these projects and activities that are not in the best interest of the community.
Corporate activities such as the Northern Pass transmission line, fracked-gas pipelines and infrastructure, and large groundwater withdrawals are just a few examples of harmful projects that are decided without the involvement of local governing authority. State and federal agencies such as the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are appointed, not elected, for the sole purpose of issuing operating permits to industry, even if this means using pre-emption to override health-protecting, safety-protecting and rights-protecting local laws.
Pre-emption dictates that higher government trumps lower government. When pre-emption is used to force harmful activities upon local communities, residents are denied their unalienable right to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people and natural environments where they live.
The N.H. Community Rights Amendment would empower people and their local governments with the authority to enact local laws that are free from pre-emption and corporations’ claimed “rights” when these local laws protect the rights of people, communities and natural environments to defend their health, safety and welfare. This amendment would add Article 40, the Right of Local Community Self-Government, to the N.H. Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
The N.H. Community Rights Amendment has three key components:
Right to Local Self-Government: specifically recognizing the right of people in communities across the state to local community self-government
Rights of People, Communities, and Natural Environments: people, communities and natural environments have rights to health, safety and well-being, and the authority to prohibit business activities that violate those rights
Expanding and Protecting Fundamental Rights: people can use their local lawmaking power to enact local laws that protect and expand fundamental rights – any efforts to restrict or weaken fundamental rights under this Amendment are prohibited
Rep. Ellen Read, D-Newmarket, has agreed to sponsor CACR 19, the N.H. Community Rights Amendment, with bipartisan House support from cosponsors Suzanne Smith, Stephen Darrow, Wayne Burton, Jan Schmidt, Vincent Migliore, Steve Rand, Charlotte DiLorenzo and Raymond Howard.
The NH Community Rights Amendment is headed soon to a public House Municipal and County Government Committee hearing, where the committee’s legislators will recommend either that the amendment be moved one step closer to a vote by the people of New Hampshire or that we be denied our right to vote on the matter entirely.
Please contact the House Municipal and County Government Committee members to encourage them to protect the people and places of the Granite State from corporate overreach by recommending the amendment be moved to the November ballot for the people to decide.
The bottom line is this — if the N.H. House and Senate do not approve CACR 19, proposed by “we the people,” to expand and protect rights of people and their communities, then we will have been denied the legitimate democratic process of having even the opportunity to vote on a matter that directly affects and concerns our health, safety and welfare.
Please address any questions to N.H. Community Rights Network: www.nhcommunityrights.org
Michelle Sanborn of Alexandria is president of the N.H. Community Rights Network.
Posted Dec 21, 2017 at 8:02 AMUpdated Dec 21, 2017 at 8:02 AM
www.fosters.com/news/20171221/to-editor-we-people-shall-rule To the Editor:
Throughout recorded human history there has been an ongoing struggle between the rulers and the ruled. The rulers have been the wealthy, powerful elite, and the ruled have been the working classes and the poor.
The American Revolution was a time when the ruled rose up to take control of their destiny from the King of England and his wealthy patrons. It is time for We the People to rise again!
Today’s rulers are the huge Wall Street banks, the energy monopolies, health care profiteers, the military-industrial complex, and their corporate media. They control our government through “the best politicians money can buy” who are funded by legal bribes from political action committees (PACs) and wealthy donors, The voters get to choose the lesser of evils and the rich ruling elite win either way as they control both Parties!
The Silent Majority gives it’s consent to the rule of this corrupt status quo by remaining meek, disorganized, uninformed and uninvolved. The NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN) is working to revitalize our democracy by empowering every city and town with the right of local control.
The Community Rights Amendment (CACR 19) has been introduced by Rep. Ellen Read (Newmarket) and eight other sponsors to give people the right to stop corporate exploitation that harms our communities. Whether it be Northern Pass, dredging Great Bay, gas pipelines or toxic sludge dumping, the local voters should have, and will have, the right to pass ordinances that protect the health, safety, and welfare of people and nature.
By passing CACR 19 We the People shall rule our towns once again, if enough people take action. Contact the NHCRN at firstname.lastname@example.org and get involved, our democracy needs you!
Peter A. White, Board Member, NH Community Rights Network, Nottingham
The proposed NH Community Rights Amendment, CACR19, would nullify preemption when it is used to override local protection of the health, safety and welfare of both human and natural communities. If you support local law-making authority to protect people and natural environments, please submit a written testimony encouraging the NH House Municipal & County Government (M&CG) committee to vote in favor of CACR19 when it comes before their committee - anytime after Jan. 3rd. NHCRN would love to receive a copy of your testimony - just copy email@example.com on your email when you submit to the committee. Here is a link to the contact info for the M&CG committee.
December 16, 2017
To The Daily Sun,
Rep. Vincent Migliore, from Grafton District 9, recently hand-delivered letters to the selectmen in his towns, encouraging them to act quickly to explore Rights-Based Ordinances (RBO) which assert local authority to defend against projects that violate the inherent and inalienable right of residents to protect the health, safety and welfare of their community.
Time is extremely short for towns affected by Northern Pass to get organized and place an RBO on the town warrant, but where there is a will, there is a way! When it comes to your quality of life and that of your community, it’s never too late to make the effort to enact an RBO. In fact, that is exactly what Plymouth residents are doing. Joining them in educating themselves about community rights are Ashland, Bridgewater and Bristol. The Selectboard of Ashland voted unanimously to have an RBO drafted for their consideration at Town Meeting and the Selectboards of Bridgewater and Bristol agreed to host educational workshops for their community residents.
The Ashland Community Rights Workshop — Why an RBO? Is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 16, at 1 p.m. at the Common Man in Ashland. Bridgewater is holding their workshop on Wednesday, Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Bridgewater Town Hall, and Bristol is holding their Protect People & Places workshop on Saturday, Jan. 6 at 1 p.m. at the Bristol Town Offices (with a possible alternate location of the Old Town Hall if we exceed capacity at the town offices). You can find details of these events on the N.H. Community Rights Network (NHCRN) Facebook page.
This grassroots Community Rights Movement has inspired an effort to unite state legislators across-the-aisle to recognize community rights within our state constitution’s Bill of Rights. Rep. Migliore is one of the bi-partisan co-sponsors of the resulting N.H. Community Rights Amendment, CACR-19. His endorsement of this amendment directly supports the towns he is encouraging to explore RBOs, and those dozen that have already done so across the Granite State.
We have the right and a duty to protect the future of our children, our communities, and our natural environments. I am ready and willing to assist any community interested in recognizing, securing, and protecting their right to determine the kinds of futures they envision. Contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 603-524-2468. Learn more about the N.H. Community Rights Amendment by visiting www.nhcommunityrights.org. The time is now, and the who is US!
N.H. Community Organizer for CELDF and volunteer Coordinator for NHCRN
By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
ASHLAND — With some questions remaining as to the legitimacy of such actions, the Ashland Board of Selectmen has voted to pursue a rights-based ordinance, or RBO, in an effort to stop Eversource from bringing its Northern Pass hydroelectric transmission lines through the town.
Selectman Tejasinha Sivalingam made the motion during this week’s selectmen’s meeting, saying it is a good step to take for addressing both current issues and future ones.
“It empowers the community, protects the health of individuals, and advocates for a greater sense of local, democratic control,” he said.
Chairman Fran Newton acknowledged that Ashland voters have twice said they did not want Northern Pass in Ashland, but she noted that the town has filed as intervenors before the state Site Evaluation Committee, which has the authority to rule on the plan to bring direct-current transmission lines through the state.
“I haven’t seen the specific wording of the rights-based ordinance,” Newton said. “When we get it, we can certainly discuss it.”
Sivalingam said, with the possibility that the SEC will rule in favor of Northern Pass in February, it is important to get the ordinance in place. Michelle Sanborn of Alexandria, representing the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, has offered to help the town draft an ordinance that reflects Ashland’s specific needs and concerns.
“There are several steps, and we’re coming to this late in the game,” Sivalingam said. “Tonight, we really have to consider the largest steps possible.”
The discussion came at the request of Grafton County District 9 Rep. Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater, who is urging all of the towns he represents to hold RBO workshops so residents and town officials are familiar with the option.
“I am not asking anyone to adopt an RBO,” he said.
Migliore has co-sponsored legislation seeking a community rights constitutional amendment, CACR19. Currently, rights-based ordinances have no legal standing, and an amendment would embed those rights in the New Hampshire Constitution.
To make the case for that bill, Migliore said, it would be helpful to be able to say that his constituent towns had adopted rights-based ordinances.
His own town, Bridgewater, has agreed to hold a workshop, but did not yet set a date.
Ashland Selectman Harold Lamos said they owe it to the town to move forward with such an ordinance. He said he owns land in Danbury and was seeing his property values declining in the face of a proposal from Iberdrola to build wind towers.
“Days after they passed an RBO, Iberdrola withdrew, and now property values have gone back up,” he said.
Sanborn told the selectmen that 11 communities in New Hampshire have adopted rights-based ordinances, and no one has challenged them.
Addressing worries about the potential legal costs, Sanborn said the only potential cost is if an entity views the ordinance as an obstacle and challenges it. The community then has the option of not enforcing the ordinance if it wants to avoid litigation.
“We can draft into the ordinance the potential to challenge it legally,” she said. “Then the RBO takes the conversation out of zoning and land use and into a less expensive argument.”
Sivalingam said there are members of the community interested in supporting a rights-based ordinance and his motion to seek the free legal help from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund also included working with citizens.
The motion passed unanimously, after which the selectmen also passed a motion to hold an RBO workshop on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 1 p.m., at a location to be determined.
Posted Dec 1, 2017 at 2:41 PMUpdated Dec 1, 2017 at 2:41 PM
To the Editor:
The proposed New Hampshire Community Rights state constitutional amendment, CACR19, has faced criticisms that community rights don’t exist and that upholding these rights blindly blocks development. I respectfully refute these assertions.
The community’s right to local self-determination has existed prior to, throughout, and since our nation’s founding. Recognizing this right within our NH Constitution is necessary because, in New Hampshire, state preemption and Dillon’s Rule determine what happens in our communities. If a project approved by the regulatory system and validated by state law threatens the health, safety, and welfare of a NH town, it creates a sacrifice zone of residents and ecosystems whose pleas against the project hold no effective weight.
Therein, Article 1 of the NH Constitution’s Bill of Rights declares that government of right originates from the people and is founded in consent. Article 2 declares that we have natural, essential, and inherent rights. Article 10 declares that we have a right and duty to reform the old or establish new government: “The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.”
Therefore, resisting projects that would harm a community is not ‘tyranny of the majority’ but lawful protection of inherent and inalienable rights affirmed in the Declaration of Independence and in our State Constitution.
Supporters of these rights seek both robust economies and thriving, uncontaminated ecosystems. Crossing demographics of age and politics, they challenge and encourage industry to innovate projects that balance profit with protection of people and nature. To quote Institute of EoLonomics founder Dennis Weaver, “We don’t have to sacrifice a strong economy for a healthy environment.”
To learn more about the NH Community Rights Network, visit www.nhcommunityrights.org. To learn more about the NH Community Rights Amendment, contact email@example.com.
Monica Christofili, Newmarket
"I recently helped the Colorado River sue the State of Colorado in a first-in-the-nation lawsuit — Colorado River v. Colorado — requesting that the United States District Court in Denver recognize the river’s rights of nature. These rights include the rights to exist, flourish, regenerate, and naturally evolve. To enforce these rights, the Colorado River also requests that the court grant the river “personhood” and standing to sue in American courts."
To the Editor:
We are writing in support of the recently proposed State Constitutional amendment CACR19. This amendment would secure N.H. citizens’ right to self-government, thereby guaranteeing local communities the authority to protect the health, safety, and welfare of individuals, communities, and ecosystems. While this right and authority is already supported in Articles 1, 2, 8, and 10 of our N.H. State Constitution’s Bill of Rights, it is not yet specifically recognized.
Such recognition has been a long time coming to strengthen and restore “We the People’s” right to self-determine the future of the communities we live in. This right has been all but suffocated by corrupt corporate privilege that has been woven into law and upheld by judicial precedents. Together with state preemption, this weakening of citizen rights at home has left us with no defense when corporate projects come to develop or to extract resources in our towns--much less when these projects contaminate where we work and live, often with toxic waste. We’ve seen this happen all across our state. We should be able to have a recognized right to local decision-making authority to determine whether or not we want these projects in our communities.
By empowering people with authority to use this self-determining voice, CACR19 would reinforce the viability of our civil rights by supporting our democratic right to cultivate communities founded in peace and civility in which no person or entity has free pass to violate the health, safety, or well-being of another person or of nature, and certainly not for profit. Each day that our government denies us full participation in determining this cultivation, we are discriminated against--blocked from accessing and engaging in our rightful democratic process to protect our basic and inalienable rights that are not limited to but which include our right to clean air, water, and healthy ecosystems.
These inalienable rights were the ideals that birthed this nation’s experiment in democracy. And what is democracy if it is not the civic employment of people’s inalienable right to have democratic authority over what happens in their communities? When we cannot protect ourselves through the self-government so integral to the principles of our Revolutionary ancestors, then we are not living in a democracy. We must not let this right to self-government go un-championed by a disengaged sense of civic duty, nor can we afford to lose it amidst the animosity found in our divided political aisles. Now is the time to unite both community and bi-partisanship solidarity and action to recognize our right to self-government.
Sharing these sentiments is Ellen Read, NH Representative of Rockingham District 17 and the proposer of CACR19: “I truly hope my colleagues join me in supporting the Community Rights Amendment because it means doing exactly what we came to Concord to do--protect the people and ecosystems of NH. This Amendment places the power back into the hands of the governed, the very thing our Revolutionary ancestors fought for.”
What the Revolutionaries of this country fought for was not something they could buy. It was the right to pursue a self-determined life of honesty and goodness. For our legislators to deny us an enlightened path to access this self-determination is for them to admit doubt in their constituents’ ability to reason over and to trust in the goodness that is in ourselves and in the ecosystems around us. CACR19 will secure our right to protect this goodness for a new future honoring people’s and nature’s natural right to sustainability.
The NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN) , of which we are board members, supports Representative Read’s call to amend the state constitution to recognize the right of local community self-government. NHCRN is a non-profit, grassroots organization that seeks to empower communities and elected officials with education and authority about our individual and collective right of local self-governance in order to secure and protect the inherent and unalienable rights of all inhabitants of New Hampshire to economic, social, and environmental justice. For more information about the NHCRN or the proposed constitutional amendment, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nhcommunityrights.org.
Douglas Darrell of Center Barnstead
Monica Christofili of Newmarket
PESSAMIT, QC, Nov. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ - The Pessamit Innu First Nation accuses Hydro-Quebec of failing to uphold its obligations and responsibilities by filling its hydropower reservoirs to near capacity despite the "Precaution Principle" and various laws and regulations applicable in Canada. Hydro-Quebec's procedures in managing its reservoirs do not take into account any potential damage to communities, the environment, and wildlife resulting from the discharge from reservoirs of exceptional volumes of water. These management procedures have recently caused an environmental catastrophe involving 43.4 miles of the Betsiamites River (Northeastern Quebec), and also is jeopardizing the safety of those using the waterway.
Total loss of the Unikamit site, managed by a Pessamit company called Mashkuss Aventures. (CNW Group/Conseil des Innus de Pessamit)
Kim Picard and Jean-Luc Kanape, owners of Mashkuss Aventures, saw their dream washed out by the flow. (CNW Group/Conseil des Innus de Pessamit)
The Bersimis-2 hydroelectric dam discharged exceptional volumes of water. (CNW Group/Conseil des Innus de Pessamit)Following last week's heavy precipitation, Hydro-Quebec discharged large volumes of water into rivers downstream of its installations, increasing water levels and flows to unsurpassed heights, according to Innu tribesmen whose ancestors have occupied the territory for thousands of years. At Hydro-Quebec, the situation is attributed to "exceptional" autumnal flooding resulting in abnormal levels of water in the reservoirs. Spillways on the Bersimis-1 and 2 hydroelectric dams (on the Betsiamites River), those on Manic-5, 3, 2 and 1, on McCormick, Toulnustouc and Outardes-2, were opened one after the other, causing devastating impacts on the environment and wildlife, and creating a catastrophic situation that has not occurred since the Manic-Outardes complex was built in 1978 and Bersimis was completed in 1962.
A total loss
In the wake of these "exceptional" measures, the Betsiamites River, the principal access for the Pessamiulnut to their traditional territories, over-flowed its banks into wooded areas made up of centenary trees that had never before been inundated. Debris of all sizes, including a great number of whole trees, were driven into the river. Clay embankments were also washed out by the flow, creating foreseeable damage to Atlantic salmon spawning sites (spawning season being about to begin). Furthermore, at least six traditional camp sites located in wooded areas were greatly damaged or totally destroyed, including the total loss of the Unikamit site, managed by a Pessamit company called Mashkuss Aventures.
The Chief of the Pessamit Innu Band Council, Mr René Simon, has no doubts as to the actual causes of this situation: "Hydro-Quebec can go on forever about an exceptional seven day downpour occurring in October being the sole factor in the discharge of large volumes of water from the reservoirs, but it's a lie! 2017 precipitation data for this period, compared to normal precipitation data from October 25th to 31st, do not justify releasing so much water at such a time. While it is the case that precipitation was above average during this period, overall precipitation for the summer and fall of 2017 was less than average. In fact, it hardly rained at all in the Quebec North-Shore region during this summer and fall. Why then were Hydro-Quebec's reservoirs filled to such a level that they were ready to overflow after only seven days of rain?"
The smoking gun
The answer is simple: in its frantic race to attain new contracts, Hydro-Quebec has assured its potential clients in New England that its hydropower reserves would be increased beyond the Province of Quebec expected requirements (reminder: New-England's decision is expected in January 2018). Solution: maintain reservoir water levels as high as possible in view of increasing energy producing capacity upon request. The problem is, such a procedure doesn't take into account strong and unexpected periods of rain, as occurred in October 2017. Result: reservoirs overflow and spillways are opened, whatever the consequences.
"This is the type of management we are up against," says Chief René Simon. "While Hydro-Quebec is discharging its reservoirs, it's also abandoning all precautions. Damages sustained by members of our First Nation, those inflicted to our Nitassinan (traditional territory), to various animal species and fish in the Betsiamites River, are only part of the story. When our non-Native neighbours discover the damage inflicted to territories they use for work and recreation, they too will experience the fallacy of Hydro-Quebec's Clean Energy concept. Hopefully, the citizens of New England will do the same before January."
SOURCE Conseil des Innus de Pessamit
11/3/17 by Michelle Sanborn, NHCRN Board of Directors
NOTE: This piece was submitted to newspapers statewide, and to the best of our knowledge, no one ran it.
Local elections are deeply connected to local control and local control is deeply connected to direct democratic decision-making. Therefore, state election officials who are determined to deny local control are in fact working against the people's right to direct democracy.
According to a Union Leader article, Bill gives state power to postpone local elections, published on October 30, 2017, “A House-Senate committee created to resolve conflicts that surfaced last March unanimously agreed to draft a bill that settles the matter in a way more satisfactory to the secretary of state than to the N.H. Municipal Association.” Where is the voice of local people and the town moderators the people elected? The secretary of state was not elected by the people, he was elected by the state legislature.
The nor’easter that created blizzard conditions during the 2017 local March elections created more confusion among state elected officials than local. Local election officials from almost 80 towns saw the value of protecting the health, safety and welfare of voters when - with input from road crews, emergency departments, and weather reports - they used common sense and postponed local elections. It was logical and sensible for the public to accept postponement of town elections; however, our elections, our votes, and the legitimacy of our local election officials were cast into doubt by state officials who appeared offended that the central government apparatus didn’t get the final say over who made the call to postpone.
The solution? a House-Senate committee was created to “resolve conflicts” over who has the authority to decide whether or not local elections get postponed and what constitutes an acceptable reason to postpone. The state committee decided that the non-citizen elected secretary of state now holds authority over citizen-elected town moderators and other local election officials to have final say regarding the health, safety and welfare of voters in their own local communities. Local election officials can weigh in with their opinion and make a request for postponement, but the state gets final decision-making authority over whether or not it is “safe” for you to vote.
The same Union Leader article quoted Senator Jeff Woodburn as saying, “I cannot imagine the secretary of state saying ‘No’ if a town has a legitimate reason for wanting to postpone”, yet that is exactly what happened during the statewide weather emergency on election day. Almost 80 towns expressed a legitimate reason to postpone elections, yet the secretary of state was opposed and insisted towns keep the polls open. Pray for good weather forever and always on election day because you may have to risk your life to vote if Mother Nature sends us another election-day storm.
At least the N.H. Municipal Association sees the value of local elections being determined locally. The association's Executive Director, Judy Silva, was quoted in the Union Leader article as saying, “Inserting a state official into that decision-making process violates local control, is unnecessary and unwieldy.” The NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN) wholeheartedly agrees and supports a call to amend the state constitution to recognize the right of local community self-government.
Representative Ellen Read of Rockingham District 17, has introduced a State Constitutional amendment that would guarantee local communities the authority to protect the health, safety and welfare of individuals, communities, and ecosystems. Representative Read states, “I truly hope my colleagues join me in supporting the Community Rights Amendment because it means doing exactly what we came to Concord to do – protect the people and resources of NH. This Amendment places the power back into the hands of the governed…the very thing our Revolutionary ancestors fought for.”
NHCRN is a non-profit, grassroots organization that seeks to empower communities and elected officials with education and authority about our individual and collective right of local self-governance in order to secure and protect the inherent and unalienable rights of all inhabitants of New Hampshire to economic, social and environmental justice. For more information about the NHCRN or the proposed constitutional amendment, contact email@example.com or visit www.nhcommunityrights.org.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Dozens of activists from New Hampshire and the Yale community on Thursday delivered an open letter to the Yale University Investments Office calling on the university to stop the controversial Northern Pass powerline project.
Yale controls 24 miles of the proposed route. With this open letter, major organizations from New England and Quebec are calling on Yale to Stop Northern Pass.
The letter brings together a coalition of environmental, conservation, community, and governmental organizations including the Appalachian Mountain Club, the New Hampshire Sierra Club, the Yale Student Environmental Coalition, Beyond Extreme Energy, the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust, the Ammonoosuc Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the New Hampshire Community Rights Network, and two New Hampshire Select Boards.
Indigenous groups and advocacy organizations, including the Council of the Pessamit Innu and the Association of Native Americans at Yale, also signed the letter.
“Opposition to Northern Pass in New Hampshire is fierce,” said Rick Samson, District 3 Coos County Commissioner. “Nearly all the communities along the proposed route have voted against it.”
According to the petition, Yale is a 98.8 percent owner of Bayroot LLC, which has leased 24 miles of Northern Pass’s proposed route to the developers of Northern Pass. Yale argued in a June 20 statement that it has limited power to influence decisions about the management of the Bayroot land. The letter responds, “Yale owns this land, and cannot shield itself from the consequences of this investment by hiding behind the decisions of a contracted investment manager.”
The letter’s signatories cite environmental and social consequences in New Hampshire and Quebec. “Northern Pass would add more than 1,100 new transmission towers up to 165 feet tall cutting through the heart of New Hampshire’s iconic natural landscape, marring scenic vistas and harming our vital recreation and tourism industry,” said Susan Arnold, Vice President for Conservation at the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Qubec’s Pessamit Innu First Nation tribe has sued Hydro-Qubec for displacing their members with no input from or compensation to the Pessamit themselves. “There are 13 hydroelectric power stations located and operated illegitimately on Pessamit’s traditional territory,” says Rene Simon, Chief of the Pessamit Innu. “Twenty-nine percent of the electricity that Hydro-Quebec intends to transmit with Northern Pass has been forced on us without our agreement or compensation. By agreeing to allow the project to cross its land, Yale University in effect joins in these violations of our rights and those of nature.”
Elizabeth Wyman, a graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, who recently returned from a visit to Pessamit lands, said “The energy produced by Hydro-Quebec’s massive dams is not green energy. The sprawling reservoirs release methane and mercury into the environment and have compromised the culture and livelihood of the Pessamit.”
The demonstration coincided with a talk at the Yale Forest Forum by Dan Hudnut, Vice President of Wagner Forest Management, which signed the lease with Northern Pass on behalf of Yale.
Oct 20, 2017 Updated Oct 20, 2017On Wednesday, New Hampshire Public Radio reported that the state is poised to spend millions of dollars to improve drinking water quality in communities across the state (www.tinyurl.com/nhh2o).
The projects will target MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) contamination, in part by connecting residents who have polluted private wells to municipal water supplies.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers both MTBE and PFOA to be possible carcinogens, but there is uncertainty about the levels of exposure that produce elevated risk of illness in humans.
According to Robert Scott, commissioner of the N.H. Department of Environmental Services, Atkinson, Derry, Hampstead, Litchfield, Plaistow, Salem and Wyndham are among the towns most affected by the groundwater contamination, although there are others. Certainly, residents in these communities deserve help.
Although the money for these projects will come from a settlement with ExxonMobil over MTBE groundwater contamination that began in the late 1970s, the multimillion-dollar initiative highlights a fundamental vulnerability in our approach to environmental problems.
Too often, we react to environmental degradation after it has already occurred rather than preventing it from happening in the first place.
Why is this the case? In part, the current system is designed to facilitate profit-making by powerful corporate actors who have little interest in protecting the rights of nature or the rights of citizens.
State regulations and the permitting process may attempt to limit environmental harms, but they inevitably concede that some environmental harm will occur by setting allowable limits for chemical contaminants, cleared or paved land, particulates released into the air, wetlands impacts, or water pumped from community groundwater supplies.
When businesses exceed these limits or when health, environmental, or infrastructure problems develop, the typical approach is to launch expensive, multiyear remediation efforts well after the damage has already been inflicted.
More broadly, this is not just about a vulnerability in our approach to environmental protection. The degradation of nature highlights a more fundamental vulnerability in our democratic system. Residents in Atkinson, Litchfield, Plaistow and elsewhere are dealng with health and environmental threats generated by the routine operation of business and the routine operation of the state. But the citizens of these communities could not prevent the activities that produced these unwanted outcomes. State preemption subordinates community priorities to the goals of state agencies and elected officials.
A growing number of New Hampshire communities are addressing this vulnerability, along with towns and cities across the nation, by passing local Rights-Based Ordinances. RBOs give voice to local concerns by defending the rights of nature before harm can be inflicted and by delineating the scope of corporate activity within municipal boundaries.
The New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) supports these efforts and has worked to return power to people and their local governments. The NHCRN is also working with Rep. Ellen Read (Rockingham, District 17), who has sponsored a state constitutional amendment to protect New Hampshire communities’ authority to defend the welfare of their citizens and the rights of nature.
Interested citizens can obtain more information about the work of the NHCRN and the state constitutional amendment by going online to nhcommunityrights.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cliff Brown is a member of the The New Hampshire Community Rights Network from Portsmouth.
Grassroots non-profit supports state constitutional
amendment to guarantee Community Rights
Concord – Representative Ellen Read of Rockingham District 17, has introduced a State Constitutional amendment that would guarantee local communities the authority to protect the health, safety and welfare of individuals, communities and nature.
The Community Rights amendment was drafted by New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) with assistance from Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). Representative Read said she is proud to sponsor the amendment to “ensure protections for the people and ecosystems of the Granite State that currently do not have governing authority over decisions that directly affect them.”
The legislation grew out of the frustration of many New Hampshire residents who have been thwarted in their efforts to protect their local identity, ecosystems, unalienable rights and individual property rights. Towns are preempted by state and federal governments, in partnership with corporate special interests, without Towns’ consent and with no regard for their welfare. Proposals including gas pipelines and compressor stations, high voltage transmission lines, industrial wind ventures, water extraction projects and other harms, have threatened New Hampshire people and ecosystems. These projects are approved by many state elected officials and state agencies.
A growing number of communities have acted to protect themselves by passing Rights-Based Ordinances (RBOs) at their town meetings. RBOs, developed by people in those communities with CELDF’s assistance, are grounded in the unalienable right affirmed in the Declaration of Independence and the New Hampshire State Constitution: our individual and collective right to self-govern.
Representative Read said that when NHCRN brought the amendment proposal to her attention, she immediately saw the need to step up and set an example for other elected officials to follow. She stated,
“I truly hope my colleagues join me in supporting the Community Rights Amendment because it means doing exactly what we came to Concord to do – protect the people and resources of NH. This Amendment is needed to reestablish the inherent and inalienable rights of individuals, their communities, and nature. Too often, big out-of-state corporations, that come in looking to profit off of Granite Staters and our land, are given MORE rights than our own people and ecosystems! This amendment places power back into the hands of the governed...the very thing our Revolutionary ancestors fought for.”
Michelle Sanborn, volunteer coordinator for the NHCRN and community organizer for CELDF, stated, “This amendment would empower communities to enact local laws that protect health, safety and welfare for residents and their natural environments by recognizing, securing and protecting rights greater than those afforded by existing laws. That means authority to prohibit harmful corporate activities that seek to threaten local community rights.”
NHCRN was founded in 2013, with supporters from across New Hampshire. This includes Alexandria, Barnstead, Barrington, Danbury, Easton, Grafton, Hebron, Jaffrey, Nottingham, Plymouth, Sugar Hill, Swanzey, Thornton, Newmarket, Merrimack and Durham. Other states are also involved in the community rights movement including Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Pennsylvania and Maine. NHCRN advocates for change that begins at the grassroots level. For more information about the NHCRN or the proposed constitutional amendment, contact email@example.com.
About NHCRN – New Hampshire Community Rights Network
NHCRN is a non-profit, grassroots organization that seeks to empower communities and elected officials with education and authority about our individual and collective right of local self-governance in order to secure and protect the inherent and unalienable rights of all inhabitants of New Hampshire to economic, social and environmental justice, including the rights of nature.
When former Superbowl quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem over a year ago, I don’t think anyone could have predicted what would happen next. Whether that would have been one of the singers of the anthem taking a knee a couple of weeks ago, a Houston high schooler sitting during the pledge of allegiance, or high school football players imitating professional ones, Kaepernick’s stance just keeps on giving.
Of course, the four African-American students deciding to sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, had no idea whether the time was ripe, or whether it wasn’t. They did it for the same reasons that Kaepernick did – because they had given up hope that anyone else would. READ MORE
To The Daily Sun,
They say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” but what about freedom? What was freedom to those that colonized the New World in comparison to the freedom experienced by those that were stewards of the land before white man arrived? The freedoms we experience today are not the same freedoms our parents or grandparents might have fought for. We’ve seen the interpretation of freedom change over generations, but we are experiencing an unprecedented threat to our basic natural freedoms with the current administration. Freedoms fought for by women, labor, LGBTQ and civil rights movements may become a thing of the past for the next four years — or more. These hard-fought freedoms have been chipped away at by corporate elitists and governments that serve them prior to Trump becoming president, but his presidency is proving to be the most racist, elitist, homophobic, misogynistic, corporate-stacked administration this nation has ever seen.
Freedom may have different applications to different people, but freedom is basically the state of being free, civil liberty; the right to enjoy all privileges or rights of citizenship. Essentially, the power to exercise choice and make decisions; autonomy; self-determination. If you haven’t noticed, we ain’t free.
Sure, we’re are free to roam around within the “cage of freedom” defined by special interests, secured by governments and enforced by the courts. Restricted to the “free speech zone” when words of truth, inspiration and justice are spoken, but manipulating social propaganda is all over the nightly news. Carry signs of protest downtown, but don’t take any real action that generates rights-protecting systemic change. Go ahead and write countless pleading letters to elected officials and appointed positions that have been bought and paid for by the very industries that are the subject of our pleading letters; you’ll get a formulated response if you get any response at all.
What about whether our food is genetically engineered or not, watered with frack waste, or fertilized with pharmaceutical-laden human waste? What about knowing if the meat available in the store is from some country with absolutely no safety regulations or whether there is mercury in the seafood? This is the kind of information that seriously affects our choices because it motivates our decision to spend or not to spend. These limitations on our freedom to know and therefore our freedom to choose, are limited because they affect the bottom line profits of industry. Freedom isn’t really freedom when it is confined to a set of limitations defined by those profiting from the limitations defining our choices.
Food isn’t the only area our freedom to decide is limited. When an industry is seeking to use a natural resource in our community, who decides whether or not that industry is a good idea for the area? These decisions are made by state and federal governmental agencies with appointed committee members considered experts in the fields of the industry they represent. The real experts that truly know how a project is going to affect the area are those most affected by the project — real human beings that live in those communities and the ecosystems that will be the subject of the development.
We have political party limitations as well. You “get to choose” between a Democrat or a Republican — if you want to have any part in the political process. If you are an Independent or support the Green Party, well, that’s nice, but they don’t get the media coverage or the big funders backing their cause so in essence, they don’t get to participate and therefore, neither do you. Where is the freedom to simply run for an office as an elected official based on what you actually believe and what you really plan to do for those you represent? Where is the freedom for voters to have a legitimate process to choose and elect who represents them?
We should all be alarmed about how future administrations will define our future “freedoms.” Trump is a corporate elitist who is now in a powerful position to serve the corporate elite in ways no other president has been positioned to do. Now, more than ever, we need to stop spinning our wheels in a system designed by corporate elites to deny We the People our freedom to decide what happens where we live. We need a people’s movement that will mobilize across party lines, across social divides, across regional separations that will stop giving consent to illegitimate and unjust laws that serve the corporate-state.
How often have we heard the question about whether the Democrats in Washington will work with the Republicans, or the other way around, or whether they will fight each other every step of the way? It is time we fight freedom-robbing policies every step of the way at the local level. Stop giving consent to this elitist-serving system that stands in the way of our freedom to create local sustainable energy, transportation solutions, sustainable agricultural systems, social acceptance, free and fair elections, livable wages, protections for ecosystems and local self-governance. Stop accepting restrictions of freedom as for the “greater good.” The greater good of whom? The local community, or the corporate industries that will profit from using the community as a human experiment or a resource colony? We must challenge illegitimate and unjust laws by returning to the very freedoms the revolutionaries fought for — our freedom to exercise local self-governance.
Hundreds of communities across the nation have begun to dismantle illegitimate and unjust laws by partnering with Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to draft new local laws that include a Community Bills of Rights recognizing the right to local community self-government and elevating the rights of people, communities and nature above the “rights” currently claimed by corporations. These communities aren’t waiting for permission to exercise their inherent and unalienable right to self-govern, they are exercising their freedom to create local laws that protect the health, safety and welfare of both human and natural communities because our very survival depends upon it. Freedom to make choices about social acceptance, economic, political, or environmental sustainability is already ours. We just need to believe it and act on it. Now is the time.
NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN) partners with CELDF to build CELDF’s organizing framework to the state level with a constitutional amendment to recognize, secure and protect community rights. Learn more at www.nhcommunityrights.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NHCRN Board of Directors
September 25th 6:30pm - 8:30pm
The Stone Church
5 Granite St
Newmarket, NH 03857
Join us for a screening of Tree Media's We the People 2.0, a documentary featuring the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund's work to support communities across the country enact Rights Based Ordinances to protect their quality of life by way of protecting the rights of nature. Stay for the Q&A with CELDF's NH Community Rights Organizer Michelle Sanborn to see how she, CELDF, and the NH Community Rights Network can help you establish RBOs in YOUR town! Such RBOs have been passed in communities right here in NH by people who have decided to take hold of their constitutional right to assemble to legally confront and block the revolving door of permitting and regulation that continues to allow industry to pollute our air, waters, and lands. Growing across the nation, the Community Rights movement is working toward amendments to state constitutions that will establish the rights of nature cross the country, thereby setting precedent to amend the Federal Constitution so that it protects not commerce and the rights of corporations but our quality of life, which necessarily means recognizing and protecting the rights of the environment.
SEPTEMBER 25, 2017 BY WILL FALK 2 COMMENTS
On Tuesday, September 26, the Colorado River will sue the State of Colorado in a first-in-the-nation lawsuit requesting that the United States District Court in Denver recognize the river’s rights of nature. These rights include the rights to exist, flourish, regenerate, and naturally evolve. To enforce these rights, the Colorado River will also request that the court grant the river “personhood” and standing to sue in American courts.
Four of my comrades in the international environmental organization Deep Green Resistance and I, are serving as “next friends” to the Colorado River. We are represented by the noted civil rights attorney Jason Flores-Williams who is based in Denver. Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is serving as advisors in the case.
The term “as next friends” is a legal concept that means we have signed on to the lawsuit as fiduciaries or guardians of the river. Under current law, the Colorado River is not “legally competent” and, so needs “next friends” to ensure her rights are protected. A “next friend” is someone who appears in court in place of another who is not competent to do so – like a minor or someone with a mental disability. My role, as next friend to the Colorado River, is to protect the river’s rights.
We recently released a press release that has been widely shared on social media. National media outlets are beginning to take notice. And, we’re getting interviews, receiving email inquiries, and responding to online comments. So far, the most common question is: Why does the Colorado River need rights?
The most fearless environmental philosophers – thinkers like Susan Griffin, Neil Evernden, Derrick Jensen, and John Livingston – have insisted that we will never be safe so long as the natural world we depend on is objectified and valued only for the way humans use it. Livingston calls the objectification of nature “resourcism” and explains: “A ‘resource’ is anything that can be put to human use … It is the concept of ‘resource’ that allows us to perceive nature as our subsidiary.” Livingston notes that once the nonhuman “is perceived as having some utility – any utility – and is thus perceived as a ‘resource,’ its depletion is only a matter of time.”
Because our legal system currently defines nature as property, “resourcism” is institutionalized in American law. While climate change worsens, water continues to be polluted, and the collapse of every major ecosystem on the continent intensifies, we must conclude that our system of law fails to protect the natural world and fails to protect the human and nonhuman communities who depend on it.
Jensen, while diagnosing widespread ecocide, observes a fundamental psychological principle: “We act according to the way we experience the world. We experience the world according to how we perceive it. We perceive it the way we have been taught.” Jensen quotes a Canadian lumberman who once said, “When I look at trees I see dollar bills.”
The lumberman’s words represent the dominant culture’s view of the natural world. Jensen explains the psychology of this objectification, “If, when you look at trees you see dollar bills, you will act a certain way. If, when you look at trees, you see trees you will act a different way. If, when you look at this tree right here you see this tree right here, you will act differently still.”
Law shapes our experience of the world. Currently, law teaches that nature is property, an object, or a resource to use. This entrenches a worldview that encourages environmental destruction. In other words, when law teaches us to see the Colorado River as dollar bills, as simple gallons of water, as an abstract percentage to be allocated, it is no wonder that corporations like Nestle can gain the right to run plastic bottling operations that drain anywhere from 250 million to 510 million gallons of Colorado River water per year.
The American legal system can take a good step toward protecting us all – human and nonhuman alike – by granting ecosystems like the Colorado River rights and allowing communities to sue on these ecosystems’ behalf. When standing is recognized on behalf of ecosystems themselves, environmental law will reflect a conception of legal “causation” that is more friendly to the natural world than it is to the corporations destroying the natural world. At a time when the effects of technology are outpacing science’s capacity to research these effects, injured individuals and communities often have difficulty proving that corporate actions are the cause of their injuries. When ecosystems, like the Colorado River, are granted the rights to exist, flourish, regenerate, and naturally evolve, the obsolete causation theory, en vogue, will be corrected.
American history is haunted by notorious failures to afford rights to those who always deserved them. Americans will forever shudder, for example, at Chief Justice Roger Taney’s words, when the Supreme Court, in 1857, ruled persons of African descent cannot be, nor were never intended to be, citizens under the Constitution in Dred Scott v. Sanford. Justice Taney wrote of African Americans, “They had for more than a century before been regarded as being of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race … and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect…” And, of course, without rights that white, slave-owning men were bound to respect, the horrors of slavery continued.
The most hopeful moments in American history, on the other hand, have occurred when the oppressed have demanded and were granted their rights in American courts. Despite centuries of treating African Americans as less than human while defining them as property, our system of law now gives the same rights to African Americans that American citizens have always enjoyed. Once property, African Americans are now persons under the law. Similarly, despite a centuries-old tradition where women were, in the legal sense, owned by men, our system of law now gives the same rights to women that American citizens have always enjoyed. Once property, women are now a person under the law.
It’s tempting to describe this history as “inevitable progress” or as “the legal system correcting itself” or with some other congratulatory language. But, this glosses over the violent struggles it took for rights to be won. The truth is, and we see this clearly in Justice Taney’s words, the American legal system resisted justice until change was forced upon it. It took four centuries of genocide and the nation’s bloodiest civil war before our system of law recognized the rights of African Americans. While the courts resisted, African Americans were enslaved, exploited, and killed.
Right now, the natural world is struggling violently for its survival. We watch hurricanes, exacerbated by human-induced climate change, rock coastal communities. We choke through wildfires, also exacerbated by human-induced climate change, sweeping across the West. We feel the Colorado River’s thirst as overdraw and drought dries it up. It is the time that American law stop resisting. Our system of law must change to reflect ecological reality.
Colorado River between Marble Canyon (Source: Alex Proimos/Flickr/CC-BY-NC-2.0)
This is ecological reality: all life depends on clean water, breathable air, healthy soil, a habitable climate, and complex relationships formed by living creatures in natural communities. Water is life and in the arid American Southwest, no natural community is more responsible for the facilitation of life than the Colorado River. Because so much life depends on her, the needs of the Colorado River are primary. Social morality must emerge from a humble understanding of this reality. Law is integral to any society’s morality, so law must emerge from this understanding, too.
Human language lacks the complexity to adequately describe the Colorado River and any attempt to account for the sheer amount of life she supports will necessarily be arbitrary. Nevertheless, many creatures of feather, fin, and fur rely on the Colorado River. Iconic, and endangered or threatened, birds like the bald eagle, greater sage grouse, Gunnison sage grouse, peregrine falcon, yellow-billed cuckoo, summer tanager, and southwestern willow flycatcher make their homes in the Colorado River watershed. Fourteen endemic fish species swim the river’s currents including four fish that are now endangered: the humpback chub, Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, and bonytail.
Many of the West’s most recognizable mammals depend on the Colorado River for water and to sustain adequate food sources. Gray wolves, grizzly bear, black bear, mountain lions, coyotes, and lynx walk the river’s banks. Elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep live in her forests. Beavers, river otters, and muskrats live directly in the river’s flow as well as in streams and creeks throughout the Colorado River basin.
The Colorado River provides water for close to 40 million people and irrigates nearly 4 million acres of American and Mexican cropland. Agriculture uses the vast majority of the river’s water. In 2012, 78% of the Colorado’s water was used for agriculture alone. 45% of the water is diverted from the Colorado River basin which spells disaster for basin ecosystems. Major cities that rely on these trans-basin diversions include Denver, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Salt Lake City.
Despite the Colorado River’s importance to life, she is being destroyed. Before the construction of dams and large-scale diversion, the Colorado flowed 1,450 miles into the Pacific Ocean near Sonora, Mexico. The river’s life story is an epic saga of strength, determination, and the will to deliver her waters to the communities who need them. Across those 1,450 miles, she softened mountainsides, carved through red rock, and braved the deserts who sought to exhaust her.
Now, however, the Colorado River suffers under a set of laws, court decrees, and multi-state compacts that are collectively known as the “Law of the River.” The Law of the River allows humans to take more water from the river than actually exists. Granting the river the rights we seek for her would help the courts revise problematic laws.
The regulations set forth in the 1922 Colorado River Compact are the most important and, perhaps, the most problematic. Seven states (Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming) are allotted water under the Compact. When the Compact was enacted, the parties assumed that the river’s flow would remain at a reliable 17 million acre-feet of water per year and divided the water using a 15-million acre feet per year standard. But, hydrologists now know 17 million acre-feet represented an unusually high flow and was a mistake. Records show that the Colorado River’s flow was only 9 million acre-feet in 1902, for example. From 2000-2016, the river’s flow only averaged 12.4 million acre-feet per year. So, for the last 16 years, the Compact states have been legally allowed to use water that isn’t there.
“Use it or lose it” laws are also common throughout the Colorado River basin. These laws threaten ranchers, farmers, and governments holding water rights who use less water than they are legally entitled to with seeing their allotments cut. So, those with water rights are encouraged to trap or use more water than they need.
Since the completion of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, the Colorado River has rarely connected with the sea. Stop and let that sink in. Many scientists believe the river is between 4 and 6.5 million years old. The Colorado River is so strong, so determined, she cut out the Grand Canyon. This magnificent being, millions of years old, who formed the Grand Canyon is being strangled to death by dams, climate change, overallocation, and a legal system that refuses to remedy its own insanity.
When you contemplate all those who depend on the Colorado River when you know the sheer quantity of life the river sustains, is it possible to mistake her inherent value?
I hate to reduce a being so ancient and so powerful to an argument based in human self-interest. Know this: If you’re one of the 40 million Americans who depend on the Colorado River’s water and you’re hydrated right now, the river is literally part of you. If that water is poisoned, if that water dries up, if corporate rights to steal that water and sell it back to you continue to trump the river’s right to exist, you will be hurt. This is not law. This not rhetoric. This is reality.
This is also why the Colorado River needs rights. Life requires clean water, breathable air, healthy soil and a habitable climate to create healthy ecosystems. Without these ecosystems, life is impossible and the right to life is meaningless. American law fails to protect life’s requirements because it defines nature as property and does not recognize the rights of nature. In a rights-based system of law, to be without rights is to be defenseless. And, after witnessing centuries of the exploitation of the natural world, we know that to be defenseless is to ultimately be destroyed. It’s time we protect those, like the Colorado River, who give us life.
By DIANE ST. GERMAIN
For the Monitor
Tuesday, September 12, 2017The right to vote in New Hampshire is being challenged. Our right to clean and fair elections is eroding.
The New Hampshire Legislature has fallen in line with the unfounded White House contention that there were illegal voters bused in from Massachusetts casting ballots in New Hampshire in the 2016 presidential election.
Bill Gardner, New Hampshire secretary of state, has embraced this false narrative as an excuse for serving on Donald Trump’s so-called Election Integrity Commission and by supporting New Hampshire voter suppression bills written by out-of-state entities with no understanding of New Hampshire and its residents.
Now, the vice chair of Trump’s commission, Kris Kobach, notorious for his aggressive efforts to disenfranchise Kansas voters, is claiming he has proof of voter fraud in New Hampshire. The data he cites is irrelevant. He is simply resurrecting false claims, playing into Trump’s delusion that he won the popular vote. It’s a feeble attempt to give legitimacy to this commission as it stages its dog and pony show today at St. Anselm College.
If our leaders and legislators were honestly interested in election integrity and defending voting rights, they would support legislation that encourages more people to vote and empowers local election officials to verify an accurate vote count. Not surprisingly, the New Hampshire Legislature and Trump’s commission are going after phantom “illegal” voters rather than achieve their purported goal of election integrity.
As if the Koch brothers’ voter ID law passed in New Hampshire wasn’t bad enough, even more ALEC-inspired voter suppression bills were passed in the last legislative session. Our legislators, so concerned about this perceived voter fraud, supported these regressive bills while steadfastly voting against legislation to protect our voting rights and verify that our votes are counted accurately by profit-producing machines.
We have several honorable New Hampshire legislators whose votes demonstrated an understanding of the need to encourage greater participation in the democratic process and who voted to assure that our vote counts could be verified. Unfortunately, there are not enough of these informed, clear-thinking representatives, so it is up to us, We the People, to assert our rights. We must take action to make sure every person of voting age is able to vote and can be guaranteed their vote matters, and to see that the electoral process is not hijacked by special interests and their legislative friends.
New Hampshire communities recognize the growing assault on our voting rights and election integrity. In the wake of recent court rulings like Citizens United, the proliferation of money in politics has increased substantially, transparency is virtually nonexistent, and the stranglehold of the corporate state on our individual and collective rights has tightened the noose around any sense of democracy. We need to assert our rights at the local level to change our form of government to one that serves and protects people over the profits of corporations and their representatives.
Given the failure of the New Hampshire Legislature to protect our votes and given its advocacy for voter suppression, we have to take action in our communities.
The New Hampshire Community Rights Network provides education about local self-governance and the development of rights-based ordinances that put communities in charge of decision-making, including demanding fair elections that are clean and verifiable.
NHCRN applauds the work of state and national organizations, along with New Hampshire state representatives, in challenging Trump’s commission. While these efforts are ongoing, we must act at the local level to challenge the underlying structures that would have us believe that We the People do not have the right to demand fair elections in our communities.
NHCRN invites all concerned about the commission and voting rights to visit the NHCRN website at nhcommunityrights.org and become partners in demanding fair, clean and verifiable elections by reclaiming local self-governance.
(Diane St. Germain of Center Barnstead is a member of the New Hampshire Community Rights Network board of directors.)
Lots going within the Community Rights Movement across the Granite State and beyond. Stay informed, volunteer to help with any of the events, and please share the newsletter!
BRATTLEBORO — Post Oil Solutions, an organization that promotes sustainability and community building in Vermont, will be hosting a workshop at the Brattleboro Food Co-op on Sept. 10.
The “Community Rights Awareness Workshop” will address what the organization believes to be “systemic barriers” impeding sustainability, according to a news release from the organization.
“We take an in-depth look at how political and legal structures have been set up to protect the interests of an elite wealthy minority, at the expense of the majority of the people living in communities,” the news release said.
The release said the group will also discuss how communities are challenging and overcoming the barriers to sustainability.
The workshop will be presented by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and led by Michelle Sanborn, of the defense fund and the New Hampshire Community Rights Network.
The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The core issue with electronic vote counting, is can we use it and protect our right to have our votes counted and reported accurately and know that has happened?
The answer clearly is “yes,” but the answer I have continued to get from Jaffrey officials since 2010 is “the secretary of state doesn’t want us to so we won’t.”
As a former teacher, my 4th-graders sometimes used the excuse “so and so told me to do it.” I would ask, “if so and so told you to jump off the school roof, would you do it?”
My students were capable of developing and using independent judgment, a crucial skill in democratic self-governance.
Jaffrey, state officials and the N.H. Senate know that, even with pre-election testing, the AccuVote can: 1) count our votes as fractions; 2) switch them to another candidate; 3) not count them at all.
They know the law requires the moderator to oversee a publicly observable vote count on election night and make sure the count reported to Concord is accurate.
I wish the Jaffrey moderator and selectboard had said to the secretary of state: “It’s our job to make sure the rights of voters and candidates are protected and we believe that is the intent of our state constitution and election laws.”
Since 2010, I have completely lost confidence in Jaffrey and New Hampshire elections and in our officials, who are supposed to be protecting our rights, votes and elections.
I have asked the N.H. Senate, “Does everyone in New Hampshire have to completely lose confidence in our elections before we can begin to change this?” Their silence says, “yes.” The majority, including Sen. Andy Sanborn, showed it won’t stand up to the secretary of state and protect our voting rights.
In Cheshire County, Keene and seven towns use the AccuVote machines. I encourage people to start talking with others about returning to hand counted, local control of our elections. Many people in Jaffrey remember that experience positively and prefer it.
Check out Nancy Tobi’s “Hands-on Elections,” available at your library or through interlibrary loan. I believe it will be less expensive and we will have reason to trust our election results.
The alternative being recommended by experts is a “risk-limited audit” (to ensure a 95 percent chance the election winner is the real one) at additional costs, time and controlled by the same people who have shown such stubborn disrespect for our votes, our voice in the political process.
Around the United States, local government efforts to resist an escalating threat of federal authoritarianism now routinely make the news. Headlines tout county and municipal victories concerning sanctuary cities, protections against government surveillance, minimum wage hikes, worker protections, rent control, bans on fossil fuel infrastructure, and heightened discrimination protections.
Local governments, it appears, are leading a progressive response to the Trump agenda.
It’s a comforting narrative, but there’s a critical twist: local gains are being systematically repressed. Lawsuits and “state preemption,” when states rescind specific or broad powers from local governments, are routinely used to nullify new local laws.
This year, Iowa passed a law prohibiting local governments from impacting conditions of employment, including minimum wages, worker benefits and scheduling practices. Texas was added to the list of states that “preempt” sanctuary city policies. Portland, Oregon’s ban on fossil fuel infrastructure was struck down by the courts. Ohio communities were stopped from even votingon numerous local fracking bans. Seattle was taken to court for trying to tax the rich. Local school districts have been taken over by conservative state governments. And on August 28, the State of Missouri’s nullification of a hard-fought St. Louis minimum wage increase goes into effect.
“It’s a slap in the face to me,” Wanda Rogers, a McDonald’s employee and organizer with Show Me 15 in St. Louis told The Progressive. “They shouldn’t be able to come in and do it to us like that. We fought hard for this. This is something we deserve. And we need it bad.”
The Missouri preemption will lower St. Louis’s minimum wage from $10.00 to $7.70. And the city is not alone. The National League of Cities reports that as of February, local governments in twenty-four states are preempted from raising the minimum wage, and the number has grown since.
Responses to preemption have varied. In Birmingham, workers filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming Alabama’s 2016 minimum wage preemption disproportionately impacted black voters and residents.
A similar argument was used against Michigan's infamous “emergency manager” law—best known for its takeover of Detroit and Flint. At one point, 52 percent of the state’s black population lived in municipalities taken over by a state-appointed emergency manager or under some form of state oversight, compared to only 2 percent of white residents.
Both lawsuits claim that the disproportionate disenfranchisement of local black voters violates the Voting Rights Act. However, core arguments have been tossed out. In the Michigan case, the the court has been crystal clear that the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee to a “republican form of government” does not extend to municipalities. A central legal argument made against Michigan’s emergency manager law—that suspending local democracy is unconstitutional—was clearly struck down by the court. The only argument still alive is whether it matters that the law’s application has been racist.
This fight for democratic determination is intensifying in many states including Missouri, Ohio, Texas, Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, Michigan, to name a few. Now, as state and federal funds for municipalities dry up, public scrutiny is turning toward the deep-rooted legal doctrines that facilitate preemption and stop municipalities from filling the void.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a non-profit law firm that has worked with over 200 municipal governments, is partnering with state-based networks to advance state constitutional amendments in six states that would redefine state law as a “floor.” The amendments also propose elevating municipal laws above corporations’ legal privileges, which are routinely used to strike down local laws. According to Thomas Linzey of CELDF, “this would mean that community law making which expands civil and environmental rights for people and nature could not be overridden by corporations or state governments.” Similarly, Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, Florida and leader of Defend Local Solutions—a broad anti-preemption coalition in Florida—said in an interview that he thought state law should also be defined as a “floor.” Gillum is running for Florida governor.
Defining state law as a floor seems measured and straightforward. But it actually represents a revolutionary departure from an established legal doctrine called “Dillon’s Rule,” which treats municipalities as “creatures of the state.”
It also punctures a false dichotomy that has so far dissuaded many progressives from full-heartedly engaging in fights for local democratic self-determination: the centralism vs libertarianism debate.
When people hear “local control,” they often hear “libertarianism.” While this fear is justified, defining state law as a “floor” blows up the theoretical centralism vs libertarianism dichotomy. By proposing a reform in the middle, the concept of a floor allows municipal governments to increase state protections, while maintaining the status quo that prohibits them from undercutting protections.
Another misconception comes from inaccurate understandings of “Home Rule,” a protection for municipalities that allows them to act without the express permission of their state. Many states passed Home Rule state constitutional amendments in the early and mid parts of the twentieth century. Some people think Home Rule is an adequate protection for municipalities—but even with it, governments can still unilaterally preempt Home Rule powers.
Although the progressive-era Home Rule movement may have been significant in its time, the reform has clearly been gamed by interests hoping to quash local governments. Those who promote Home Rule usually fail to mention that it has done nothing to protect cities in Michigan, Ohio, and other states experiencing severe state preemption. Ohio and Michigan are “Home Rule states,” yet both have some of the harshest anti-municipal state preemption laws (and emergency management laws) on the books. Just ask anyone who lives in Flint.
Conservatives are aware that Home Rule has become largely toothless. Which is why the pro-preemption, Koch brother-backed American Legislative Exchange Council, has launched an American City County Exchange, to defend this status quo. In a recent white paper of theirs, they correctly state that: “Although Home Rule is presented as an alternative to the Dillon Rule, the two are not mutually exclusive.…Regardless which rule is in place, local government is subject to the state.”
Progressives have now begun to make state preemption a top priority. Jim Hightower recently wrote that progressives should, “take hold of this issue [and] passionately challenge the preemption thugs.”
But it is important that they understand this issue as a systematic one, not solved simply by winning power at the state,federal or local level. Legal doctrines must change, and progressives will have to kill some of their darlings: New York, Washington and Oregon—often thought of as very progressive states—all have harsh preemption rules on the books.
These conversations sound cerebral and wonky, but they have material impacts on millions of American lives. When the St. Louis minimum wage ordinance is officially nullified on Monday, Rogers will bear the brunt, she said. “It’s going to be a real bad struggle for me all over again.”
Simon Davis-Cohen is editor of the Ear to the Ground newsletter, an exclusive “civic intelligence” service that mines local newspapers and state legislatures from across the country.
Post Oil Solutions is hosting We the People 2.0 – The Second American Revolution as part of their grassroots organizing. Vermont residents face industrial wind projects, oil and gas pipelines, and water contamination from harmful corporate projects, and are learning about Community Rights to protect themselves.
We the People 2.0 shares stories from communities across the country that are organizing against environmental threats. They are confronting our structure of law, which elevates the rights of corporations over the rights of people, communities, and nature, and creating the communities they envision.
Following the screening, Michelle Sanborn of CELDF will facilitate a Q & A session. And in September, attendees and other community members are invited to attend the Community Rights Awareness Workshop. See event flyer and details below.
Tuesday, August 22nd, 6:00 p.m.
Brooks Memorial Library
224 Main St.
Brattleboro, VT 05301
For more information, contact Tim Stevenson of Post Oil Solutions at email@example.com.
Industrial hydro releases methyl mercury poisoning fish and the people who live off the fish. It also releases methane into the atmosphere which is many times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. Northern Pass is about property rights.