Barbara Peterson, PhD
Professor – University System of New Hampshire
Founder/Lead Scholar – Nonviolent Citizen Action
Veteran Activist for nonviolent struggle
Author – Reclaiming Power: Building a Stronger Resistance in the Age of Trump
Some activists claim that voting is something we do only a couple days out of the year, then we get back to the real work. It’s quite true that voting is the minimum one should do to participate in our democracy, but it is also essential. What’s more, it is an excellent litmus test to determining how strong our democracy is. If voting is little more than merely show, if our elections become so corrupted that the voting process does not allow people to elect those that truly represent the people’s needs, then we are not in danger of losing our democracy, we’ve already lost it.
Government coups are rarely violent military operations now as they were in the past. Instead, they are discreet and largely unnoticed maneuvers. Legislation that takes away people’s rights and freedoms is quietly passed without media headlines; outrage over political and corporate ethical violations occur, then are quickly forgotten and often normalized; and fair election procedures are slowly stripped away. This publicly undetected government transition from democracy to dictatorship has occurred in different countries around the world. The United States, despite what we may want to believe, is not immune to this danger.
There are several pillars that typically support democracies. One is the existence in society of strong autonomous (independent from government and corporate leadership and funding) organizations with decision-making powers. Another pillar is a reasonably unbiased and objective court system as well as justice and intelligence departments. Democracies also require a strong representative legislative branch that puts the people before party allegiance. And finally, fair and clean elections are a vital aspect of a democracy.
These pillars have been quietly narrowed and weakened for decades; yet, they have been attacked more openly and brazenly in the past four years by the Trump administration. We are seeing more laws passed criminalizing protest; corporations continue to gain more rights and power than the people; courts are being packed with partisan judges; our justice and intelligence agencies are experiencing new levels of corruption by lackeys and sycophants to Trump and his mob-like coterie; our elected representatives have opted for partisan loyalty over the expressed needs of the people despite the crises of the global warming and the viral pandemic; our election information is being co-opted by foreign influence and big money; and voting rights have become increasingly curtailed.
We cannot hope to have a functioning democracy when voting rights are manipulated and suppressed. Clean and fair elections are the foundation to a democracy, and when they are stripped away, the people cannot afford to stand by and hope for the best. In these past four years, Republicans have passed laws that serve as road blocks to voting. Poor folx, students, Blacks, and other persons of color, a majority of whom typically vote Democrat, are most impacted by purging voter rolls, gerrymandering, and voter fraud suppression. Purging voter rolls bars the culturally disenfranchised from voting. Greg Palast’s documentary, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, reveals that over 7 million people, predominantly people of color from Republican held states, were on a “cross check” list which was a list of people who were suspected of voting multiple times. Palast found that, although over 1million of these people were removed from their official voter rolls, none matched the criteria that were said to have put them on the list and therefore none were ever prosecuted for their alleged felonies.
Gerrymandering draws voting district lines to determine which geographical populations will send their winning candidates’ votes. These votes are then counted with all the other gerrymandered districts’ winning votes to be tallied as a total for the state. It is a pernicious attempt to unfairly control voting results. The United States is one of the few democracies in the world to employ partisan election managers. Democrats and Republicans in 33 US states have the ability to draw voting district lines to favor their political party. This partisan favoring is so extreme in some cases that their districting has been overturned in court. In Pennsylvania, for example, according to the NYT, the state Supreme Court ruled that the congressional map constituted a case of unlawful partisan gerrymandering, which greatly favored Republicans. This was a case of attempted voter fraud that at least ended well. Not all cases have such fortunate endings. CNN reported that in North Carolina, although a federal court ruled the districting map was unfairly drawn to support Republicans, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s ruling.
In addition to voter poll purges and gerrymandering, Republicans introduced legislation to reduce “voter fraud,” which is itself fraud because there is no evidence of more than a handful of cases where people have attempted to vote illegally, despite expensive investigations and research meant to reveal it. Requiring IDs predominantly impacts the poor, elderly, and physically challenged populations who don’t drive and thus often don’t have and cannot easily acquire acceptable identification.
Other restrictions on the right to vote are laws giving corporations so much power that our voting process is unacceptably dominated by corporate influence. A basic tenet of democracy is that the government’s authority is based on the consent of the people. The ugly specter of corporate interference was popularly illustrated at the turn of the 20th century in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, where readers are shown that “consent” needs to be freely given, not coerced by strong-arm tactics from the mendacious partnership between big business and the politicians they fund.
Citizens United, a conservative group seeking the right for big money to buy elections, won favor in the Supreme Court in 2010 where the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act was overturned, a law preventing corporations or unions from spending money on campaigns to decide an election. Corporate America, holding hands with conservative politicians, won over the Supreme Court and pushed through a law giving corporations the right to have far more say than individuals and even entire communities in deciding who is elected and what legislation is passed. In effect, corporations now have the legal right to subvert a fundamental basis of democracy: the right to self-determination with a government whose legitimacy is founded on the consent of the governed.
According to the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), it is entirely unjust that our right to a free and fair vote has little to no legs because corporations, partnered with elected officials, “are able to influence not only HOW we vote and determine WHAT we vote, but even WHETHER we can vote” (emphasis in the original). If a corporation decides to set up shop in your neighborhood, for example, to start fracking, you and those who live in your community have no decision-making authority to protect yourselves from legally permitted corporate activity. As inhabitants of our local community, we have no authority to vote on whether or not any corporation chooses to do business that jeopardizes our local economy, the purity of our water, the health of our land, and the overall feel and beauty of our community. If a company meets federal or state-mandated regulations, that are determined by committees of persons most often not elected but appointed, then a company has the legal permission to violate any opposition the people have against them.
Through Citizens United and the big-money influence corporations have over government officials, our votes have a continually decreasing amount of power to determine the economy, environment, and health of our local communities. This violates our inalienable rights as democratic citizens. As stated in the language of a sample elections ordinance created by New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN), “All residents of this municipality possess the fundamental and inalienable right to a form of governance where they live which recognizes that all power is inherent in the people, that all free governments are founded on the people’s authority and consent, and that corporate entities and their directors and managers shall not enjoy special privileges or powers under the law which make community majorities subordinate to them.” Inhabitants of any municipality, town, or other local community, should be empowered to exercise their constitutional and democratic right to be governed by those who truly represent the people’s expressed interests.
Corporate influence over our government is eroding our democratic foundations and freedoms. More and more, people are prevented from voting for legislation that benefits them, against laws that harm them, and for politicians who truly represent them. Andrew Ross Sorkin in the NYT, reported on a recent study by professors Gilens and Page that the “preferences of the typical American have little or no influence at all on government policymaking. The study analyzed 1,779 policy issues in detail, determining the relative influence of economic elites, business-oriented and mass-based interest groups and average citizens. Their conclusion: ‘The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically nonsignificant impact upon public policy.’ Lawmakers listen to the demands of big businesses, which have the most lobbying prowess. Note that Gilens and Page’s data come from the period 1981 to 2002 — before the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in the Citizens United case.” When corporations rather than people determine our laws and policies, we no longer live in a democracy. Rather, a strong democracy is one that empowers its people to have a meaningful say in all policies that affect their daily lives. This requires that we are not overshadowed by the power of corporations, particularly in our right to have our vote count, and that no political party or official can take away our ability to elect a candidate who prioritizes the people’s needs.
When a nation, purporting to be a democracy, disempowers their people from voicing their needs and having them met, their support and their dissent of existing or proposed laws and actions, and their ability to play a genuine role in the decisional processes that shape the society in which we live, we have a nation that is threatening to be a democracy in name only. When such a nation also attacks our right to clean and fair elections, we have slipped past the threat and into the reality of a sham democracy. Voting is the easiest way to participate as a democratic citizen. And when that right is violated, the people need to wake up and see that our government, supported by corporate self-interest, is staging a silent coup to replace democracy with an authoritarian government run by oligarchs motivated by greed and selfishly destructive power-grabbing. That time is now.
Trump did not originate corrupt practices by the wealthy at the severe cost to working people, and the people will not be adequately empowered when he is replaced. Yet, Trump’s kakistocracy has exacerbated the corruption to such a degree that our government is in serious jeopardy of throwing all pretense of democracy away and bolding establishing itself as an oligarchy. The time is now for people to rise up, demand to be heard, and engage in collective nonviolent action that empowers us to be a government for, by, and of the people, a government that holds as absolute, the right to local self-determination to promote economic, socio-political, and environmental equity and justice. We need to bring the power back to the people; we need local control to build strong communities that meet the needs of all inhabitants and to create a government that is accountable to the expressed interests of the people.
By ANNIE ROPEIK • 4 HOURS AGO
The New Hampshire Supreme Court has agreed to hear a community group’s appeal in a dispute over an environmental protection ordinance in Nottingham, temporarily halting a lower court lawsuit against the rule.
The case comes from a citizen group, the Nottingham Water Association, which wants to intervene in an ongoing Superior Court challenge to their town’s “freedom from chemical trespass” ordinance.
Passed in 2019, it stems from a proposed state constitutional amendment which has failed in the state legislature in recent years. The ordinance seeks to block any business activity that would harm local natural resources.
It faces a suit from a local business owner who says it’s unconstitutional and unenforceable under current state law.
The citizens group argues Nottingham isn’t properly defending the ordinance in court. The judge in the case has denied the residents from intervening in the suit themselves.
Their attorney, Kira Kelley, says in a statement that this means the plaintiff and town have been able to “litigate ‘against’ each other to advocate in total agreement for a court ruling that excludes the people of a town and secures profits and commerce.”
“This appeal is ultimately about democracy, and whether members of the general public are allowed to make the choices that decide their health, safety, and welfare,” Kelley says in the statement, released by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.
In accepting the appeal, the state Supreme Court granted a stay on the lower court case – blocking, at least temporarily, a ruling that could overturn the Nottingham ordinance and set a precedent against similar rules in other towns.
There’s no date yet for the Supreme Court to hold an oral argument or rule on the community group’s motion to intervene in the case.
Date:August 15, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the course of history. The question is for better or for worse? The answer depends on We the People: we can continue to be “A Nation of Sheep” (good book by William Lederer) and be controlled by the Wall Street Empire and their two-Party crap trap, OR we can take over our democracy by asserting our community rights and gaining local control of our destiny. You may contact the NH Community Rights Network for assistance (email@example.com).
Most people know that the oil and gas companies and energy monopolies are polluting our planet and causing unending wars for OIL, and Congress goes along because “we have the best politicians money can buy” (Will Rogers). Unending wars make the rich richer, working with the big banksters and the military-industrial complex. Article 10 of the NH Constitution affirms our inalienable right of revolution “whenever the ends of government are perverted.” Our system is not broken, IT’S FIXED! The time has come for resistance and rebellion and it’s happening around the country!
Our Nation and world will be better off if the silent majority becomes activists for democratic humane change and environmental stewardship. Don’t be misled to the slaughter – the lives and future of our children and planet are at stake!!
Peter A. White, NH Community Rights Network
To the Editor: Local self-government before and still has the answers solving problems of state and local municipalities since Colonial times. People have governance when they organize their talents of respectable residence coming forward through natural obligation to the people where they live. I have to thank our representatives for the good endeavors in the work they accomplish. Seeking to bring to mind the purpose of self-governance and the specifics of its requirements, I have to turn to Thomas Jefferson, on the conditions for self-government written in Michael Reber’s paper on American Principles of Self-Government, 1933.
Thomas Jefferson quotes the word self-actualization, and that freedom with discipline entitles one to speak. A pure republic is a state of society in which every member with wisdom and of a sound mind has the equal right to be involved in the direction of affairs of society. Equality doesn’t make mankind free and that freedom entitles individuals to develop into self-actualized persons. Governance is an obligation not a right, neither a compact agreement. Self-actualization develops from freedom of information well understood, qualifies a person to participate in governance and points to the reason for rotational representation in the seats of government. Those members who do not conduct themselves by the virtue of noble qualities of the community cannot lead an orderly General Court, hold Judiciary duties nor seats of municipal service. Leadership comes by your average people, professionals, working class etc., who think of themselves as part of the community being of the same mind, restrained, sensible whose agreements founded on brotherly love reaching the greater good of the community first, qualitatively diverse that encourages the self realization of hopes in the best interest of the people.
The NHCRN is a non-profit organization working for communities toward the vision of self determination in your community, and can be reached at info. nhcommunityrights.org.
Douglas Darrell Center Barnstead
These United States of America were founded upon dissent, civil disobedience, direct action, and defiance against a tyrannical government. On one hand, this nation proclaims pride in that fact, and on the other, it works non-stop to suppress any expression of opinions that vary from the status quo Ameri-capitalist economic machine. Our founding fathers even went so far as to enshrine the suppression of dissent and defiance in the U.S. Constitution (Art. I., Section. 8.) Is there any wonder why the majority of U.S. inhabitants cannot seem to forge the kinds of structural change in governing powers that are truly necessary to meet the health and safety needs of our local communities and the natural ecosystems we depend upon for survival?
Covid-19 has shown us where true power for change lies – at the local and regional levels. Mutual aid between neighbors, towns, and counties has been effective in helping to meet the ongoing everyday needs of the young, the elderly, and all ages in between. State and federal support has favored large industry interests over individuals, communities, and ecosystems. And, it has taken much longer to implement state and federal assistance while many pockets are lines as it trickles down to the where the greatest needs exist. What can you do in this time of social distancing to organize for structural change that embodies what your community envisions?
The NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN) supports protecting the health and safety of the collective body of inhabitants (both human and natural) within your community. Reach out to the NHCRN to explore how you can envision and create structural change in decision-making power in the place where you live!
Visit us at www.nhcommunityrights.org or email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NHCRN makes information and education available with the goal of driving community rights and the recognition of ecosystem rights – an integral part of every community – into fundamental law.
Written by: Michelle Sanborn, resident of Alexandria NH and serving president of the NHCRN
Posted Apr 17, 2020 at 6:13 PM
To the Editor:
As the world-wide pandemic of coronavirus shuts down countries and economies, I have to wonder where do we go from here?
We were already having a global climate crisis, an income disparity crisis, a democracy crisis, suicides and drug overdoses, unending wars for Wall Street greed, and a big bank borrowing bubble even bigger than 2008 that was about to burst, and now this. Something has to change!
There is probably about a year of real hardship ahead for all of us, and how we handle it will determine if we come out better or worse as a society. Will people communicate, cooperate, and use grassroots democracy to make our government more humane and controlled by We the People, or will the oligarchs continue to push our Nation further towards corporate fascism?
The New Hampshire Community Rights Network is working with local people to help their towns embrace community rights so they can democratically protect their citizens and local environment. This local organizing is the building blocks of REAL democracy!
Anyone can contact us at email@example.com for information and assistance. It’s up to YOU to act, the politicians are not going to save us!
Peter A. White
NHCRN Board Member
Jan 30, 2020 To The Daily Sun,
This letter is being written in gratitude of all the folks in my town, state, and all the people who have worked steadfast supporting Community Rights for Local Self Government.
The Community Rights Movement is all about strengthening the rights of self-determination for a sustainable future, with the vision of government being driven from the grassroots of communities to their representatives of their General Court, to the federal branches of government.
To the volunteers and my colleagues of the present now, past, and our loved ones who have passed on, I give great thanks of appreciation. They stood in for the inalienable right of the people. Their sacrifices have been crucial through all times, now and in their legacy of the past.
The New Hampshire Community Rights Network is a nonprofit organization that started on May 19, 2013, in Barnstead, announcing the Barnstead Declaration and joining in with all the communities that passed Local Self Government Ordinances starting in Barnstead Town Meeting 2006, followed by 12 municipalities in New Hampshire, four in the State of Maine, through the decade and thereafter.
NHCRN provides information, education, support and testimonies, all in what we stand for. We can be reached through our website, nhcommunityrights.org. We want you to join with us to move forward in protecting our Bill of Rights and its purpose.
Board of Directors of NHCRN
To the Editor:
Clean water, air, and soil are essential for all living things; those that are sentient and those that are not.
The major causes of environmental pollution are the combustion of fossil fuels, agricultural waste from fertilizers and pesticides, and nuclear emissions from uranium mining and storage of waste. We have paid a high and potentially irreversible price for all of our industrial progress. The price has been realized at the cost of our health and the increasing rate of extinction of many animals, flora, and fauna.
When it comes to water, energy, food, and waste - all major components of our everyday lives - we find ourselves denied access to any real local decision-making authority over protecting human health and safety or that of the natural environments in our communities. Sure, the state and federal government create regulations around industrial activities, but what can we do when the state and federal government get it wrong?
I’ve been following the stories about PFAS contamination from the Coakley Landfill, St.Gobain, and the application of human waste (sludge) on commercial farmland. It is incredibly alarming that these industrial activities are all legally allowable and have caused so much harm with the direct approval and legal support from the state and the federal government.
There are times when no allowable amounts of a contaminate are acceptable because they cause such serious and irreversible harm to people and natural environments. PFAS are “forever chemicals” that take more years to leave our bodies and the environment than we are likely to live out on this earth. We know these chemicals cause cancers and yet their use is made legal by the government that is supposed to protect its citizens from such commercial and industrial harms.
Join the growing number of communities that are taking direct action, through local lawmaking, to enumerate their right to protect the health and safety of all residents and ecosystems from industrial harms and governmental interference with Rights-Based Ordinances (RBOs). These local laws legalize rights to clean air, water, and soil along with recognizing our right to make local governing decisions that raise local levels of protection within our communities above standards determined at the state and federal levels of government. Learn more at www.nhcommunityrights.org or contact the NH Community Rights Network at firstname.lastname@example.org.
President of New Hampshire Community Rights Network
To the Editor:
The earth is alive and sacred.
How can this be honored in the way we build our world? In our urban planning and design?
And what do we do when it is clearly not being honored?
Our legislative system currently gives us- the people - no leg to stand on when corporations come along with projects that follow a doomed narrative: Our earth is a resource to be used.
All-too-often this use becomes abuse because of disregard to our earth’s life and sacredness. And when that happens? We the people are unfortunately left feeling powerless in stopping or changing the narrative these projects perpetuate, regardless of the extent to which they may harm the health of ecosystems and communities.
But we are not powerless.
One purpose of the Right to a Healthy Climate ordinance, passed by Exeter residents this past march, is to assert the legislative power we as communities actually have. As the ordinance states: “This right of self-government, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, is natural, fundamental, and unalienable. It is also secured to us by the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of New Hampshire.”
What Exeter residents have done is created a local law that enables us to stop or change projects which will clearly do more harm than good to our ecosystems and our communities. Now, our town officials are more empowered in how they represent Exeter and look after its short and longterm well-being. Now, we may better elevate the narrative of a brighter future: The earth is alive and sacred.
Nov 15, 2019
Don't give up the fight!
For those of you who are, like me, lifelong humane activists, I would like to say thank you for caring enough to grow democracy to save our nation from the Wall Street Empire. We shall overcome someday.
Bob Marley wrote a song that says, “Get up, stand up for your rights, don’t give up the fight!”
While we democracy activists are maybe 3 million Americans who have not given up the fight, that’s only 1 percent of the people, and we cannot overcome the richest 1 percent who are the ruling elite without more of the 98 percent “silent majority” getting informed and involved. Being a patriot means more than waving the flag on July 4th!
Real democracy involves people in every town getting involved and empowered, and that’s what the NH Community Rights Network advocates for! Residents must act locally to protect their health, safety and welfare, and defend their water, land and air from corporate polluters who are poisoning our children and destroying Mother Earth! For more info, go to nhcommunityrights.org.
Is there a presidential candidate who will walk the walk and endorse community rights? Our elected “leaders” must work with We the People to oppose harmful corporate activities like the Granite Bridge Pipeline, Northern Pass, dredging of Great Bay and the contamination of our groundwater. If the people lead, the leaders have to follow — don’t give up the fight for democracy!
Peter A. White, treasurer
NH Community Rights Network and Nottingham Water Alliance
Oct 9, 2019 Updated Oct 9, 2019To The Daily Sun,
Mindsets are evolving to understand our place in nature as embraced by the indigenous people of the land we occupy. The catastrophic consequences of nature existing as “property” under the law have propelled communities around the world to take action to assert the rights of the natural world. And the outcry of youth in recent months illustrates the imperative that each of us takes action now.
The Community Rights movement has established the rights of nature from Lake Erie to Nottingham’s groundwater to Colombia’s Atrato River to New Zealand’s Whanganui River. Uganda, Bolivia and Ecuador have national laws establishing the rights of nature.
Recently dozens of people were arrested in protest of the environmental degradation caused by emissions from the Bow power plant, demanding that it be shut down. Residents of Bow and the towns downstream and downwind from the coal-burning plant have the power to assert the rights of the natural world that sustains them. Those communities could work with the New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) to assert the people’s right to clean water, air, and soil and local self-government. By passing rights-based ordinances that recognize, secure, and protect community rights, as a dozen New Hampshire towns have done, they could prohibit state-sanctioned harms inflicted upon families and natural environments.
Communities facing the Granite Bridge Pipeline and storage facility also have cause for considering rights-based ordinances that challenge the legal system which treats nature as property to be exploited at the expense of the survivability of humans and nature.
We need to protect ourselves and future generations at the local level. Attempts to preserve the environment with state regulations that suppress local solutions have only slowed environmental degradation to the point of unsustainability.
To solve the problems we face, people need to be able to use their local lawmaking process to determine local standards that build upon state standards and reflect the unique views, values and needs of our human and natural communities. Contact NHCRN at email@example.com and http://www.nhcommunityrights.org.
Diane St. Germain
Aug 19, 2019 To The Daily Sun,
The past two years, 2018-19 sessions in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, the New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) has campaigned to pass bills to amend the state Constitution with an Article 40. Citizens of our state endeavor to resurrect local self governance, inalienable rights of all people into our communities, municipalities, cities and townships.
This work is a shared investment as residence to the state and townships respectively through consent in good faith to our elected reps and senators who dedicate themselves by oath to uphold the rule of law of state and federal constitutions and justly the Bill of Rights, the binding backbone of our democracy. The republic only exists through the consent of the governed, having personhood as inalienable rights. .
Are we ready yet, to amend the law, grounding the understanding and purpose for “Rights of Nature,” governing intent for survival of mankind? This being, for the corrections of past misgivings, mistakes, trespasses, contemptuous judicial interpretations, the like of corporate personhood with inalienable property rights elevated above the peoples’ due civil rights natural inalienable rights.
Ask people of moral character from communities to reveille in what must be necessary to protect and direct the democratic decisions of what we, the people, call progress. Institution of local self government will evolve answers unique to individual community problems.
The strength of a nation at large are communities of people, the stiles of our structure of government, constructing a greater nation of good. The right of local self government pinioned with the Rights of Nature in our state Constitution, written as Article 40, is what we must establish in New Hampshire and be exemplar forwarding an ideal of governance in state, nation and world at large.
Issue Date:July 06, 2019The three main values of the United Sates are freedom, democracy, and human rights, and we are fighting for these ideals in the Town of Nottingham, other towns in New Hampshire, and in towns all over the Country!
The people of Nottingham have approved two rights based ordinances (RBO’s) to protect our health, safety, and ecosystem. The first ordinance, approved at Town Meeting in 2008, prevents commercial water extraction, thereby protecting our wells and preserving our groundwater. That ordinance saved our Town from USA Springs!
The second was passed at Town Meeting this year providing Nottingham with“Freedom from Chemical Trespass” to ban toxic waste dumping and protect our water, land, and air. There is already a challenge to this human right before NH Superior Court.
The question is who decides? Do the citizens of our towns have the democratic right to ban corporate polluters, including fossil fuel pipelines, high tension power lines, and greenhouse gas producers? It’s urgent that people get involved!
Contact the NH Community Rights Network (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Peter A. White, Treasurer, Nottingham Water Alliance and Board member of NH Community Rights Network
SB 306 empowers THE STATE SUPREME COURT with elective powers to appoint members to a “Housing Appeals Board.” In turn, the appointed board is empowered with judicial powers to override any and all collective local decision-making authority around housing developments and carry out the will of corporate actors against those living there. What a deal.
The bill passed the NH Senate, but was then tabled. The Senate then added the bill’s language to the Senate budget. Why do this? It's a way to pass legislation through the adoption of a budget, regardless of the outcome of the stand-alone bill.
A similar bill, HB 104, has already been killed in the NH House. Is this the Senate’s way of forcing legislation that the House has already rejected? Legislative shenanigans are not uncommon, especially at the end of the legislative season, but this action by the Senate stoops very low by allowing them to bypass additional public hearings and push SB 306 through this year.
Senator Guida of Warren, NH (District 2) proposed SB 306 and claims in an opinion piece published by the Concord Monitor that “Lack of affordable workforce housing is a major crisis in New Hampshire. Senate Bill 306 addresses this issue by establishing a Housing Appeals Board whose sole purpose is to save time and money for all parties when an appeal is filed in relation to a decision rendered by a local land-use board.” But contrary to Sen. Guida’s claimed concerns about “affordable” housing, the 9-page bill only mentions “affordable” once in the preamble, not in the actual binding language of the law.
It would be one thing if SB 306 was being proposed as setting minimum standards of protection for affordable housing so as not to encourage gentrification, but this is all about overriding local voices so that the wealthy propertied of society can protect their privilege. Corporate developers that save a portion of their developments for housing could possibly use the new “Housing Appeals Board” to override local land-use ordinances that, for example, limit certain commercial uses to industrial zones only or maybe local laws that protect sensitive ecosystems and natural environments.
If SB 306 is adopted as part of the State’s budget, it becomes law. Any housing development application could be legitimately denied based on local ordinances but the developer could go to the State-created, NH Supreme Court-appointed, “Housing Appeals Board” and have the denial heard and overturned. It’s as simple as that. And, taxpayers would get to foot the bill at an estimated $400,000 each year to have their local collective voices silenced – the will of the citizenry be damned.
A growing number of Granite State communities recognize the State’s ever-increasing overreach and interference into local matters. These communities are adopting local rights-based ordinances (not land-use) that recognize the right of local self-government and ecosystem rights – empowering those most affected by governing decisions with authority to make those decisions. Join them and let’s work together to secure our right to decide what’s best for the human and natural communities in the places where it matters most – right where we live. Learn more by visiting the NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN) website at www.nhcommunityrights.org.
(she, her, hers)
Posted May 20, 2019 at 11:31 AM Updated May 20, 2019 at 11:31 AM
To the Editor:
In March of this year 74 of our New Hampshire state representatives voted in favor of allowing the people of New Hampshire to vote on the New Hampshire Community Rights state constitutional amendment affirming the right of local self-government. Some 282 representatives voted to effectively undermine the efforts of New Hampshire communities that have enacted local ordinances saying no to corporate harms and yes to environmental and social justice.
Barnstead residents watched for years as sludge, laced with carcinogens from Monsanto and other toxic industries, was dumped on farmlands impacting groundwater. We then looked on as our neighbors in the town of Nottingham fought the USA Springs takeover of their water resources. Barnstead residents subsequently enacted a rights-based ordinance asserting our right to control and protect our water resources. And recently Barnstead enacted a freedom from religious identification ordinance in response to burgeoning religious intolerance.
The NH Community Rights Amendment would have protected these ordinances — as well as those enacted in numerous NH towns fighting pipelines and other corporate harms — from state preemption and would have specifically enumerated the right to local self-government affirmed in the NH State Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
Ask your representatives if they voted to support local decision-making, the NH Community Rights Amendment, or if they chose to yield to party pressure and bow to corporate donors. Ask them if they will, in the future, recognize the constituency they are serving and understand that the people most affected by decisions should be the ones making those decisions.
People all over New Hampshire are working with the New Hampshire Community Rights Network to realize true local self-government so we can dismantle the power structures that have kept us at the mercy of corporate greed. It’s time that all of our legislators support the people’s work that will sustain and enrich our communities. Kudos to the 74 legislators who did.
Diane St. Germain, NHCRN Board member
The Nottingham Water Alliance (NWA) has retained the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to represent them in defending the Freedom from Chemical Trespass Ordinance.
A challenge has been brought by Brent Tweed of G&F Goods, LLC in Rockingham Superior Court. The Ordinance was passed by voters in March of this year at Nottingham Town Meeting.
The new Rights-based Ordinance protects the rights of Town residents to clean water, air, and soil, and prohibits corporations or government agencies from disposing of toxic wastes in Nottingham in order to protect those rights. This is the second such Ordinance adopted by the Town of Nottingham, the first protecting the right of Townspeople to clean drinking water by banning commercial water extraction. The Right to Water Ordinance was passed in 2008 and prevented USA Springs from extracting and bottling water, draining Nottingham’s aquifer.
“We are concerned about keeping our children safe by keeping toxins out of our water,” said Judy Doughty, Board member of the Nottingham Water Alliance. There are around 850 toxic waste sites in New Hampshire, including 22 on the national Superfund registry.
“The people of Nottingham are the best ones to protect our water and natural resources, and the voters have spoken at Town Meeting,” stated John Terninko, Chairperson of the NWA. “Seven children have been diagnosed with cancer near the Coakley Landfill and two have died, and we don’t want that problem in Nottingham.”
For more information contact John Terninko of NWA or Michelle Sanborn of CELDF.
Apr 2, 2019 Updated 19 hrs agoTo The Daily Sun,
New Hampshire is often assumed to be the beacon of local representation. And why not? New Hampshire is the Live Free or Die state. The first colonial state to separate from British rule with its own constitution, six months prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It has the largest state legislature in the nation.
But the truth about local representation in the Granite State is very different. As a citizen of this state who has directly engaged with state legislators for the past four years, I can tell you that the state Legislature is beholden to party politics, not its citizens. In fact, I can tell you that New Hampshire is so dominated by party politics as to resemble the way corporations hi-jack our government and deny democracy to We the People.
Educating the people on local democracy is the work of the N.H. Community Rights Network (NHCRN). As a grassroots non-profit organization, NHCRN has been advocating for the N.H. Community Rights Amendment — a state constitutional amendment that would secure the right of local communities to protect their residents and natural environment against corporate activities that violate local rights. In a nutshell, the amendment recognizes that real people, communities, and natural environments have rights to health, safety, and welfare; the authority to prohibit corporate activities that violate those rights; and ensures that local laws adopted under this amendment’s authority can only strengthen and expand rights and protections — they “shall not” weaken or constrict existing rights and protections secured by other local, state, federal, or international laws.
In 2018, the N.H. Community Rights Amendment achieved a recommendation of ought-to-pass (OTP) from a Republican-controlled subcommittee. However, the chair of the full committee refused to allow the subcommittee to offer their report. The Republican-led N.H. House then denied advancing the N.H. Community Rights Amendment to the Senate. Even so, a roll call vote on the N.H. House floor revealed that one-third of the 2018 N.H. House did vote to support elevating the right of N.H. people to use their municipal governments to pass local laws protecting health, safety, and welfare of individuals, their communities, and natural environments against corporate activities that harm them. Of the one-third of the N.H. House that supported the people’s right to local community self-government, 73 percent were Democrats and 2 percent were Republicans.
After last year’s show of support from Democrats and with this year’s new Democratic majority in the House, one might have expected the N.H. Community Rights Amendment to receive an ought-to-pass (OTP) recommendation. That didn’t happen. The same Democratic Party that last year supported the right to self-govern collectively at the local level when the Republicans were in charge is the very Democratic Party that this year denied a people’s vote despite its control of the House. It turns out that neither party supports the right of New Hampshire citizens to protect themselves from plutocrats hiding behind corporations and profiting by harming our communities.
This result defines party politics, right down to the pressure to conform that made legislators buckle and abandon their constituents. Individual state representatives on both sides of the aisle expressed principled support for securing the right of local self-governance in the Live Free or Die state. But after the parties caucused prior to this year’s committee executive session and before the House vote on the N.H. Community Rights Amendment, some representatives who had taken a stand on the side of the people they represent changed their votes and aligned instead with the agenda of party leadership and their corporate handlers to vote against the amendment.
On the Republican side of the aisle, leadership went so far as to issue a gag order. Not only were the people’s elected representatives told how to vote on the amendment in caucus, but they were also told not to discuss it outside of the assigned committee. They were, in fact, forbidden by the political club in which they have membership from speaking or deliberating on behalf of the people. Granite State pride in a large “people’s” legislature means nothing if private political parties can control the votes and deliberations of the state representatives that we elect. Why do representatives comply? They don’t want to commit political suicide and risk losing leadership support for bills they propose. They don’t want to be politically punished for going against the party. But where does this leave the people? The answer: unrepresented in a supposedly representative republic.
I’ve had state representatives from both sides of the aisle apologize to me for voting against the amendment and against their own conscience. The sentiment is thoughtful, but truly, there is no room for apologies when state legislators are elected to protect and uphold the rights of New Hampshire citizens but instead uphold and protect the privileges given to corporations that let them buy elections and politicians. This is a catastrophe for democracy and has real-life consequences. State law now legally permits among a host of other evils, activities that have elevated New Hampshire to the highest rate of pediatric cancers in the nation and the second highest rate of breast cancers. Citizens don’t want to hear apologies, they want their state representatives to represent them and not the special interests that have purchased the political parties.
Michelle Sanborn, Alexandria
Posted at 11:18 AMUpdated at 11:18 AM
To the Editor:
There are a dozen towns in New Hampshire that have passed local rights-based ordinances to protect the health and safety of people and our natural resources from corporate exploitation. Nottingham and Exeter joined the growing coalition of communities asserting their right to self-govern at town meetings this year! If we don’t act then we are ripe for getting used and abused by energy monopolies and corporate polluters!
There are 850 hazardous waste sites in New Hampshire and 22 of them are on the national Superfund list. Neither the state nor federal governments have protected its citizens and Mother Nature from contamination, nor from the toxic greenhouse gasses destroying the earth, nor from the gas pipelines and fracking bringing in more fossil fuels to be burned by misguided consumers.
The New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) proposed a State Constitutional amendment in the Legislature the last two years to enable more towns to pass rights-based ordinances but the Republican-led House in 2018 and the Democrat-led House in 2019 each denied our communities the right to protect themselves. Who are they representing, We the People or the rich special interests who profit from polluting activities?
The NHCRN (email@example.com) is a grassroots non-profit that assists citizens and local officials to get informed and organized to promote rights-based ordinances in their towns. Get involved or be passive victims of greedy corporate polluters who are poisoning our children and planet!
Peter A. White, Nottingham Water Alliance
Posted Mar 25, 2019 at 2:20 PMUpdated Mar 25, 2019 at 2:20 PM
To the Editor:
Last week, CACR8, the NH Community Rights Amendment, was blocked by the New Hampshire House of Representatives from advancing to a people’s vote. New Hampshire citizens were denied advancement of the recognized right to protect human and environmental health and safety from corporate harm.
The NH Community Rights Amendment is a proposed state constitutional amendment that would guarantee the citizens of New Hampshire the right of local self-government to protect human and natural communities though local lawmaking so long as those local laws expand and protect the rights of people, communities, and their natural environments. The amendment would safeguard against infringement on existing fundamental rights and protections under other local, state, federal, or international laws.
During last week’s House Session, Representative Ellen Read (D), prime sponsor of CACR8, said that local community self-government is the basis of our country. She asked, “Shouldn’t a town be able to decide to stop a corporate activity if it hurts their town?” Read also said that towns need constitutional protection in order to fight the deep pockets of corporate encroachment.
As corporate threats grow in the Granite State, more communities are joining the Community Rights movement. These communities and their supporters will reintroduce the NH Community Rights Amendment again in the future because our quality of life — indeed our very lives and those of our children and future generations — depends on it.
All politics are local. No one cares more about what happens in their community than the people that live there. We know from prior people’s movements that fundamental change takes persistent, unrelenting pressure, and that we must insist that our elected officials protect New Hampshire people, places, and environments above profit.
Thank you to all who support the efforts of the NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN) to secure the right of local community self-government for all inhabitants of New Hampshire. If you believe that the people most affected by governing decisions should be the ones making them and that local concerns are not being adequately addressed at the state level, please join us in advancing and protecting our right to decide what happens in the places we live!
For additional information, visit the NHCRN at www.nhcommunityrights.org. Contact us with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Dube, NHCRN Legislative Coordinator
March 14, 2019 By Dana DrugmandThe town of Exeter, N.H. passed an ordinance recognizing the right to a healthy climate, the second ordinance of its kind to be passed in the U.S,.
The law, dubbed the Right to Healthy Climate Ordinance, recognizes the “right to a healthy climate system capable of sustaining human societies.” Exeter residents voted 1176 to 1007 to pass the ordinance at the annual town meeting on Tuesday.
It follows a similar law passed by the town of Lafayette, Colo., which enacted a “Climate Bill of Rights” ordinance in 2017. These local right-to-climate laws are part of a growing movement by communities across the country to ban corporate activities that threaten residents’ health, safety and welfare. With assistance from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), more than 200 communities have passed community rights ordinances securing rights to water, a healthy environment, sustainable energy and other issues. They prohibit an array of industrial activities from factory farms and dumping of sewage sludge to fracking and building fossil fuel pipelines.
Exeter, home to about 15,000 residents, is one of eight towns in New Hampshire fighting a proposed pipeline project that would transport fracked gas across the Piscataqua River Watershed, an ecosystem that hundreds of thousands of people and countless species depend upon for clean air and water. The 27-mile Granite Bridge pipeline, a project of Liberty Utility, is not specifically mentioned in Exeter’s ordinance, which instead asserts the broader right to “be free from all corporate activities that release toxic contaminants into the air, water, and soil,” including from fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure.
“Our right to a healthy climate is an unalienable right. Any new energy infrastructure in our town must align with that right. We live here, and what we envision for our community comes before what any project developer and state government envision if it threatens our rights,” said Maura Fay, co-founder of the community group Citizen Action for Exeter’s Environment.
Exeter joins nearly a dozen other communities across New Hampshire that have enacted rights-based ordinances, according to Michelle Sanborn, New Hampshire community organizer with CELDF. The town of Nottingham is set to vote Saturday on a community rights ordinance that includes a provision establishing the right to a healthy climate.
The effort to establish this right at the local level represents a new avenue for challenging the fossil fuel industry and the government agencies that approve its infrastructure projects. A handful of cities and counties are suing the fossil fuel industry demanding it pay for costly climate adaptation measures. And a youth climate lawsuit against the federal government is currently pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken acknowledged the plausibility of a constitutional climate right, writing in her motion that ordered Juliana v. United States to trial in November 2016, “I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.”
"Our right to a healthy climate is an unalienable right. Any new energy infrastructure in our town must align with that right."
by Andrea Germanos, staff writer
This shot from the New England town shows where the Exeter River ends and the Squamscott River begins. (Photo: Josh Graciano/flickr/cc)
Voters in Exeter, New Hampshire, fearing the impact on their community from a planned pipeline project, declared Tuesday that their town's right to a safe and healthy climate trumps corporate profits.
"Our right to a healthy climate is an unalienable right," said Maura Fay, co-founder of the community group Citizen Action for Exeter's Environment (CAEE), in a statement. "Any new energy infrastructure in our town must align with that right. We live here, and what we envision for our community comes before what any project developer and state government envision if it threatens our rights."
Voters passed Article 30, the Right to a Healthy Climate Ordinance, by a vote of 1,176 to 1,007
The ordinance states, in part:
It is our legislative determination that certain corporate activities are detrimental to our rights, health, safety, and welfare. These activities include but are not limited to: the runoff from commercial use of fertilizers, the intentional or unintentional dumping of toxic waste, and the physical deposition, emission, leakage, disposal, or placement of toxins into the land, air or waterways from extraction, transportation, processing, storage, conveyance, and depositing of waste from fossil fuel exploration and development.
As we are purportedly constrained by state and federal law, which courts interpret to require us to accept such harmful corporate activity, we the people of Exeter are unable under our current system of local government to secure human rights and ecosystem rights by banning said activity.
Therefore, we deem it necessary to alter our system of local government, and we do so by adopting this Right to a Healthy Climate Ordinance.
Exeter resident Stephanie Marshall recently laid out what's at stake for the town—and the planet. In a letter to the editor published this month at Seacoastonline, she wrote:
Climate change is not too big to tackle and the solutions come from local to global action. Exeter is a likely meter station site for Liberty Utility's proposed Granite Bridge fracked gas pipeline. What's the impact of more natural gas on climate change? Significant and negative; more methane and carbon dioxide emissions, accelerated warming of the earth, faster sea level rise, more floods and wildfires, more threats to agriculture. [...]
In August 2018, the Exeter Select Board unanimously approved an option agreement with Liberty Utilities to serve as a meter site for Granite Bridge pipeline. While some members of the board noted that this did not necessarily signal support for the project, it certainly helps Liberty continue forward on the project. Even if the Select Board and, more importantly Exeter's citizens, oppose this pipeline, it's up to the state to decide if it will be built.
Warrant Article 30 accomplishes two objectives. It assures that Exeter citizens' right to a safe and healthy climate must be considered in any plans for new energy infrastructure and other corporate projects. Secondly, it safeguards that the opinions of citizens have as much standing as those of Liberty Utility or the state government.
The ordinance was drafted with the help of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which describes itself as "spearheading a movement at the local, state, national, and international level to establish rights for humans and nature over the systems that control them."
The group says that the proposed pipeline project would cross eight towns in the state and "threatens to contaminate the Piscataqua River Watershed, an ecosystem that hundreds of thousands of people and countless species depend upon for clean air and water."
Welcoming the vote, CELDF community organizer Michelle Sanborn said, "The residents of Exeter are well-organized, informed, and engaged." She also cheered the community for "joining a growing Community Rights movement in New Hampshire."
That's reflected in the proposed New Hampshire Community Rights Amendment, which says that "the people of the state may enact local laws that protect health, safety, and welfare."
With a hearing before lawmakers on Wednesday, the New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN), which drafted the proposed constitutional amendment along with CELDF, is urging constituents to call their representatives and demand they support the measure.
According to NHCRN, it "will be reintroduced as many times as it takes to pass it. We know from prior people's movements that fundamental change takes persistent, unrelenting pressure."
By JASON SCHREIBER Union Leader Correspondent
EPPING -- Voters OK’d a non-binding resolution Tuesday that aims to give residents more of a voice as Liberty Utilities moves ahead with plans to build a liquefied natural gas storage facility off Route 101.
The resolution, which was proposed as a petitioned warrant article and passed 654 yes to 222 no, states that such a facility should not be located in town without voter approval and directs the Legislature and governor to “place and support a state constitutional amendment on the biennial ballot to expressly secure the people’s inherent (and) inalienable right to local community self-government.”
Liberty Utilities is proposing a natural gas pipeline project called Granite Bridge that would run from Stratham to Manchester and wants to build a storage facility in Epping.
The state’s Site Evaluation Committee approves such energy projects.
Voters also approved a $2.19 million wastewater treatment facility upgrade (727 yes, 148 no), but rejected a $3.3 million proposal to decommission lagoons (405 yes, 472 no).
Voters rejected a warrant article that sought to dissolve the town’s water and sewer commission (402 yes, 452 no).
A new three-year teachers’ contract passed (592 yes, 305 no).
By Deborah Sumner Feb 27, 2019New Hampshire has an amazing constitution, but sometimes it needs changing to deal with new challenges. The House Municipal and County Government Committee will hear testimony on CACR 8 , intended to codify our historical right to local self-government, on March 6.
Our Revolutionary War ancestors didn’t fight for corporations to have constitutional rights; they fought for people to have individual rights and authority for collective decision making for the public good. Over the years, well-paid corporate lawyers and lobbyists have argued for corporate civil “rights” in courts and their interests in legislatures. Gradually, settled law gave way to them succeeding more often than ordinary people arguing for the same constitutionally-protected rights.
“We the Corporations” by Adam Winkler shows chronologically how governing authority shifted from “we the people” to corporations and their allies.
Now, we ordinary citizens face huge odds in convincing legislators to support this amendment and allow “the people” to vote on it.
“There are two things that are important in politics,” U.S. Sen. Mark Hanna said in 1898. “The first is money. I can’t remember what the second is.”
According to 2017 polling cited by New Hampshire’s Open Democracy, 80 percent of New Hampshire voters “believe special interests have more influence than voters in state politics.”
“We the Corporations” and well-paid lawyers have won the courts; special interests and well-paid lobbyists have won the Legislature; and big money has won the political process.
As of Jan. 30, there are 88 pages listing New Hampshire lobbyists; some advocate for the public interest. Most ordinary citizens can’t get to Concord to testify at public hearings, but they still show up at town meeting when there’s an issue they care deeply about. If we find later we made a mistake, we can correct it. But that’s almost impossible if the Legislature or court makes a mistake.
New Hampshire courts have recognized the “sovereign” authority of town meeting to direct the “prudential affairs” of the town, pass local laws and enforce penalties for violations dating back to colonial days.
A 1791 law said: … “And be it further enacted that the Inhabitants of every Town in this State qualified by Law to vote in Town affairs at any meeting duly warned and legally holden are hereby empowered to make and agree upon such necessary rules, orders and bylaws for the directing managing or lering the prudential affairs of such Town as they shall judge most conducive to the peace, welfare, interest and good order of the inhabitants of such towns and to annex penalties to such Laws … and to enure to such use as they shall therein direct … Provided such Laws be not repugnant to the Constitution and Laws of this State and provided also that such By-Laws be approved by the Court of General Sessions of the peace in the same County — And the penalty for any breach of such By-Laws shall be recovered before any Justice not interested therein” …
“Lering” means guiding through collective decision making locally to protect the common good. That’s what our New Hampshire and national founders intended. The social contract (our constitutions) depended on informed, engaged citizens with common sense and a fierce loyalty to protect the common good. Passage of CACR 8 reaffirms that inalienable right.
“We the people” bear the major responsibility of whether we survive as a democratic republic: “whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.” — Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Paper No. 1, 1787.3
Join us in standing for this constitutional codification of our historical right to protect real people, nature and the communities we love. Visit www.nhcommunityrights.org to find out more about this effort.
Deborah Sumner of Jaffrey is a member of the N.H. Community Rights Network. This was adapted from her testimony to be submitted to the House Municipal and County Government Committee regarding CACR 8