To the Editor: What’s the difference between a gaggle of people and a democracy? I am anxious to find out! The State of the Union as it is now is a disorganized, uninformed, divided mess that many people have given up on, but only We the People can heal our democracy!
The Nottingham Community Church is holding a People and Planet Healing Summit on Saturday, October 14, 9 a.m. to noon to help people get involved, informed, and organized to work together. We can address any issue of concern and the more folks who help the more we can accomplish!
We all know by now that burning fossil fuels is very bad for our health and the health of the environment, contributing to global warming that causes climate change which is deadly and costly. There are many actions that we can take locally that will have global benefits, such as community-based renewable energy and promoting energy conservation. There is much we can do together!
We can work on affordable housing, health care issues, property taxes, human rights, and other issues to influence decisions from our towns to the State and federal levels – that’s real democracy!
For more information contact the NH Community Rights Network (email@example.com). There are citizen action groups to join with and we need the silent majority to become active citizens. We cannot heal our democracy without YOU!!
PETER A. WHITE
The dystopia that we are now living screams “how can we do things differently?” Here in New Hampshire, we have been successful in electing local legislators who work for justice, and it is comforting to know they are there in Concord and that there are so many individuals and groups working tirelessly and effectively for just causes. But the system is fixed, as we witness in committee hearing after committee hearing with outcomes, for the most part, benefiting big donors rather than constituents.
Forced pregnancies becoming the norm nationwide, a Supreme Court justice whose closest friend and donor proudly displays a signed copy of Mein Kampf, a Democratic president facilitating continued fossil fuel extraction and continuing the immigration policies of the former guy, and black lives still tragically being taken, all beg the aforementioned question.
Tennessee legislators of color are expelled for supporting students protesting the accessibility of assault weapons that made possible yet another mass shooting, while a congressman keeps his seat after being elected based on a laundry list of pathological lies. The US military budget is astronomical, while our communities can’t provide mental health care, affordable housing, clean water, or the infrastructure for mitigating or recovering from extreme weather events and natural catastrophes.
Here in NH, extremists are rearing their ugly heads everywhere with racist graffiti, intimidating legislators and school boards, clients at health clinics, and participants in story hours. New Hampshire has a Commissioner of Education hellbent on decimating our public schools. We have communities whose water supplies remain contaminated with carcinogens, yet the Governor and his clan manage to find funds for border “protection” for New Hampshire.
Is it possible to rebuild communities that are safe and sound from the ground up? There are no easy answers for those of us asking how to create, with vision, communities that flourish with good will and begin to restore the health of the planet. NH towns have worked over the years with the New Hampshire Community Rights Network, NHCRN to implement “out of the box” strategies. There are numerous examples that we need to consider of municipalities around the country and world that have taken on the work of demilitarizing policing, providing access to mental health services, building community-based energy systems, protecting and addressing marginalized and unhoused populations, and halting environmental assaults.
Please consider partnering with the New Hampshire Community Rights Network, nhcommunityrights.org, in exploring alternatives and parallel strategies as we all move forward with our work.
Diane St. Germain
NHCRN Board Member
Issue Date:March 04, 2023
This is a CALL to anyone and everyone who wants to help heal ourselves, our communities, our Nation, and our planet. Leaders, educators, health care professionals, environmentalists, and especially young people and students are urged to get involved – it’s your future!
The People and Planet Healing Summit is not just for one town or area, not just for New Hampshire, but can be held anyplace and in every State. The issues we face here are everywhere, and the solutions can be applied where-ever a group of caring people get organized and welcome all to participate!
If we are strong in spirit then we can overcome anything, but most people are afraid to get involved, divided, and uninformed. These summits can give folks support and courage, form local groups that can learn about issues and work together to address them, unite us in common goals, and bring about the healing that our communities, country, and Mother Nature need.
For more information contact the NH Community Rights Network (firstname.lastname@example.org). We will assist you in holding local summits that can empower people in every town and turn the silent majority into the informed and active majority that our democracy needs to work!
United we stand, divided we fall, so it’s up to each one of us to do what we can to work together to move our Nation forward!
Sincerely, Peter A. White
Treasurer, NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN)
•Issue Date:February 11, 2023
What’s love got to do with saving humanity and the natural environment we are part of? Everything! February is recognized for being a month dedicated to and all about love. We focus on romance, expressions of love and acceptance, and dedication to our relationships with one another. What about love, acceptance, and dedication to the natural environments we are a part of?
When was the last time you went outside to simply “be” with your natural surroundings? Not only when the weather is comfortable and pleasant, but also when it is raining, snowing, or gloomy? When we are in relationship with our respective humans, we commit to standing by their side in all the good times and not-so-good times. We support and defend one another in the good, the bad, and ugly times. Why is it that we so easily bail out on our relationship with Nature? The most important sentient entity that demonstrates unconditional giving and resilience.
When our friends, family, and loved ones are harmed, we often feel a deep sense of protection and will speak up and act out quite assertively when necessary. When was the last time you stood up to defend and speak out against the harms inflicted upon Nature? Nature cannot speak for herself in the way humans can and do, but Nature certainly does speak to us. We need to make time and take the time to listen to Nature in the same way we make time for our human relationships. We cannot know one another if we don’t spend quality time with each other. The same is true for our relationship with Nature.
The New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) is a statewide grassroots non-profit that is eager to have open discussions about what we can do to actively protect our natural environments by recognizing the Rights of Nature to exist, thrive, and flourish free from human-inflicted irreparable harms. To learn more, visit www.nhcommunityrights.org or email email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you and taking action together!
Michelle Sanborn - NHCRN board member
The board members of the New Hampshire Community Rights Network take a turn at writing into our local newspapers. We write to offer information about the necessity for recognition of community rights and the rights of nature in our local and state-level lawmaking. The NHCRN isn’t any more radical than our founding patriots' principles in the words written in our NH State Constitution and the Articles of Confederation with the foundational determination being local self-determination that lends to a free democratic republic.
Our New England Annual Town Meetings, forms of which existed long before the ratification of our state Constitution or the federal Constitution, established the opportunity for open discussion to achieve a consensus of local government with equal rights and protection of property. The civic duty to participate in Town Meetings was guided by the commitment to protect the health, safety and welfare of all people within the community.
Since the days of our founding, there has been a fight to disintegrate local governing authority. This fight is carried out in the general court of our elected state representatives and through judicial challenges of interpretation, both of which are influenced significantly by ever-changing federal laws that diminish the effect of our individual campaign influence, and instead recognize the right of corporations to “speak” with their seemingly bottomless pit of political contributions.
Patience and civility are crucial elements to maintain peace and goodwill toward all peoples.
There are no special classes of people mentioned in the state Constitution but over the centuries of judicial arguments and interpretations, classes of people have been created and then divided through the protection of owned property over the individual person. Property owned by an individual or especially groups called corporations have recognized rights, privileges and protections beyond the scope of the working-class individual.
With the exhaustion of planetary resources and the significant threat of animals and plants under the fire of extinction, we must reassess what our future will look like. Science and technology have not come up with any meaningful solutions that don’t cause further waste, exploitation and pollution. All that is portrayed as “sustainable” or “renewable” still has roots driven by profit, not the health, safety and welfare of people and planet.
When are we going to give up on the state-governing mentality of "do as we say, not as we do"? Can we look into ourselves individually and be willing to give up materially all that wastes, destroys, pollutes and that degrades the quality of health, safety and welfare for the people and the places we live? Can we see that our government borrows money against the equity of the people to fund the demise of economics for a pending breakdown of everything called good without moral reserve of the outcome? We must or we are complicit.
Political leaders, though well spoken of themselves, know deep down in their hearts the systems they boast of are failing and the failure to pay off debt involves a severe impact on the future of our youth. It is time for all people, even if you disagree, to work together with love, hope, respect and sacrifice. We need to lift up our heads and acknowledge the mistakes we all have made.
It is beyond time to put our differences aside and work together for the good of the working-class individual, future generations, and nature. To learn more, contact the NHCRN at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.nhcommunityrights.org.
Doug Darrell of Barnstead is a board member for the New Hampshire Community Rights Network.
Issue Date:October 22, 2022
Everything seems to be connected these days… “smart” phones, computers, satellites, “smart” cars, commercial vehicles, and let’s not forget “smart homes”. We’re so “smart” about our connected gadgets and so disconnected from ourselves, the people, and natural world around us.
I’m not wanting to go back to the Dark Ages, I simply want to relax my shoulders and breathe. Really breathe in fully so that I feel refreshed and invigorated. The inner peace and contentment I seek show up for me most when I am disconnected from the commercialized digital world and connected with friends, family, and Nature.
When I intentionally (it does take a determined intention!) make time and take the time to connect with what truly does refresh me, I am filled with more patience, more understanding, more energy, more clarity, and more compassion for all that is happening for me and for those around me – both human and natural. I feel more connected to my community of people and ecosystems.
Local power comes from this connection with one another. We are social creatures and we hold much power and resource when we unite on common ground and allow our differences to stir curiosity instead of judgment. The NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN) desires to unite around that which you envision for your community. Learn more at www.nhcommunityrights.org or email us at email@example.com
United we stand, divided we fall!
Graham Nash lamented in song in 1971, "Military madness is killing my country.”
A timely rewrite would be "Military madness is killing the planet.”
Why is there always money for occupation, war, and destruction, but never for healing?
As joyful as so many were when a moderate president, Joe Biden, replaced a vile, extremist, twice-impeached president, how could we not cringe when Biden fist-bumped the Saudi prince complicit in the torture and death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/26/us/politics/jamal-khashoggi-killing-cia-report.html, and under whose reign a young woman, whose only offense was tweeting about women’s rights being trounced in Saudi Arabia, was sentenced to 34 years in prison https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/16/saudi-woman-given-34-year-prison-sentence-for-using-twitter.
If our American political values were truly about freedom of the press, democracy, and human rights, the US government would not be supporting regimes that imprison and murder journalists who expose the injustices and horrific consequences of their government’s military actions and policies. Nor would the US government condone similar consequences for American citizens.
The US government’s arms deals with the Saudi government spawned an intractable political, military, and humanitarian disaster in Yemen. This war has contributed to the climate emergency and resulted in famine affecting 17 million people, nearly a million cholera deaths and thousands of children killed or injured. We should be as outraged about this as we are about the crazed and monstrous actions of Vladimir Putin.
And why do we not blink an eye when the US government gives billions yearly to subsidize the Israeli army which is complicit in the murder of journalists who shine a light on apartheid in Palestine and the killing and suffering of the Palestinian people https://theintercept.com/2022/09/20/shireen-abu-akleh-killing-israel/?
Sustaining military bases all over the world, ignoring the warning of former CIA director Robert Gates, (See Robert Gates, University of Virginia, Miller Center Oral History, George H.W. Bush Presidency, July 24, 2000, p. 101)about pressing ahead to expand NATO, and the unfettered militaristic foreign policy of the US and other nations all have spawned hardship, disease, famine, and death.
Shortsighted foreign policies and out of control global military spending contribute exponentially, egregiously to the climate crisis.
In a recent interview, Noam Chomsky https://truthout.org/articles/noam-chomsky-and-robert-pollin-humanitys-fate-isnt-sealed-if-we-act-now/ warned about the vicious cycle of the climate crisis engendering conflicts. He reminded us "we’ve already witnessed Syria and Darfur where migrations, caused by unprecedented droughts, provided a large part of the background for the horrors that ensued.”
In Pakistan where one third of the country is under water and India where people are trying to survive in huts at 122-degree temperatures, governing authorities continue to pour resources into an arms race which can only result in more destruction and death.
The same scenario plays out everywhere at the local level here in the United States. In Jackson, Mississippi where horrific floods overwhelmed the city, those in authority – white Republicans – who run the state had systematically ignored the pleas of the majority-Black, Democratic-led city for investment in essential infrastructure.
It’s time that local and world leaders, kept in power by funding from self-serving, shortsighted billionaires, realize that their wars and policies are killing the planet. (Spoiler: it’s your grandchildren too.)
But is it naive to think that the defense industry and the fossil-fuel industry will ever be satisfied in their frenzy to keep nations at odds and perpetually enrich themselves by arming the world and stoking the demand for oil, or that the gun manufacturers that put US citizens at war with one other will ever decide they’ve sold enough assault rifles?
It’s time that communities invest in their own infrastructure, healing, and education rather than militarizing police departments and legislating to enable more harm and hardship.
Let us not allow the story to end as in the words of Joni Mitchell in 1971, "They won’t give peace a chance. That was just a dream some of us had.”
Now it’s as much about giving the planet a chance.
While the system is sabotaging our efforts to elect leaders who realize that militarism fuels the climate crisis and ruins lives, it behooves us to use our power in the communities where we live to effect change. We can say yes to a humane and habitable planet at the local level. Contact New Hampshire Community Rights Network www.nhcommunityrights.org for information on self-government and where this work is effecting change here in the Granite State.
Diane St. Germain, NHCRN Board of Directors
To the Editor:
Well, this is a fine mess that We the People have gotten ourselves into! Our democracy is divided and dysfunctional, Mother Nature is in a global warming, chemical contaminated decline, we can’t make heads or tails out of this pandemic with vaccines that may or may not work, wars for oil and Wall Street greed ongoing, inflation for Wall Street greed too, and a corporate owned mass media that will not tell us the truth.
So what do we do? The N.H. Community Rights Network is working to get people organized on the local level so we can get back in control of our government! True democracy does not trickle down on us from Washington D.C., or even from Concord N.H.; democracy originates from the people and grows from our towns up, because that’s where We the People live and can be empowered to act.
What we are missing is the silent majority, most of whom cannot name their elected representatives and have no idea what those elected are doing. Many people have escaped to entertainment, sports, and leisure time and have abandoned their responsibility to be involved, and that’s the biggest problem our Nation faces!
If you want to be part of the solution, go to www.nhcommunityrights.org and get a group of active citizens going in your town that can protect your ecosystem and unite people to work together! There is no time to waste and every person counts!
Peter A. White, Treasurer, N.H. Community Rights Network
We’re always happy to hear from an organization which represents not just the opposite, but the antidote to top-down astroturf corporate apologists like Americans for Prosperity.
June 4 – To the Editor:
Well, this is a fine mess that We the People have gotten ourselves into! Our democracy is divided and dysfunctional, Mother Nature is in a global warming chemical contaminated decline, we can’t make heads or tails out of this pandemic with vaccines that may or may not work, wars for oil and Wall Street greed ongoing, inflation for Wall Street greed ,too, and a corporate-owned mass media that will not tell us the truth.
So what do we do? The NH Community Rights Network is working to get people organized on the local level so we can get back in control of our government! True democracy does not trickle down on us from Washington D.C. or even from Concord NH; democracy originates from the people and grows from our towns up, because that’s where We the People live and can be empowered to act.
What we are missing is the silent majority, most of whom cannot name their elected representatives and have no idea what those elected are doing. Many people have escaped to entertainment, sports, and leisure time and have abandoned their responsibility to be involved, and that’s the biggest problem our nation faces!
If you want to be part of the solution, go to nhcommunityrights.org and get a group of active citizens going in your town that can protect your ecosystem and unite people to work together! There is no time to waste and every person counts!
Peter A. White
Treasurer, NH Community Rights Network
To The Daily Sun,
Town Meeting is coming to your town. This direct-democratic opportunity has been happening since Colonial times before the American Revolution. Access to this kind of local self-governance has continued to date. Some towns have elected the SB 2 alternative to traditional town meeting because of the growth of their municipalities. The SB 2 form of local government requires two meetings, the first is the deliberative session discussion of warrant articles where amendments are considered, and the second day is voting day when the votes on the warrant articles are taken. Traditional town meeting is a one-day session for the deliberation of the articles where amendments can be made to the warrant articles followed by a call to vote by the moderator for each article on the warrant.
When a resident participates in this honorable right, they are expressing their civic duty as well as recognizing their elected town officers who pledge to uphold the New Hampshire State Constitution and the laws of the state. Ideally, we expect our municipal elections to protect the health, safety and welfare of the communities they serve through local democracy by the consent of the governed.
Town Meeting votes express the importance of direct-democratic decision-making to pass ordinance warrant articles that govern our municipalities. It must be recognized that all warrant articles are held to the scrutiny of Dillon's Rule, the General Court powers of pre-emption to override any and all local votes that do not please the state.
Town Meeting is a pure form of a quorum of the body politic, by a municipality making laws from the bottom up and can be the healthiest redress to our representative body of the General Court. The representatives of the General Court need to be informed by their local constituency. Instead of being subordinate to Dillon’s Rule, town meeting initiatives should be the final decision-making authority in the doctrine of checks and balances of the three offices of the General Court. This is the fundamental foundation of a republican form of government. Our democracy will not stand up to what we have been educated to believe unless the principals are understood and actualized.
Find out more by visiting nhcommunityrights.org.
Issue Date:February 26, 2022
The purpose of a democratic-representative form of government is for We the People to have control over our elected officials and our communities, but at this time we have neither!
The two-Party system has been controlled by rich special interests for decades, who profit from wars, fossil fuel destruction, economic manipulations, health care lies and fears, big banksters, and food chain contamination. Political prostitutes rewarded by PACs and super PACs dominate Congress and the White House.
Elections are the way to replace corrupt politicians but most folks just vote the same every two years and then they expect different results (a sign of mass insanity?). We need to vote for new independent thinking people who will refuse PAC bribes and promote community rights!
The NH Community Rights Network has assisted a dozen towns with passing ordinances that protect their water resources and ecosystem, and we need many more people taking charge in their communities. We really need more legislators working for grassroots democracy!
We can and must re-organize our democracy from the local towns up, and the 2022 elections provide the way if We the People develop the will! Vote for change instead of the corrupt status quo!
Sincerely, Peter A. White, Treasurer, NH Community Rights Network
By DIANE ST. GERMAIN
For the Monitor
Published: 1/11/2022 6:30:59 AM
Healthcare for profit. Incarceration for profit. Education for profit. Waging war for profit. Planetary destruction for profit. Vilifying and dehumanizing people of color for profit. Creating gun ownership frenzy for profit. It’s been this way since forever. Enriching the few on the backs of people of color and white people who are duped into fearing people of color lest they come together, organize and rise up.
When will people begin to see they have been conned? We’re being used to maintain the wealth of a few. The deep division here amongst us is a product of decades of scheming and policy-making to keep the obscenely wealthy in control of the narrative, and consequently the policy.
The free-staters who now have control of the New Hampshire legislature have fallen for this narrative hook, line and sinker. With Gov. Sununu looking the other way, they are now in control doing the bidding of the wealthy elite of the state and the nation, only to shoot themselves in the foot by advocating for policies that make their own lives more of a struggle. And incidentally, are the women among them happy to let the government make their reproductive choices?
They believed the former occupant of the oval office who campaigned on, among other promises, lowering health care premiums, co-pays, and prescription costs. During his term, my health insurance costs increased almost fifty percent. As long as healthcare is for profit, millions will not access the health care they need to live.
They believed that their guy was protecting them from immigrants, whose families are still being torn apart. We’re still seeing the crippling repercussions of essential jobs not being filled by immigrants and jobs that people literally cannot afford to take. Policies denying paid family leave, worker safety, living wages and job security are killing working people.
They believed their guy denying climate change for his corporate puppet masters while people’s homes were being blown to bits, swallowed by landslides, swept away by floods and burned to embers in extreme weather events.
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With gerrymandering, purging voter rolls, closing polling places, and otherwise disenfranchising the populace, we’ll keep ending up with corporate-controlled legislators who ignore the will of the people and genuflect to their donors. Keeping their jobs is more important to them than the path to democracy and the lives of their constituents.
Even with the glimmer of hope of a federal budget that begins to address the needs of the people and recognize the planetary crisis, President Biden has now unleashed unfettered drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a system designed to perpetuate itself.
The alternative is to organize in our communities and plan for the future of the natural world, the health and well-being of our children, grandchildren and that of all people.
It is time to say no in our communities to detention centers, no to industries contaminating the places where we live and increasing global warming, no to the criminal injustice system, no to deporting our neighbors who are integral to our communities, no to manufacturing weapons, no to the slaughter of our children, no to the status quo that sustains these horrors and injustices.
It is time to come together recognizing the humanity of all of our neighbors, no exceptions, and demand a reexamination of priorities in the places where we live and set forth on a path toward a just world and a habitable planet.
(Diane St. Germain of Bedford is a board member for New Hampshire Community Rights Network.)
My Turn: Common sense is as easy as pie
By MICHELLE SANBORN
For the Monitor
Published: 12/30/2021 6:30:33 AM
Modified: 12/30/2021 6:30:06 AM
Freedom to one person can be an injustice to another, but that which supports life is universal to us all. There was a recent post on Facebook that describes freedoms in a common-sense way. “Common sense is as easy as pie!
This should be easy to understand how freedoms work… This person took his part [of the pie], but it affected others negatively (because they cut their piece from the middle of the pie which cut into every other piece of the pie). He exercised his freedom, but with injustice to others. Freedoms can’t be exercised as every individual wants without looking at injustice to others. Justice disappears when you harm others. An example of bad exercise of individual freedom.”
Freedoms can compete with other freedoms in the same way that rights can compete with other rights. The right to clean water, uncontaminated soil and fresh air are only enjoyed by those that can afford to protect the few areas that have not been impacted to a significant degree by industrialization. Those that cannot afford to live in cleaner environments must live in areas that have been contaminated for commercial profit.
The freedom to profit in this country appears to be the ultimate “right” that belongs to a few corporate actors that can exercise their “rights” to harm people and the environment at the expense of those being sickened and dying. Our system of law and government elevates these unjust corporate “rights” to harm above our individual rights to protect our health, safety and general welfare.
As an example, the recent news article from In-Depth NH (“Higher than expected kidney and renal cancers found in Merrimack,” 12/10) describes the lengthy, bureaucratic process that continues to uphold corporate constitutional (both state and federal) “rights” to cause harm in the name of profit while all the human and natural inhabitants impacted by such harms will likely be sick or dead by the time there is any change in law or government to protect them, the ecosystems or future generations. We cannot use the system that created these injustices to solve them.
(Michelle Sanborn is president of New Hampshire Community Rights Network.)
Dec. 6 -- To the Editor:
The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution recognizes the right for well-regulated militias being necessary for the security of a free state, to protect our freedom and Bill of Rights. However, we have no recognized local rights to protect our clean water and ecosystem!
The government has regulatory agencies to review projects, but the laws and permit process are written by the same corporate polluters that are supposed to be regulated so all they have to do is fill in the blanks. Who regulates the regulators? The same rich special interests who bribe our politicians with PAC money!
The NH Community Rights Network (firstname.lastname@example.org) has assisted a dozen towns to pass local rights-based ordinances that protect the health and safety of people and the environment, so local folks can act to protect their town. We must amend the NH Constitution to make sure that every town has the right to act to protect their children and clean water!
Article 10 of the NH Constitution enumerates the Right of Revolution to reform the old, or establish a new government, when the existing government no longer acts in the best interests of We the People. If our Founders were here today they would be leading the way!
Peter A. White
NHCRN and Nottingham Water Alliance
Nov 8, 2021
To The Daily Sun,
Forget the gerrymandering and redistricting of the electorate. There is a crisis that has been going on for a long time, called party politics. Think out of the box. The box is television without any thought from the viewer and all the attention is drawn by the surface sense of a fantasy unrelated to the actual fact of what is happening right now. Take away this fix and on comes the panic attack, an anxiety that reason and truth can portend the mind. It becomes a fix of want and worse for those without who are really in need of the bare necessities of a reasonable standard of living. Party politics is a very absurd outcome of the delusion that it’s the other party that is the problem.
In the democracy of a republican form of government, the authority is derived by the consent of the governed. It is the party leadership who call on the representatives to vote what is dictated from the top down. The representative of any party hearing the needs of their constituents, whoever their party affiliation stands is to represent all voters.
A two party system is about coming together and finding mutual standing in defining the politics of the guiding principle rules of the Bill of Rights. It’s time to face the actors of self interests using the power of party leadership placing the representative fallen short when it comes to the redress of the necessary demand of their constituents.
Local self-government is not a theory but a tried and true form of a democratic republic from the bottom up. Responsibility of an educated person not an entertained social disorder of ignorance, can and will bring forward a reparation of what ideally needs to happen to vision a future. It just takes perseverance, honesty and a potential for good.
All can learn more about local self-governance at nhcommunityrights.org, a non-profit organization educating people about what you need to know when taking on the changes that will help you understand the civics needed in activist tasks in your communities.
The Community Rights Movement in New England is grieving the loss of a water protector. Gail Mills of Nottingham, N.H., passed away this month, having paid forward a legacy of community activism that inspired local activists across the country.
Townspeople in Nottingham faced their Goliath in the mid-2000’s when USA Springs, LLC management decided to extract and bottle water from a local aquifer, to sell overseas in Italy. Gail and her husband, Chris, encouraged the community to stand their ground and do everything within their power to prevent permits from being issued by the state. What they learned through infuriating experience was that the state permitting process actually legalized the exploitation of water and the destruction of natural ecosystems when there is profit to be made. After years of losing the battle with state permitting agencies, Gail supported a new path of action.
In 2008, Nottingham became the second town in the state to adopt a water protection rights-based ordinance to make it illegal to commercially extract water for the purpose of bottling and selling it beyond the boundaries of the town. Gail was a founding member of the Nottingham Water Alliance (NWA) which was formed to propose the local initiative at town meeting. After months of education, organizing, and drafting their Water Rights law, USA Springs began to take the NWA seriously.
“I remember Gail telling me a story about how armed men dressed in black were posted across the street from her home as a means to intimidate her into backing down from the local initiative” says Michelle Sanborn of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). (The NWA partnered with CELDF for assistance with education, organizing, and legal support throughout their over-a-decade-long effort to defeat the USA Springs, LLC project.) Gail didn’t flinch at the blatant intimidation efforts. The NWA never quit and eventually succeeded in defeating the water-for-profit project.
Gail went on to become a founding member of the N.H. Community Rights Network (NHCRN) with a mission to educate and empower every community about our collective power of local self-governance. She championed community governing autonomy as a way 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. Through NHCRN, Gail worked to secure the larger goal of securing a right of community self-governance through a state constitutional amendment so as to level the playing field between community members and corporate actors seeking to exploit local residents and natural environments for profit.
“Our community of Nottingham, N.H. recently lost a mover and a shaker,” says Sandi Dow, another member of the NWA. “Gail Mills was a warm, witty and rather wise warrior actually. She cared deeply about those things she devoted her time and attention to. With help from many other townspeople including her husband Chris, along with organizations such as the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and Save our Groundwater, Gail spear-headed the 2008 effort to keep USA Springs, LLC from extracting and selling off the only water supply available to residents and surrounding communities.
“Gail led our Water Rights initiative that ended USA Spring’s dreams before a drop of water was lost,” continues Dow. “Eventually, the Town was able to take back the land. Now, with a new business park proposed for the site, I hope that the developer will be as good a steward of the land as Gail Mills was and that all of us will remember what an incredible gift she helped preserve for us all!”
You can read more about Gail’s legacy in Nottingham in the newly published NHCRN booklet, “How To Protect Your Community—Enact Local Democracy Now!” The booklet can be received for a small donation of $5 by contacting the NHCRN, or it also available as a free download from the website at www.nhcommunityrights.org.
Michelle Sanborn (she), NHCRN President, www.nhcommunityrights.org
It is sad, indeed, to learn of this loss, for Nottingham, for the State, and—given the nature of inter-dependence, and the interdependence of nature—for the world.
The dogged defense of Nottingham’s water against USA Springs was inspiring even before it achieved its goal. Anyone who uses water—which is to say, all of us—should remember that it led to victory.
By DIANE ST. GERMAIN
For the Monitor
Published: 8/19/2021 7:00:13 AM
It’s no wonder that out-of-state corporate control of the New Hampshire legislature spawned a state budget that not only undermines public education, human services, adequate wages and progress toward addressing the climate crisis but also includes language that perpetuates systemic racism and removes the right of women to make decisions about their bodies.
Over the years the populace has not remained vigilant about evolving legislation and how it affects the quality of human lives and the living world. This neglect has allowed our path to democracy to falter. We have stepped aside and surrendered our power to the corporate elite. But as writer, comedian and commentator Baratunde Thurston explains in the introduction to his podcast, How to Citizen, “It’s hard to citizen when you can’t pay the bills.”
The policies that have chipped away at our ability to engage in meaningful decision-making have trapped us in a vicious cycle that keeps us too busy making ends meet, and too skeptical about our power to change the status quo, to be aware of the very policies that have, over the decades, created the climate crisis and perpetuated racism, poverty, cynicism, distrust and fear.
Whether already living without housing, healthcare or education, or merely facing those essentials eating up increasing chunks of our paychecks, we live with the fear of drowning in debt or worse. But we are simply too busy, too tired and too skeptical to do the work necessary to grow and sustain democracy and a decent quality of life.
As long as people are too busy to see the men behind the curtain spinning the narrative of fear that minorities are going to take away their power, the false narrative that there is a “zero-sum” of racial competition as described by the author Heather McGhee, we will continue to live in a polarized society which stokes fear and sustains hyper-militarization and obscene wealth inequality.
And that is why, when the powers-that-be saw the massive awakening to systemic racism after the murder of George Floyd, they scrambled to inject divisive concepts bills into legislatures all over the country and why they funneled millions of dollars into local races to seat officials that would carry their torches of white supremacy, fiercely support the censorship of historical truths and revive policies that disenfranchise those who would vote to change this narrative.
The only way to begin to turn this around is by carving out some time to step back, look at the big picture, see that the system is fixed against us, and begin the work with the time and resources that we have. That work won’t get done by the likes of Jeff Bezos who, after enjoying his privileged view of the big picture, remains blinded by greed and disconnectedness from those whose blood, sweat and tears created his wealth.
We need to begin in our communities. A good place to start would be to look at our Departments of Safety and ask ourselves, “what actually makes us safe?” Is it men with guns responding to a mental health crisis or burglary or is it creating communities in which each individual cares about the well-being of others and works toward a better life for all?
We must envision a different world, one not predicated on fear, but on people interacting to create the kinds of communities where we can live in peace, without fear and where needs are met. This work has begun in many communities in New Hampshire and numerous other states which have passed rights-based ordinances protecting their resources and their natural world and upholding human rights.
The Community Rights movement plays a role in addressing the democracy crisis which we now face. We must begin to carve out the time to actively engage as decision-makers in rewriting the narrative and creating a genuine democracy that is truly of, by and for all people.
(Diane St. Germain is a board member for NHCRN. She lives in Bedford.)
By DOUGLAS DARRELL
For the Monitor
Published: 8/7/2021 6:20:14 AM
At some point in time in your community, you will be confronted with a corporate project, such as a landfill, gravel pit, high voltage power lines, fossil fuel pipeline, commercial water extraction, mountaintop removal wind turbines or sludge applications. Ever wonder why it’s so difficult to stop these corporate activities from harming your community? These corporate projects are protected by private corporate laws under the umbrella of regulatory law.
Such corporate projects often succeed without much opposition because communities give into believing that they don’t have any decision-making authority to prohibit dangerous risks or they are not able to see the future detriment to their lives regarding health, safety and welfare. Even if a community mounts significant opposition to a corporate project, the present structure of regulatory law allows these harms to occur via a permit (permit equals permission to do what is otherwise illegal) despite their strong local opposition.
Local self-governance is a direct democratic way the people of a targeted community can protect what they envision for their community, like clean air, water and soil, their health, safety and welfare, and recognizing rights for ecosystems to not be polluted.
Regulatory law does not stop the harmful effects of corporate polluters. At best, these laws only slow the rate of harm. Corporate actors use corporate personhood “rights,” private law and regulatory law, and preemption to override local opposition. When communities do stand up to create legal or financial obstacles to harmful corporate projects, corporations look to our government and judicial system to protect them. And sadly, more times than not, they do.
A long-standing example is the Coakley Landfill. Those responsible for the pollution have externalized the costs to the taxpayers, while the polluters have washed their hands of any accountability via the claim that their actions were “legal” through the permit they received from governmental regulatory agencies. If local self-governance was legally recognized, such irreparable pollution, contamination and cancer clusters would never have happened. Harm could have been proactively stopped instead of going into court after the fact with the EPA and NHDES spending taxpayers' dollars for decades and still not resolving the environmental problems or the serious health effects.
In order to secure these protections for all Granite State communities, we are calling for a state constitutional amendment that recognizes, secures and protects our right to pass laws with greater social and environmental protections than those afforded by the state or federal governments. The NH Community Rights Amendment would protect local laws that expand rights and protections for real people (corporations are not real people) and nature, while not allowing any restrictions to already existing rights and protections. As a remedy to such a power structure that omits those most affected (residents and natural environments) from any real decision-making authority, my town of Barnstead and a dozen other towns have recognized their right to locally self-govern as means to raise protections for our communities.
For example, a community could not use the NH Community Rights Amendment to ban all firearms, as the right to bear arms (whether you agree with it or not) is a protected right. Neither could a community use the amendment to violate or restrict the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
Let the people decide if they wish to preserve the health, safety and welfare of their communities, thereby guaranteeing a sustainable future by protecting their valuable ecosystems and their social values and forcing corporations that seek to profit from industrial activities to be more accountable to the people and ecosystems most affected.
(Douglas Darrell lives in Center Barnstead. Visit nhcommunityrights.org to learn more about the NH Community Rights Amendment.)
The townspeople of Nottingham, New Hampshire democratically adopted a *Freedom from Chemical Trespass Ordinance* at town meeting in 2019 to protect freshwater systems and residents from chemical trespass. The ordinance secures rights of ecosystems "to naturally exist, flourish, regenerate, evolve, and be restored" and rights of townspeople to a "climate system capable of sustaining human societies." During the annual town meeting, resident business owner Brent Tweed, the sole actor of G & F Goods LLC, strongly objected to the vote. He based his concerns on how recognizing Rights of Nature would negatively impact his ability to do business.
Within weeks of the law’s adoption, Tweed filed a lawsuit against the Town of Nottingham in an attempt to overturn the popularly adopted Ordinance and have it declared unconstitutional. In his filing, he asserted that the law was violating his claimed corporate constitutional "rights" to do business, even though his business activities were not prohibited within the local law.
Tweed even went so far as to attempt to use a newly ratified state constitutional amendment to claim he had the right to sue the Town for using public funds (taxpayer dollars) to adopt this legally petitioned ordinance, asserting that his rights were impaired or prejudiced as a result of his tax dollars having been used unlawfully. The irony is that the only money the Town spent on the Ordinance was for legal fees in which the Town officials willingly agreed to overturn the law passed by the legislative body, the voters. The voters of Nottingham were completely denied access as a party to the lawsuit by the Rockingham Superior Court and the NH Supreme Court.
Before you assume that means the people of Nottingham were in the wrong, it must be made clear that the rulings from the court broke precedent. The courts arbitrarily decided the people of Nottingham had no standing to defend their own law when their elected officials refused to mount any meaningful defense. So rather than decide between opposing views as is typically a requirement in order for a court to hear a case, the courts ruled where both official parties, the plaintiff (Tweed) and the defendant (the Town of Nottingham) were actually in agreement. The only opposing view to the plaintiff’s arguments was presented in an amicus brief filed by the Nottingham Water Alliance, a grassroots community group that petitioned the Ordinance, they were denied legal standing in the case.
The courts ruled in favor of Tweed (and the Town), deciding that the Town of Nottingham did not have authority to adopt a local law that afforded greater rights and protections for the people and ecosystems of Nottingham. As if the actions of Tweed, the inaction of the Town, and the injustice of the courts aren’t insulting enough, Tweed filed a motion this week, April 13, 2021 seeking reimbursement for his attorney fees.
The irony! A man sues the town to overturn a democratically adopted ordinance and then demands the court make the taxpayers fund his lawsuit against a law that never violated or infringed his personal or business rights in the first place.
We cannot say we live in a democracy or even a representative republic when the people that government is supposed to represent are denied the ability to defend their rights. Instead of sticking our heads in the sand and hoping that someone else will do something about it, it is time to take meaningful action.
Support a state constitutional amendment that recognizes the right of all inhabitants to political decision-making controlled by community members when adopting and enforcing policies or laws that directly impact the wellbeing of that community and increase protections for political, civil, economic, and environmental rights for all inhabitants.
Contact the NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN) at email@example.com for more information about what you can do to level the legal playing field between communities, corporations, and the state.
Submitted by Michelle Sanborn, Alexandria NH
President of NH Community Rights Network (www.nhcommunityrights.org)
We have long admired the N.H. Community Rights Network’s proactive approach. All too often, when communities find themselves targeted by some industry or agency, they are forced to cobble together a makeshift defense on the basis of this or that sub-clause of a petty regulation. Essentially, the powerful show up and say, “We have the right to (fill in the blank); you’re welcome to try and stop us.”
By establishing from the get-go that communities have inherent rights, you make it possible for otherwise-atomized individuals to collectively exercise their power. Keep it up—and keep us posted.
The Editor [of NH Gazette]
April 23, 2021To the Editor:
We the People have our hands full! We’re dealing with a pandemic, climate change and drought, unending wars, millions of people lacking health care, refugees at our borders, extreme income disparities, no affordable housing for the next generation, and a corporate-controlled media telling us what to think. Where do we go from here?
The answer is to get organized where we live, town by town, as that is where democracy starts and ends. By systemic design most people are uninvolved, uninformed, and politically dysfunctional, and if we don’t change that soon then the status quo will allow the oligarchs to continue to control our government and get richer as they destroy our Nation and planet.
The N.H. Community Rights Network offers organizing support to community groups in towns so that they can become empowered to pass ordinances that protect our rights to clean water, air, and land and to preserve our ecosystems. So far a dozen towns have acted and their children are safer from corporate polluters! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
The more towns that become organized the more local power and control for We the People, so that we can make elected officials accountable to us instead of the rich ruling elite. Every person matters so it’s up to you to take action!!
Peter A. White
Nottingham Water Alliance and NHCRN Board member
To The Daily Sun,
Who holds the reins of government? Are We the People well read and self-determining to understand what our elected representatives of this democratic republic are doing? NO, most people do not even know the names of their “representatives” nor do they know what’s really going on, and that’s the biggest problem we have!
Our representatives should look for our ideas and input to address the discussions between all parties and represent us. Instead they listen to lobbyists and rich special interests whose greed is destroying our nation and planet.
We the People must be actively involved in order for our representative government to work for us. Only then can we thank ourselves and our representatives for our republican form of government. A house divided against itself will fall and We the People are ultimately most impacted by what happens.
The Pledge of Allegiance is a prayer that concludes with “liberty and justice for all,” and that has to start in every town. The Barnstead Declaration asserting the Right to Local Self-Government recognizes the Rights of Nature and the protections of health, safety and welfare. Information can be found on the website for the NH Community Rights Network, nhcommunityrights.org, a non-profit group of volunteers who promote the fundamentals of community rights.
Douglas Darrell, NHCRN Board Member
In a February 19th editorial, “Oh, those oligarchs: Lessons from Nottingham”, regarding the Nottingham Chemical Trespass Ordinance, the Union Leader disparaged efforts of New Hampshire residents to take charge of decision-making in their communities. However, their narrative inadvertently laid out all the arguments in favor of the work supported by the New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN).
The work of community rights activists is born out of the necessity to challenge the very structures that allow corporate entities to have the final say as to what is permitted or not permitted in the places where we live. In fact, Part 1, Bill of Rights, Article 10 of the New Hampshire Constitution states that it is our obligation to do so: “Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.”
“Patchwork” lawmaking, which the editorial casts in a bad light, is what allows residents to define what meets the needs of their particular place. "Patchwork" lawmaking already exists in different building codes, zoning, noise ordinances, etc. for good reason. Businesses and residents currently have to abide by those "patchwork" laws. Rights Based Ordinances and the Right of Local Self-Government state constitutional amendment put forth by grassroots community groups would not change that.
The editors cite the court ruling in the Nottingham case that towns do not have the right of “engaging in broad regulatory activity”. This is what the Community Rights movement is about. We have the right and duty to challenge settled unjust law and that is what we must do. Otherwise, a small group of wealthy individuals will continue to make decisions for us, maintaining their power and imposing policies good for their bottom line, good for maintaining their control, but often injurious to the well-being of our communities and our ecosystems. This is how an oligarchy functions; those in power count on citizens complying with the argument that asserting their inherent rights is illegal and dangerous. The status quo perpetuates the false narrative that lobbyists representing the one percent know better what is good for us.
The laws that the courts historically enforce have been lobbied by the minions of corporate actors who represent the wealthy elite. Courts have a history of supporting slavery, Jim Crow laws, apartheid, concentration camps, and now they support the legalized poisoning of millions of people and ecosystems. Just because a court rules something does not make it moral, ethical, just, equitable or legitimate. The recent ruling by Judge McCafferty referenced the enforcement of the rule related to a core legislative function in denying New Hampshire Democratic House members their request to participate remotely in legislative proceedings. The ruling potentially disenfranchised over 100,000 New Hampshire residents by forcing the House members to choose between compromising their health or not representing their constituents. The courts would have us focus more on the letter of the law than liberation and health and safety. Those engaged in the Community Rights movement seek to bring that to light, to change the narrative, and to give power back to the People.
You can learn more about the Community Rights movement in New Hampshire by visiting www.nhcommunityrights.org.
Diane St. Germain
NHCRN Board of Directors
Community rights were trampled by NH court
To the Editor: Towns should have the right to protect health, safety, clean water, and ecosystems, but New Hampshire courts have trampled our community rights.
As reported in the Union Leader (Judge finds Nottingham’s ‘chemical trespass’ ordinance unconstitutional, Feb 10), the Rockingham County Superior Court ruled against the Nottingham Freedom from Chemical Trespass ordinance that would ban toxic waste dumping in our town.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court even ruled against the Nottingham Water Alliance on the right to defend our ordinance, as our own selectmen refused to.
The courts have acted to defend corporate polluters in New Hampshire and across the United States for the last hundred years, which is why we have so much pollution of our air, water, and land, and the global warming climate crisis.
We do not have a democracy, we have a fiefdom controlled by greedy oligarchs who follow the Golden Rule — “the ones with the gold make the rules.” Their courts and politicians protect them, not us.
We the people must get organized and take back our democracy or the rich ruling elite will continue to destroy our nation and planet.
If you want to take action to protect your local ecosystem and your children’s health and future, email the NH Community Rights Network for assistance at email@example.com.
Start Date:December 12, 2020 Issue Date:December 12, 2020
Oh man, what a mess our democracy is in! It was a mess before Trump and the pandemic but it’s a bigger mess now – we can all agree on that right?What we need now, and what we’ve needed for decades, is to rebuild our democracy through the community rights movement. This is also called “community organizing” and the objective is to build citizen action groups in every town and community that informs and empowers We the People to take control of their ecosystems and government.
“We have the best politicians that money can buy,” said Will Rogers 100 years ago, and it’s much worse now! Community rights organizing will help voters to make our elected officials accountable so they have to work for us instead of rich special interests. For assistance contact the New Hampshire Community Rights Network firstname.lastname@example.org.
NHCRN Board Member
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.