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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 (email@example.com) 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)