January 31, 2018To The Daily Sun,
Women have finally decided “time’s up” when it comes to sexual harassment and assault. An old commercial used to tell us “Membership has its privileges” and the elite moneyed membership has been using its privileges way too long in disgusting and heartbreaking ways.
Now it’s time for all people to stand up to corporations which wish to assault and defile the environment for their own personal benefit that their time is up, too. Whether it’s the EPA announcing it will suspend environmental protections for an area of Alaska that is home to the world's most valuable wild salmon fishery. the doing away with a decades-old clean air policy that scientists say will result in more pollution and lung disease, or any of the other toxic attacks on our environment, people need to get angry and take action to stop a system that allows these assaults.
In New Hampshire people are fighting one of their own corporate abusers, Northern Pass. Gov. Sununu is enormously pleased that the Northern Pass Transmission plan was selected as the only project in the Massachusetts Clean Energy Requests for Proposal. Northern Pass was selected over 45 other projects that were much less destructive to the environment and private property, less expensive and engendered none of the seven-year controversy that is attached to the Northern Pass project.
There’s an old saying, “The only way for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing.” Evil corporations are all around us and the only way to defeat them to is do something.
The N.H. Community Rights Amendment, CACR19 (Constitutional Amendment Concurrent Resolution), will be considered at a public hearing by the House Municipal & County Government Committee in Concord on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at 2 p.m. in Room 301 in the Legislative Office Building. This bill would give power to communities to protect themselves from harmful corporate activities that would destroy the natural world for their profit. If you can’t attend this hearing, please firstname.lastname@example.org and ask the members to support this bill. People can’t keep fighting one bad project after another. We have to change the system that allows these corporations more authority to harm people and the natural environment than people have to protect themselves and the ecosystem. This bill would make that happen.
To The Daily Sun,
The Ashland deliberative session on Feb. 3 will be of historic significance due to its consideration of a petitioned warrant article for a Community Rights Based Ordinance (CRBO). Ashland’s deliberation on this Community Rights Based Ordinance is part of a larger Civil Rights movement to acknowledge and provide for the right to local community self-government. In brief, a community affected by governing decisions has the right to make those decisions. The Municipal and County Government Committee of the New Hampshire House of Representatives is discussing Constitutional Amendment Concurrent Resolution 19 (CACR 19), which would provide for local community self-government. However, since rights are natural, it might be more suitable to say that adoption of CACR 19 would codify this right. Additionally, there have been 11 towns which have adopted similar Community Rights Based Ordinances.
The immediate political significance of this proposed Community Rights Based Ordinance is that it will be the first time the people of Ashland will be implicitly asked: Do the people of Ashland want Northern Pass?, and it may be the last opportunity for the people of Ashland to directly say ‘NO!’. However, the greater significance is that the people of Ashland will be asked: "Do you believe local community self-government is your right?" Ashland’s response to this question will likely have a meaningful impact on the legislative discussion, which could further or delay this significant change in the way we govern.
As the Ashland deliberative session approaches, it is noteworthy that there will be efforts to stop the Community Rights Based Ordinance from being considered as it was intended, as legally binding and enforceable. These efforts will likely call upon legal advice to declare the CRBO as "advisory only," in effect pre-empting the community’s inalienable right to peacefully “reform the old” government (NH Constitution, Article 10) through a legally binding and enforceable CRBO. Ultimately, efforts to deem this ordinance "advisory only" at the deliberative session will be motivated by a fear and anticipation that the Community Rights Based Ordinance will pass if voted on by the people as petitioned. This fear is based on the concern of an anticipated unfavorable judicial decision declaring the CRBO illegal and unenforceable, however, I trust that an “...impartial interpretation of the laws...” (NH Constitution, Article 35) will ultimately uphold the right to local community self-governance.
Those who attempt to make the Community Rights Based Ordinance "advisory only" will argue that it is much more proper to give an advisory vote, and then to wait for the Legislature to act on CACR-19. However, every inalienable right gives an inalienable power to act. For example, you have the inalienable right to speak, and therefore the inalienable power to speak; no one gives you the power to speak, it is natural. Likewise, the community has the inalienable right to self-government, and therefore has the inalienable power to affirm this right of self-governance by the self-governing act of adopting a Community Rights Based Ordinance. To wait for the Legislature to give us the permission to self-govern would be antithetical to the assertion that the right to do so is inalienable.
By BEA LEWIS
Sunday News Correspondent
January 27. 2018 9:41PM
As now planned, a portion of the Northern Pass transmission lines would be buried along Plymouth's Main Street. Plymouth voters will decide at a special town meeting Wednesday whether to adopt a Rights-Based Ordinance designed to challenge the legal power of corporations, which can now proceed with projects despite local opposition. (BEA LEWIS/Sunday News Correspondent)
PLYMOUTH - The push is on to adopt Rights-Based Ordinances in two Grafton County towns with Northern Pass the probable target.
Plymouth voters will attend a special town meeting Wednesday to decide whether to adopt a Rights-Based Ordinance (RBO) designed to challenge the legal power of corporations. In neighboring Ashland, residents will have the chance to discuss an RBO at the deliberative session of their SB2 town meeting Feb. 3, and then vote March 13.
"The question is who has the right to decide what happens in our town," said Plymouth resident Richard Hage.
As it now stands, Hage said, corporations are given "personhood rights" under state and federal laws and can override a community's attempt to protect itself from corporate projects within its boundaries. According to Hage, an RBO confronts this structure of corporate legal privilege by asserting the community's right of local self-governance.
"We're trying to return those rights to the folks in the local community, who are closest to it. The RBO movement is trying to put self-regulation back where it belongs," he said.
While conceding that Plymouth has been "quite animated" in its opposition to Northern Pass - the proposed 192-mile transmission line project that will carry hydropower from Canada - Hage said adoption of an RBO has the broader effect of maintaining local decision-making on issues of health, safety, welfare and protection of the environment.
"Northern Pass is certainly on people's minds, and this is one effort that would help prevent our Main Street from being dug up," said Hage.
As now planned, a portion of the Northern Pass transmission lines would be buried down Plymouth's Main Street, a process that could take as long as six months.
When the town updated its own utilities, two businesses couldn't survive the downturn in traffic and folded, Hage said.
Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray said an application and permitting process is already in place for such projects and that Northern Pass is still involved in that process at this time. The company is willing to work with any communities to help lessen the impact construction will have on traffic and related issues and already has signed memorandums of understandings with some municipalities, Murray said.
Michelle Sanborn of Alexandria is the state coordinator for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which has partnered with residents and municipal leaders in several communities to draft RBOs. She said 11 communities in the state have already adopted them. In 2006, Barnstead became the first municipality in the nation to adopt an ordinance that prohibited water extractions by asserting the rights of residents over the decision-making process.
According to Sanborn, Barnstead's vote to adopt an RBO was a proactive measure spurred after the state issued a 10-year large groundwater extraction permit to USA Springs Inc. in Nottingham, and the municipality had spent about a quarter of a million in tax dollars in an effort to keep the water bottling company out. The towns of Barrington and Nottingham followed suit.
Alexandria, Atkinson, Barrington, Danbury, Easton, Grafton and Sugar Hill also have adopted RBOs. In 2012, Plymouth adopted an RBO but it was later declared to be advisory only as a result of a procedural error - just a summary had been printed in the warrant instead of the entire ordinance. When residents gather at the Plymouth High School Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday they'll find printed copies of all nine pages.
However, none of the RBOs now in place have faced a court challenge.
North Country lawyer Alan Baker, who ardently opposes Northern Pass, said he has no ax to grind with the grass-roots, self-rule motives of RBO supporters, but believes their efforts are better served by bringing RBO sentiments directly to the attention of state legislators who can work to modify existing state law or propose a Constitutional amendment, if they concur.
"I just think their methods of trying to effect global change at the municipal level by proposing local ordinances that conflict with state law won't work in practice," he said.
As a general rule, Baker said, federal and state law take precedence over municipal ordinances and regulations when they are in conflict.
"My 40 years of legal experience tells me that conflicts between state law and local municipal regulation is not a good thing. It often leads to wasteful disputes, litigation and, God forbid, staggering attorneys' fees for both the winners and losers alike. Often both sides lose in monetary terms."
Adopting an RBO does not mandate that a town must enforce it, Sanborn said, and communities that have them on the books can still benefit if a corporate entity that might be considering a project in a community perceives an RBO as an obstacle, and decides to move on.
Rep. Vince Migliore, R-Bridgewater, sent a letter to community leaders in Alexandria, Ashland, Bridgewater, Bristol and Grafton (the five towns in Grafton District 9), urging them to hold community educational forums on RBOs.
A member of the House Municipal and County Government Committee, Migliore will be hearing a bill, CACR 19, that proposes to amend the state Constitution to allow the enactment of local laws to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents. He said he wants to hear the views of constituents.
Speaking during a meeting of the Ashland Board of Selectmen last month, Migliore said amending the Constitution was needed to give RBOs teeth.
"An RBO may or may not give you the protection that you expect. It depends on how it is worded and needs to be tailored for each community," he said.
Tejasinha Sivalingam of Ashland, who helped get the issue on the warrant by petition, said for him, adoption of an RBO is a peaceable method of reforming the government made necessary as all means of redress have become ineffectual.
"I don't want my children growing up in a community that is jeopardizing healthy soil and water," he said.
Adopting an RBO will give residents the right to decide whether a project has reached a threshold that impacts the health, safety, welfare and environment of the community. That question, he said, needs to be answered by local people.
The House Municipal and County Government Committee will hold a public hearing on CACR 19 at 2 p.m. Feb. 6 in Room 301 of the Legislative Office Building.
To The Daily Sun,
I would like to offer my comments on the discussion that took place at the Ashland Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday, Jan.16, regarding a petitioned warrant article for a Community Rights Based Ordinance (CRBO).
To start, I would like to say that I agree, every Ashland resident should read the CRBO in its entirety prior to the Ashland deliberative session on Saturday, Feb. 3. A full copy of the Community Rights Based Ordinance (CRBO) can be accessed online at: https://goo.gl/fpJnmv. Further, residents should be able to get a full copy of the CRBO from the Ashland Town Office. Ashland residents are also welcome to call me at 603-960-4127 for the purpose of respectfully requesting a printed copy of the CRBO, and to the best of my ability I will provide one printed copy of the CRBO. Additionally, a summary of the CRBO can be accessed online at:https://goo.gl/ZhPFb5.
Now, let's deal with a very concerning element of the dialogue that took place at this meeting. There was the use of imagery and ideas which I felt were alluding to socially and physically violent outcomes, and this made me uncomfortable. I am concerned about the use of the words "bloody," "weapon," the idea of "neighbor against neighbor," and reference to "seceding from the Union," obviously reminiscent of the Civil War. Were these meant to insinuate that the Community Rights Based Ordinance might be used for violent purposes? If so, they demonstrate misunderstanding. I support the adoption of the CRBO, and as a husband, father and a deeply religious man, I will assure you that I am firmly committed to nonviolence and peace. I believe any idea that the CRBO would incite violence is uninformed, at best. Yes, the CRBO mentions Article 10 of the New Hampshire Constitution, i.e. Right of Revolution, but I interpret the words “...the people may, and of right ought to reform the old...” as a Right of Evolution, or a peaceful revolution of mind! Page six and seven of the CRBO even gives the definition of direct action as the following “...shall mean any non-violent activities or actions...”.
There were so many rebuttals to the proposed Community Rights Based Ordinance that demonstrated firm opposition; it will be impossible for me to address them all in the remainder of this letter. However, my wife and I both submitted a citizen comment form to the Board of Selectmen to be read as public comments at the Jan. 16 meeting; which may have, if actually given due consideration, given a more well rounded picture of the CRBO.
I will offer a few points here. First, there will be an informational, educational, and discussion session for Ashland residents on the CRBO, held on Sunday, Jan. 28, at 2 p.m. at the Common Man Restaurant in Ashland. Please bring your concerns, and questions about the CRBO. Second, yes, the CRBO is, in my understanding, a claim that there is a harmful discrepancy between our inherent constitutional rights and our government's current statutory mandates and judicial interpretations. However, this happens from time to time. We, as a people, broaden our sense of the rights provided for us in our Constitution, which protect our human dignity and, as our understanding of our rights broaden, they come into contrast with the current legal limits. Every civil rights movement has had both people in the legislature working for change, as well as local people pushing the outer limits of the status quo. This is not irrational; this is the people being the sovereign power of this country.
To the Editor:
I am writing this letter in support of the Rights Based Ordinance (RBO) that the town of Plymouth is bringing forward in their special town meeting on January 31. A community group called Concerned Citizens of Plymouth has partnered with the Plymouth Board of Selectmen to put the ordinance on a warrant and hold a special town meeting. The aim of the ordinance is to stop the Northern Pass project from entering the town.
One might ask, “Why is this necessary? Why do these townspeople feel they must pursue this route of action?”. The simple answer is that because no matter what else we as citizens try to do- attend SEC and EIS hearings, write to our legislators, introduce bills at the state level, appeal to federal senators and legislators- the simple fact remains that corporations just have more power in our towns than we do. That is the truth. State and federal law can preempt any course of action that we take right now. As citizens, there is no recourse to oppose these giant corporate projects from forcing themselves into our towns- and the corporations know it.
So then, what are we to do? Plymouth and 11 other towns in New Hampshire have sought the help and guidance of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) through their New Hampshire organizer, Michelle Sanborn. CELDF and Ms. Sanborn clearly point out that we have three choices: 1) Do nothing, and get the project; 2) Oppose the project through the regulatory structure and get the project anyway; 3) Assert local governing rights and ban the project- do not compromise by voluntarily surrendering our local authority and force the powers that be to strip these rights from us publicly.
This is where the RBO comes in. It is our right to defend the health, safety, and welfare of our towns as citizens of the town. Please attend the information session on the RBO on Tuesday, January 23 at 6pm in the Board Room of the Plymouth Town Hall and get informed!
There are two main reasons for this:
1) State and federal government agencies issue operating permits that legalize harmful corporate projects and activities that would otherwise be illegal; and
2) Corporations routinely use their “rights of personhood” to prevent communities from using local lawmaking to stop these projects and activities that are not in the best interest of the community.
Corporate activities such as the Northern Pass transmission line, fracked-gas pipelines and infrastructure, and large groundwater withdrawals are just a few examples of harmful projects that are decided without the involvement of local governing authority. State and federal agencies such as the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are appointed, not elected, for the sole purpose of issuing operating permits to industry, even if this means using pre-emption to override health-protecting, safety-protecting and rights-protecting local laws.
Pre-emption dictates that higher government trumps lower government. When pre-emption is used to force harmful activities upon local communities, residents are denied their unalienable right to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people and natural environments where they live.
The N.H. Community Rights Amendment would empower people and their local governments with the authority to enact local laws that are free from pre-emption and corporations’ claimed “rights” when these local laws protect the rights of people, communities and natural environments to defend their health, safety and welfare. This amendment would add Article 40, the Right of Local Community Self-Government, to the N.H. Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
The N.H. Community Rights Amendment has three key components:
Right to Local Self-Government: specifically recognizing the right of people in communities across the state to local community self-government
Rights of People, Communities, and Natural Environments: people, communities and natural environments have rights to health, safety and well-being, and the authority to prohibit business activities that violate those rights
Expanding and Protecting Fundamental Rights: people can use their local lawmaking power to enact local laws that protect and expand fundamental rights – any efforts to restrict or weaken fundamental rights under this Amendment are prohibited
Rep. Ellen Read, D-Newmarket, has agreed to sponsor CACR 19, the N.H. Community Rights Amendment, with bipartisan House support from cosponsors Suzanne Smith, Stephen Darrow, Wayne Burton, Jan Schmidt, Vincent Migliore, Steve Rand, Charlotte DiLorenzo and Raymond Howard.
The NH Community Rights Amendment is headed soon to a public House Municipal and County Government Committee hearing, where the committee’s legislators will recommend either that the amendment be moved one step closer to a vote by the people of New Hampshire or that we be denied our right to vote on the matter entirely.
Please contact the House Municipal and County Government Committee members to encourage them to protect the people and places of the Granite State from corporate overreach by recommending the amendment be moved to the November ballot for the people to decide.
The bottom line is this — if the N.H. House and Senate do not approve CACR 19, proposed by “we the people,” to expand and protect rights of people and their communities, then we will have been denied the legitimate democratic process of having even the opportunity to vote on a matter that directly affects and concerns our health, safety and welfare.
Please address any questions to N.H. Community Rights Network: www.nhcommunityrights.org
Michelle Sanborn of Alexandria is president of the N.H. Community Rights Network.