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