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Right of Local Self-Government Initiative Vindicated

Court rules in favor of constitutional amendment effort, calls out State’s obstructionist actions.

CORVALLIS – The citizen-led petitioning initiative effort to amend the Oregon constitution to secure the Right of Local Community Self Government has been cleared by a Marion County circuit court judge to gather signatures for the November 2018 ballot.

The Oregon Secretary of State’s office denied petition circulation back in April 2016 on the claimed grounds that the initiative did not meet certain procedural requirements.  An oral hearing was held in front of Judge Bennett of the Marion County circuit court back in November 2016. The wrongful claims of the state denied the opportunity to move forward on the statewide citizen initiative for the November 2016 ballot.

A key question of the case also dealt with whether there was an overreach by the State in its authority to interfere with the lawmaking process, in this case the lawmaking powers of the people of Oregon.

Judge Bennett wrote in his decision that,

“It is tempting to delve into the language and meaning of IP 55 [Right of Local Community Self-Government amendment]…However, those are subjects for the Citizens of Oregon to consider and debate. It is not for a few members of the executive or judicial branch to chill public discourse…The Citizens of Oregon, in their legislative capacity, bear the burden of debating these issues and determining the course of action. Limiting, stopping, or redirecting discussion on IP 55 [Right of Local Community Self-Government amendment] through Executive Action or Judicial Opinion is contrary to, and chilling of, public political speech.”

Oregon’s Right of Local Community Self-Government amendment to the constitution would secure the  right of local communities to move forward protections, on the basis of health, safety, and welfare, to a higher degree than the state. The amendment would also limit the ability of corporations to override that right of lawmaking powers. The right of local community self-government would allow for the expansion of protections or the defense of existing protections if the state lessens such protections, but it would not allow communities to adopt laws that would lessen already instituted rights and protections recognized by state, federal, or international law.

Oregon has a long history of using state preemptive power, often at the behest of corporate interests, to put in place a ceiling and/or outright prohibition on the decision making powers by communities on critical issues. Recent and substantial preemptive laws have come against local control of GMOs, citizen votes on annexation, raising minimum wage, rent control, and toxic pesticide practices by industrialized agriculture and timber.

“We knew we were right and the State was wrong, and it feels good to be vindicated” says Rob Dickinson, petition coordinator for Oregonians for Community Rights. “This effort to have our right of local community self-government constitutionally recognized is long overdue both for what we’ve suffered here at the hands of the state government as well as what we are seeing unfolding today at the federal level where it comes to the rights of people and the natural environment.”

Dickinson goes on to say, “With the green light to gather signatures it’s time to put in the hard work to qualify the amendment for the ballot and then pass it!”

To qualify for the November 2018 ballot the petition initiative will need to collect about 125,000 valid signatures.

At the time of this announcement the state has not made it known if they will appeal the decision.

Thank you to Ann Kneeland for representing us and doing a magnificent job!!

Big Oil and Gas Threaten Community Self-Determination with New State Preemption Legislation

Oregon HB 2480 would expressly preempt local governments from any
authority over the transportation or storage of fossil fuels.

Legislation That is Part of a Pattern of States Denying Local Democratic Rights

Wednesday, February 9, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Mary Geddry
[email protected]
541-551-1492

CORVALLIS – HB 2480 was introduced in January by Oregon House Representative Bentz on behalf of Pac/West. The aim of HB 2480, as summarized on the Oregon State Legislature website, is to, “Preempt city, county or other local government from enacting charter provision, ordinance, resolution or other provision regulating expansion of infrastructure for primary purpose of transporting or storing fossil fuels.” The bill currently sits in the House Committee on Energy and Environment.

Pac/West is a corporate public relations and lobbyist firm based in Salem, Oregon. The organization has been assisting in advancing pro-drilling agendas in Colorado over the last four years.  Colorado fracked gas would be transported through the Oregon Pacific Connector pipeline/Jordan Cove export terminal if that fossil fuel project were to be operationalized.

In December 2016, Portland banned any new fossil fuel storage facilities as well as the expansion of existing facilities through a zoning law.

Coos County will be voting on Measure 6-162 in May which would secure a Right to a Sustainable Energy Future that would prohibit unsustainable fossil fuel projects like Jordan Cove. Columbia County is currently circulating an initiative petition to be on the November ballot for a similar rights-based law as Coos County.

Under HB 2480 no communities – city or county – could adopt such laws as Portland, Coos, and Columbia, and the new law would presumably nullify any existing local laws found to be in conflict.

Pattie Gouveia, co-lead on the YES on Measure 6-162 campaign in Coos County, stated, “The transportation, storage, and burning of fossil fuels is absolutely a local issue, whereby the local must be able to assert the greatest authority about what happens in the community. HB 2480 is just another example of the Oregon legislature advancing corporate interests by denying local democratic rights.”

In addition to recent federal executive orders, applauded by the fossil fuel industry, to continue with the build out of the Dakota Access Pipeline and reactivate the Keystone XL Pipeline, the industry has also been moving legislation and litigation to suppress local control in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, and Colorado in order to advance infrastructure expansion of pipelines, drill wells, and post-drilling waste storage.

“HB 2480 violates not only our right to a healthy climate by accelerating the burning of fossil fuels, but it also violates our right of local self-government. If we, where we live, don’t push for a sustainable energy future, one that doesn’t include fossil fuels and corporate control of energy, who will?”, says Nancy Ward from Columbia County Sustainable Action for a Green Environment.

“GMO seed, annexations, rent control, minimum wage, pesticides are just a few examples of how the state, on behalf of corporations, has commandeered legal authority over our Oregon communities. We have state laws here in Oregon that forbid communities from legislating on any of these issues where it comes to advancing greater health, safety, and welfare protection. HB 2480 is merely the latest on a long list of corporate fed actions by the state to keep communities and the people that live there contained and controlled,” says Dana Allen, board member of the Oregon Community Rights Network.

The Oregon Community Rights Network launched a constitutional amendment effort through Oregonians for Community Rights in 2015 that would secure the right of local community self-government against such preemptive actions of HB 2480.That amendment is currently being blocked for further petition circulation by the state.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

To learn more about the ORCRN please visit www.orcrn.org. Information on Coos County and Columbia County community rights efforts: www.cooscommons.org and https://www.facebook.com/ccsage.org/. More on Oregon’s Right of Local Community Self-Government constitutional amendment: http://oregoncommunityrights.org/amendment/

ABOUT THE ORCRN – OREGON COMMUNITY RIGHTS NETWORK
The ORCRN is a 501(c)(3) made up of community rights activists from various communities in Oregon. The mission of the ORCRN is to support and empower communities to secure local self-determination and and self-governance rights, superior to corporate power, in order to protect fundamental rights, quality of life, the natural environment, public health, and safety.

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Right of Community Self-Determination Greater Than Corporate Power in Court

The petition initiative blocked by the State for ballot qualification that would curb corporate power will be heard on Thursday, November 10th

Wednesday, October 26, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Mary Geddry
[email protected]
541-551-1492
http://www.oregoncommunityrights.org/

Eight months since easily collecting the required number of sponsorship signatures for the Right of Local Community Self-Government constitutional amendment, the petition initiative still cannot collect signatures to qualify for the statewide ballot. Blocked by the State, the
initiative will be in court on November 10th to determine if broader petition circulation can continue towards ballot qualification and ultimately the votes of Oregonians.

The Oregon Secretary of State along with the Attorney General’s office made a determination in April that the amendment, as currently written, does not meet the tests for a separate vote and that the initiative is not an amendment but a revision to the constitution.

“The state is wrong here and that will be proven in court”, says Rob Dickinson, petitioning coordinator for Oregonians for Community Rights. ”This initiative is absolutely essential in order for local communities to be able to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their residents. We can’t forget that the Oregon Constitution, in it’s very first section, affirms that all power is inherent in the people and that we have at all times a right to alter or reform the government in whatever manner that we deem proper. Without local community self determination, as affirmed by this initiative, those words are hollow and meaningless.”

Judge Bennett of the Marion County Circuit Court will hear the case at 1:30pm on Thursday, November 10th at the county courthouse in Salem.

The proposed constitutional amendment was drafted by the Oregon Community Rights Network (ORCRN) and their political arm, Oregonians for Community Rights (O4CR). The Right of Local Community Self-Government constitutional amendment would codify into law the right of local community self-government, enabling the people and their local governments to protect fundamental rights and prohibit corporate activities that violate those rights. It would secure the authority of communities to put in place stronger rights and protections than those recognized at the state, federal, or international level, but not reduce higher level governmental protections or rights.

“With its determination against this initiative, the State is championing limitations on the people’s constitutional power to the initiative process”, says Ann Kneeland, attorney for the chief petitioners. “As such, the Chief Petitioners of the initiative are fighting not simply for a
rightful decision from the Court that this amendment meets all procedural requirements to be voted on by the people, but also for the proper administration of the initiative system that empowers direct democracy in Oregon.”

Securing the right of local community self-government is pivotal when it comes to a community’s right to confront or advance vital local issues such as GMO crops, police accountability, pesticide use, fossil-fuel pipelines, living wage, rent control, or land use without the threat of state-sanctioned corporate preemption.

County-level community rights efforts in Oregon have been underway to confront an array of corporate projects from LNG pipelines to pesticides to GMOs to coal and oil trains. In each community the aim is to adopt a Community Bill of Rights law that secures the rights of the people and nature over that of unwanted corporate harms.

Oregon also joins Colorado, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, where communities in those states are working to adopt Community Bill of Rights laws on the local level as well as moving very similar state constitutional amendments to secure the right of local community self-government.
XXX

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GMOs Have More Rights Than the People of Josephine County

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ORCRN_allpowerFarmer

CONTACT:
Mary Geddry
541-551-1492
[email protected]

Judge overturns ban on GMOs; state preemption used once again to deny right of local self-government

Corvallis, Oregon — May 17, 2016
Yesterday a Josephine County Circuit Court judge denied the will of the people of Josephine County by ruling that their prohibition on GMO crops, adopted at the ballot in May 2014, is unenforceable because a conflict with state law.

The basis of the judge’s decision was SB863, adopted by the state legislature in the fall of 2013 which places all authority over GMO seed in the hands of the state and prohibits local governments from interfering with that state authority. SB863, modeled after similar laws adopted in other states, is intended to protect corporate industrial agricultural practices over that of local, sustainable agriculture.

“It hurts to say so but yesterday’s decision is not surprising”, says Dana Allen, board member of the Oregon Community Rights Network. “So long as we allow the laws that favor corporate interests over people and nature we can expect our communities to be treated as wards of the state.”

“State preemption is but one of a number of corporate powers, privileges, and “rights” used to keep communities in a subordinate position to both state government and corporate interests”, says Kai Huschke, CELDF Northwest Organizer. “Oregon has a long history of preemption whether in agriculture, the timber industry, land use, minimum wage, housing, or health care such that the recognized conventional legal arrangement is that anything of commercial interest is kept in the hands of the corporate state leaving communities unable to make critical decisions about health, safety, welfare, and their future viability.”

Because of SB863 and decisions like the one coming out of Josephine County, a number of local community rights actions have emerged in different parts of the state (Columbia, Coos, Lane, Lincoln) in order to assert and protect the right of the people to govern in their own communities. The mobilizing issues have varied from pesticide use to LNG pipelines to methanol plants, but foundationally each effort is about asserting, through lawmaking, the right of local community self-government both in protection of fundamental rights and the rejection of imposed corporate projects.

“We need to realize that we are all in the same boat and that boat is sinking quickly”, says Michelle Holman, member of Community Rights Lane County. “Whether our issue is human rights, economic rights, protecting the environment, or stopping unwanted development, we have a structure of law that favors corporations over living breathing beings and that has to change.”

Oregonians for Community Rights, the political arm to the Oregon Community Rights Network, is moving a state constitutional amendment to secure and protect the Right of Local Community Self-Government such that authority to adopt law at the community level regarding sustainable agriculture, sustainable energy, sustainable economies, etc. cannot be preempted by the state. The law is a oneway valve allowing communities the ability to increase rights and protections not remove them as recognized by state, federal, or international law. Oregon’s Right of Local Community Self-Government amendment initiative is currently involved in a legal challenge with the state regarding broader petition circulation.

Additional Information
www.oregoncommunityrights.org , www.orcrn.org , and www.celdf.org
https://www.facebook.com/OR4CR , https://www.facebook.com/ORCRN , and
https://www.facebook.com/Community-Environmental-Legal-Defense-Fund-112830808767534/

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Colorado Supreme Court Rules Local Self-Government State Constitutional Amendment Can Advance to Next Stage Toward Ballot

Press Release: Colorado Supreme Court Rules Local Self-Government State Constitutional Amendment Can Advance to Next Stage Toward Ballot

(3/11/2016)

Upholds People’s Right to Initiative from Oil & Gas  Industry Challenge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


CONTACT:
Ben Price, National Organizing Director
[email protected]
717-254-3233

MERCERSBURG, PA:  This week, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed a decision of the Colorado State Title Board, clearing the way for a state constitutional amendment initiative to advance toward  the November ballot. The initiative guarantees the right of local community self-government to the people of Colorado.

The Community Rights measure was drafted by the Colorado Community Rights Network, in partnership with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). As communities across the state face a range of environmental and economic harms – including fracking and livable wage issues – Coloradans are advancing the right to local community self-government in order to secure the rights of people, communities, and nature, and protect against fracking and other activities that would violate those rights.

The challenge to the measure was filed by Tracee Bentley, President of the Colorado Petroleum Council and former Legislative Director for Governor John Hickenlooper, and Stan Dempsey, President of the Colorado Petroleum Association. The full text of the Court’s ruling wasted no ink in ruling against the oil and gas industry’s efforts  to keep the proposed amendment from the voters.

The Colorado Community Rights Amendment is officially designated as “Proposed Initiative 2015-2016 #40.”  The title of the amendment, as designated by the Colorado Secretary of State, is as follows:

An amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a right to local self-government, and, in connection therewith, declaring that the people have an inherent right to local self-government in counties and municipalities, including the power to enact laws to establish, protect, and secure rights of natural persons, communities, and nature, as well as the power to define or eliminate the rights and powers of corporations or business entities to prevent them from interfering with those rights; and exempting such local laws from preemption or nullification by any federal, state, or international law if the local laws do not restrict fundamental rights or weaken legal protections for natural persons, their local communities, or nature.

“This is a great day for Coloradans, workers, our environment and communities across the state, and a major moment for people fighting the abuses of corporate power,” said Cliff Willmeng, organizer for the campaign. “We will now begin what could be considered the largest volunteer, grassroots campaign for a Colorado state ballot initiative in our state’s history. We aim to make democracy legal in the most important of places – where we live.”

CELDF’s National Organizing Director, Ben Price, stated, “The right to initiative has been affirmed in the Court’s decision, despite industry efforts to quash it. Today, the people of Colorado begin the work to make real the American Revolutionary ideal – and the inalienable right – of local community self-government.”

Coloradans for Community Rights (CCR), the grassroots organization formed to advance the 2016 amendment, has trained over 100 petitioners from across the state. With the Court’s decision, they are now beginning to gather the nearly 100,000 valid signatures necessary to place the measure on the November ballot. Organizations from across the state have endorsed the measure, and will be contributing volunteers.

Colorado Part of Growing National Movement

Colorado residents are advancing Community Rights as part of the broader Community Rights Movement building across the United States. Local communities and state Community Rights Networks across the country are partnering with CELDF to advance fundamental democratic, environmental, and economic rights. They have worked with CELDF to establish Community Rights and the Rights of Nature in law, and prohibit extraction,  fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other industrial activities as violations of those rights. Communities are joining together within and across states, working with CELDF to advance systemic change – recognizing our existing system of law and governance as inherently undemocratic and unsustainable.

 

Additional Information

For additional information regarding the Colorado Community Rights Amendment, visit www.coloradansforcommunityrights.org. To learn about the Community Rights Movement, visit www.celdf.org. To read the amendment text, visit here.

 

About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.

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