To The Daily Sun,
Right to work for less, voter suppression, welfare wages, pipelines, transmission lines, contaminated water, contaminated air, and threats to health care, public education, job security and LGBTQ and immigrant families and minority communities ... who isn't feeling battered by the daily assaults on our quality of life and our planet?
Our local, statewide, and national struggles to rein in the assumed power of corporations and their lobbyists swarming the New Hampshire Legislature and U.S. Congress have left us exhausted yet committed more than ever to make things right.
Many of us are questioning how long we can hold up, given issues popping up like whack-a-mole in every facet of our lives. We're pulled in a million directions and our efforts become diluted as we get bogged down in fighting permits, government appointments, legislation that undermines job security, civil rights, voting rights and on and on.
I spent a good part of the 1990s fighting the disposal of sludge containing Monsanto Chemical's carcinogenic residuals trucked into my town from Springfield, Mass.. While we had a temporary victory with a ban, the disposal of sludge continues in New Hampshire. Assembling eight file drawers of data, studying geology, chemistry, regulations and permitting, I trudged along. But looking back, it's clear that I was merely a pawn of corporations who triumph over communities time and time again by wearing out activists. In the end, settled law protects corporate interests and profits at the expense of our communities and environment.
Many of us continued into the 21st Century, fighting honorable battles in the same way. We were satisfied with temporary victories, but we ignored the inevitable outcomes. Corporations ultimately would prevail. And all of this was even before Citizens United.
Fortunately, the next battle in my town put me in touch with neighbors who had a novel idea: why keep doing what doesn't work? Gail Darrell, in particular, led the charge. She saw that Barrington and Nottingham had spent endless time and money fighting to protect their groundwater from USA Springs. She was determined to challenge the corporations in protecting our groundwater.
She did it through an education campaign bringing townspeople together to understand that we have the right to determine what goes on in our communities. She brought us Democracy School and, with the help of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, in 2006, we passed the first in the nation Rights-based Ordinance, elevating the rights of residents and ecosystems above the claimed "rights" of corporations. Our resolve persists, and at last year's town meeting, at the urging of a Holocaust survivor and tireless advocate for tolerance, Barnstead also unanimously passed a Community Bill of Rights law establishing the right to be free from religious identification requirements.
Before the world lost a passionate, brilliant advocate for the rights of communities and ecosystems, Gail brought this movement to other communities in New Hampshire and other states. Because of her work and the work of those she inspired, there are now numerous communities who have thrown off their subservience and recognized they have a moral and constitutional right to make local governing decisions that protect and expand rights for residents and ecosystems. They have done so through democratically enacted Rights-based Ordinances that include a Community Bill of Rights which recognize their authority to self-govern, free from state and federal pre-emptions.
Gail's work provided the foundation for the New Hampshire Community Rights Network. NHCRN has supported local rights-based efforts across the state and proposes a statewide Community Rights constitutional amendment recognizing our right to local self-determination. In this way, every community within the state would have the recognized authority to secure, protect and expand fundamental rights to fresh air, clean water, uncontaminated soil, livable wages, protections for the LGBTQ and immigrant communities, locally controlled sustainable energy sources, election integrity, and safe food choices. The Community Rights amendment specifically prohibits the weakening or restriction of any existing rights.
Diane St. Germain
NHCRN Board of Directors
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