Colson: Call to action on ‘community rights’ | AspenTimes.com

Colson: Call to action on ‘community rights’

with JOHN COLSON

Readers might recall that last year voters in Colorado were robbed of their chance to cast a ballot either in favor of or against the idea of giving communities greater local control over such things as hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells within or close to their community boundaries.

The robbers were, in fact, Colorado politicians, led by Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Congressman Jared Polis of Boulder, both Democrats who had proclaimed their interest in protecting Colorado’s citizens from the worst effects of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Fracking, of course, is a controversial method of exploiting deeply buried oil and gas reserves up to the surface by injecting massive amounts of water and sand into the earth and breaking up the tightly packed formations where the reserves have long been locked up, which is increasingly suspected of fouling the water and air anywhere near the drilling sites.

We can debate until the cows come home about the propriety of the actions by Polis and Hickenlooper, in which the two pols bargained away a community’s right to control corporate activities within its boundaries, in favor of setting up a winning electoral strategy to keep the governor’s job and at least part of the legislature in Democratic hands.

But that’s all in the past, and now we’re looking at the future, right?

Right.

And that future, at least for now, includes a new effort to assert the rights of communities to determine their own destiny when it comes to who will drill into the earth within a community’s boundaries, or commit other corporate acts not deemed beneficial to the communities in question.

That effort, known as the Colorado Community Rights Amendment, is the subject of an ongoing organizational campaign by a group known as the Colorado Community Rights Network, or CoCRN.

It is CoCRN’s goal to get an initiative on the 2016 ballot that guarantees a community’s right to determine what corporations can do within the community’s boundaries, which would be a reversal of current law that puts corporate rights above those of individual citizens, according to a column written in the Colorado Statesman a year ago by attorney activist Thomas Alan Linzey.

Linzey, like other activists, was not happy about the Polis/Hickenlooper deal, nor about the special Task Force or “stakeholder group” set up by the governor as part of the deal, which came up with rules that were supposed to better control fracking and its effects on the environment and public health.

Pointing out that the Task Force was controlled from the beginning by oil and gas corporations, Linzey wrote last August, “Any follower of politics knows that convening a stakeholder group is the equivalent of the U.S. Congress announcing a blue ribbon study commission. It’s a perfect recipe for making sure nothing happens.”

Which, in fact, is exactly what did happen. Or didn’t, if you get my meaning. Because the Task Force recommendations were widely condemned as being too little, too late, and largely ineffective because the Task Force failed to establish a way to enforce the new rules, weak as they are.

The CoCRN and its petition drive are meant to fix the deficiencies left behind by the political shenanigans of Polis and Hickenlooper, by clearly outlining the rights of communities and the people in them as having primacy over the rights of corporations.

Although initiated as a response to the lack of controls on the oil and gas industry, with particular attention to fracking, the amendment’s provisions are broader than that. They would give communities the right to set limits and controls on the activities of any corporation doing business within the community’s boundaries.

That’s right. Any corporation.

The CoCRN, I should note, is part of something called the National Community Rights Network, and in fact the head of CoCRN, Clifford Willmeng of Lafayette, was last year picked as the first president of the network. And the National Community Rights Network itself is an outgrowth of work by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a national organization that has drafted “community bills of rights” that as of late 2014 had been adopted by 160 communities across the country.

So what’s been happening in Colorado, obviously, has not been a lonely cry in the wilderness of corporate hegemony. Rather, it’s been part of a nationwide movement to wrench control of this country back from corporations and put it where it belongs, in the hands of flesh-and-blood people. Because contrary to the corporate line, corporations are not people and must not be permitted to run this country as they see fit.

And you don’t have to take my word for any of this.

Read about it at http://www.celdf.org, or at http://www.cocrn.org. Or read about the Polis/Hickenlooper sellout in the Aug. 8, 2014 edition of the Colorado Statesman (www.coloradostatesman.com) or the Oct. 2, 2014 edition of Boulder Weekly, in an article titled “Who Killed the Vote On Fracking?” (www.boulderweekly.com).

Read about it, freak out for a bit, then get mad and do something about it.

jbcolson51@gmail.com


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