Home Rule Charters as Models of Enshrining Community Rights into Local Law-Making

Paul Cienfuegos’ April 12th, 2016 Commentary on KBOO Evening News


(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at PaulCienfuegos.com, CommunityRightsPDX.org/podcast, or subscribe via ITunes. Listen to this one HERE.)


Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.


This week, I am on the road in Mendocino County, California, offering my expertise to a diverse group of residents who are leading a very bold and exciting conversation with the voters of the county regarding making Mendocino County a Home Rule chartered county. In many states, including California and Oregon, when voters organize themselves at the municipal or county level, they can produce a Home Rule Charter or Mini-Constitution that gives the residents substantial additional self-governing authority.


I am participating this week as the keynote speaker at six community forums across the county, spreading the message that Home Rule Charters can also include Community Rights provisions, to make them even more powerful than a conventional Home Rule Charter. For example, last November, the people of Grant Township, Pennsylvania, passed this nation’s first-ever Community Rights Home Rule Municipal Charter by a large majority. I’ve been sharing some of the provisions of Grant Township’s new Charter with the folks here in Mendocino County, to encourage them to think outside the box as they prepare a ballot initiative for this June that asks the voters to choose fifteen candidates as Home Rule Charter Commissioners. Those fifteen people would be responsible to reach out across this vast county and ask voters what they want to see in their new Charter.


Here are some excerpts from the newly approved Home Rule Charter in Grant Township, Pennsylvania, which gives you some idea as to what could also happen here in Mendocino County next year, if approved by the voters:


* All legitimate governments in the United States owe their existence to the people of the community that those governments serve, and governments exist to secure and protect the rights of the people and those communities. Any system of government that becomes destructive of those ends is not legitimate, lawful, or constitutional.


* All residents of Grant Township, along with natural communities and ecosystems within the Township, possess the right to clean air, water, and soil, which shall include the right to be free from activities which may pose potential risks to clean air, water, and soil within the Township. …


* Natural communities and ecosystems within Grant Township, including, but not limited to, rivers, streams, and aquifers, possess the right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.


* All residents of Grant Township possess a right to be fairly taxed, which includes property tax assessments and rates that are commensurate with the needs of the Township and the Township's residents, and the services required to meet those needs. …


* No permit, license, privilege, charter, or other authorization issued to a corporation, by any State or federal entity, that would violate the prohibitions of this Charter or any rights secured by this Charter, shall be deemed valid within Grant Township.


* Ecosystems and natural communities within Grant Township may enforce their rights, and this Charter’s prohibitions, through an action brought by Grant Township or residents of Grant Township in the name of the ecosystem or natural community as the real party in interest. … Damages shall be measured by the cost of restoring the ecosystem or natural community to its state before the injury, and shall be paid to Grant Township to be used exclusively for the full and complete restoration of the ecosystem or natural community.


* Through the adoption of this Charter, the people of Grant Township call for amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the federal Constitution to recognize a right of local community self-government free from governmental preemption and nullification by corporate “rights” and powers.


I have been reading excerpts from the Home Rule Charter of Grant Township, Pennsylvania, which was approved overwhelmingly by the voters last November. If you want to read the full document, the link to it can be found in the text version of this commentary at my website at PaulCienfuegos.com. And if you want to learn more about the Mendocino County, California, Home Rule Charter campaign, go to MendocinoCountyCharter.org.


You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News in Portland, Oregon, and on a growing number of other radio stations. I welcome your feedback.


You can subscribe to my weekly podcast via I-Tunes or at CommunityRightsPDX.org. You can sign up for my ‘Community Rights Updates’ at PaulCienfuegos.com. You can follow me on twitter at CienfuegosPaul. THANKS FOR LISTENING! And remember: WE are the people we’ve been WAITING for.

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