Mt. Shasta: First California community to put community and water rights on the Ballot

We have reached a very exciting moment in the growing campaign for community rights over corporate so-called "rights". For the first time ever, a community in California has decided to challenge corporate rule head-on, at the local level, via legally binding ordinance, to reign in specific corporate "rights". Here's a press release from one of the campaign organizers, in the City of Mount Shasta, CA....

Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2010
From: Karen Swift <
Subject: Mt. Shasta will be the first community in California to pass a rights-based ordinance!

Mt. Shasta: first CA community to put community and water rights on the Ballot

Throughout the winter, volunteers with the Mt. Shasta Community Rights Project (MSCRP) trudged through snow to collect 700 signatures from 2,072  registered voters to put an ordinance before the city council that bans water bottling plants and corporate cloud seeding in Mt. Shasta. The City Council, on May 24, took public comments from a passionate standing room only crowd, and voted 5-0 Monday to put the proposed ordinance to public vote. With the overwhelming number of signatures on the petition, the only other option would have been to enact it into law.

With support from Global Exchange and our partners, this will be the first rights based ordinance to be put on a ballot in California where Mt. Shasta citizens will hopefully lead the example for communities elsewhere to take similar stances. As noted by MSCRP representative Ami Marcus following public comment, "This is about our right to water, and everyone here tonight spoke in favor of this ordinance and about our rights."

After months of organizing in the community, dealing with opposition and disfavor from some city council members, the community has worked hard to increase the depth of public knowledge about the ordinance, continuing hard on through the November elections, when the ordinance will be voted on.

Mt. Shasta Report

In a continued stance taken by residents of Mt. Shasta to protect their water and community rights, and to increase public understanding of the ordinance and how asserting rights can provide new protections for nature and residents from unwanted corporate assaults, MSCRP commissioned Global Exchange with support from CELDF, to produce an in-depth 98-page report PDF, Mt Shasta Water Rights: Who Decides? released last week. 

"We are very proud of this report, and we believe it is not only useful in educating our community about rights, but a tool to assist other communities confronted by unwanted corporate projects," said Shasta citizen activist Marcus.

Update on City Meeting

Following the Mt. Shasta public comments on May 24th, with a unanimous vote by the city council, the proposed ordinance will be put up for vote on the November ballot.

Despite the fear of the city council to challenge state and federal laws that strip local governing authority, the meeting drew a standing room only crowd of just under 200 residents, 56 of whom spoke during 3 hours of passionate public comment. 

A two minute sustained applause erupted following the speeches of two representatives of the Winnemem Wintu, who spoke of their own battles to protect their water against state and federally sanctioned flooding and contamination of their sacred homelands.

Background on the Mt. Shasta Ordinance

In a stance taken by residents of Mt. Shasta, who have seen how the regulatory system has failed to protect their community and their surrounding ecosystems, the Mt. Shasta Community Rights project was formed. The group, with the help of Global Exchange, commissioned the report Mt Shasta Water Rights: Who Decides? outlining the City of Mt. Shasta Community Water Rights and Self-Government Ordinance, the justification for it, and the legitimacy of community local self government.

Mt. Shasta residents concerned with water bottling and toxic chemical corporate cloud seeding--unregulated in the state of California--decided to stand up and put decision making into local--not corporate hands. The drafted ordinance asserts the right of the local community to sustainably manage their water and asserts the right to say no to corporate cloud seeding and water bottling. The ordinance is on the ballot for the November elections, which, if passed, will be the first of its kind in California.

The fact that the regulatory system denies citizens the right to ban certain harmful activities, and instead only "regulates" or mitigates the damage, is why asserting the right to say no is so important. The primary factor deciding the extent of regulation is usually corporate profit, as opposed to environmental health or community values. In other terms, regulatory law allows harm and instead determines how much destruction we must accept. In the case of Mt. Shasta, corporate cloud seeding and water withdrawal for bottling are not even regulated under law. The stance that Mt. Shasta citizens are taking is to restore their rights to decide what happens in their own community based on their criteria, not the corporation's. This is where communities, such as citizens of Mt. Shasta, are standing up to say 'no' to unwanted projects.

The philosophy of short-term gain, coupled with the recognition of corporations as legal persons has enabled corporations to routinely disregard community will and trash their surrounding ecosystems. The fact that corporations have more say than local people and that a handful of corporate decision-makers can hide behind a legal protected shield is what residents in Mt. Shasta have decided to take a stance against.

Citizens of Mt. Shasta want to protect the place they call home for themselves and for their children. They do not want to be the victims of short term profit for the few, nor do they want the surrounding ecosystems and earth community to be the victim of the short term profits for the few. Come the November elections, residents of Mt. Shasta will have the ability to vote both on protecting their water and preventing their surrounding ecosystems from chemical trespass from cloud seeding.

Rough footage of Winnemen Wintu tribal representatives speaking at the Mt. Shasta City Council May 24 in support of the ordinance, which mirrors their own struggle for water rights in many ways.


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