In Tacoma, The People Attempt to Exercise Their Ballot Initiative Rights to Protect Their Water & Are Blocked by the Courts

In Tacoma, Washington, The People Attempt to Exercise Their Ballot Initiative Rights to Protect Their Water & Are Blocked by the Courts


Paul Cienfuegos’ August 16th, 2016 Commentary on KBOO Evening News


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


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


Today I’m going to read some excerpts from a recent news story titled, “What happens in Tacoma when the people exercise their inalienable right to protect their water, and their democratic right to initiative?” The short answer to that question is – the corporate state strips those voting rights from The People.  Here’s the story….


After decades of being poisoned by toxic industries, Tacomans have been reclaiming their City over the last 20 years, ending many of the heavy industrial harms and revitalizing the City’s culture and economy. Enter the oil and gas industry. Six months ago, residents learned the industry proposed Tacoma as the site for the world’s largest methanol plant. The plant threatened the community’s air quality, spewing waste from fossil fuels. It promised an insatiable demand for water: 10 to 14 million gallons of water daily. And, it undermined the vision the people of Tacoma had for their City.


The project was backed by the City’s major powerbrokers, including the Mayor of Tacoma, Port of Tacoma, Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce. After years of rebuilding the City, and at a time of record-breaking drought, Tacomans are clear that they need to protect their community and their water. The methanol project has been scrapped – for now…


In less than 100 days, volunteers from the grassroots group Save Tacoma Water gathered 17,000 petition signatures to protect water for people, the community, and nature. If it had been approved by Tacomans in November, the new law would have required water use projects over one million gallons daily be decided by a vote of the people. They were laying the legal foundations for sustainable water use.


Enter the corporate state. On June 6th, as active petitioning was still underway, Tacoma’s powerbrokers filed a lawsuit against residents – including those who signed the petitions. Their goal: use the courts and intimidation to stop the people’s right to make law through direct democracy.


On July 1st … the case was heard. Pierce County Judge Jack Nevin protected corporate interests over the people’s right to initiative in Tacoma. … [I]t took Judge Nevin under two minutes to deny 116,000 people in Tacoma the right to vote, as he blocked two duly-qualified citizen initiatives from the ballot. Washingtonians are bristling at this unabashed protection of the corporate state at the cost of their communities and people’s rights. … As the corporate state reveals itself, it is becoming clear to communities that they must continue advancing rights-based initiatives locally, defying the Court’s claim that they have no right to do so. And it is becoming clear that their local work must advance to the state level to institute legislative and constitutional change. …


Whether it is protecting water in Tacoma, securing rights for workers in Spokane, or saying no to coal trains in Bellingham, people and communities have the inalienable right to bring forward new, just law. If that law is adopted – by initiative or through elected officials – that law must prevail over corporate “rights.”


I have been reading excerpts from an online article written by and posted on the website of Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, about the people of Tacoma, Washington attempting to stop the building of what would be the largest methanol plant in the world. Since this article was written, the Tacoma group has filed a legal appeal challenging the judge’s authority to stop their two ballot initiatives from going to a vote, stating, “The Washington Constitution, like the United States Constitution, prohibits judicial content-based review of an initiative before it becomes law. The Court lacks authority to review these initiatives ...” If you’d like to find out more about the work of these courageous folks in Tacoma, and how you can support them, go to


On another topic, my commentary last week about Monsanto’s DARK Act being passed by our federal government, and why I believe that the people and government of Vermont should push back against this corporate outrage and enact their new GMO labeling law as planned, has been picked up by, a respected national online news and opinion journal, and should be published sometime today. Check it out.


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.


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