Remarks to the Lafayette City Council to support the Community Rights Act
[The Lafayette City Council heard public comment at their meeting on Sept 16, 2014, about whether they should appeal the court ruling where Judge D.D. Mallard ruled in favor of COGA and against Lafayette Community Rights Act on July 24, 2014. This is the same judge that struck down Longmont's ban. The Council will make their decison by September 30, 2014, I believe. ]
An Address to the Lafayette City Council
by Rick Casey, Tuesday, September 16, 2013
concerning public support in defense of the
Lafayette Community Rights Act
Dear Council members,
I wish to convey to you tonight why I support the Lafayette Community Rights Act, and hope you to make every effort to defend it in court in the lawsuit that has been brought by COGA, the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.
This charter amendment is based on the legal concept of community rights, which the COGA brief does not even mention; all they care about is making money off of fracking inside our city limits, but I’m afraid they are missing the point.
I am here tonight to tell you that community rights is a growing human rights movement that is being fiercely fought out in eight states around this nation, and will continue to grow. The history of community rights is undeniable: it is secured in the Declaration of Independence, the US constitution and Colorado’s state constitution. Our early colonial legal history abounds with examples of it. Unfortunately, community rights have not been a significant part of American jurisprudence, but Lafayette’s Amendment is an attempt to change this. The recent summary judgement in favor of COGA is under appeal and is only the beginning of this legal battle.
The lawsuit by COGA was brought against the municipal government of Lafayette; but that is different and apart from our rights as American citizens. US law does indeed show that municipal governments have little or no legal power to contradict state law. The basic case about this, Dillon’s Rule, is the doctrine that municipalities are simply extensions of the state, and can make no law that contradicts state law.
But the Community Rights Act is something that is outside and above Dillon’s Rule: it is about own inalienable rights to self government and municipal home rule. COGA brought suit against the Lafayette municipal corporation, which is just a creature of the law, but the peoples’ rights are inherent in them, and are secured by our constitutions. This amendment was inspired by CELDF, or the Community and Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania non-profit that has fostered other community rights legal actions around the country. They have been fighting these legal battles at the local level across the country for nearly two decades, and have established over a hundred such ordinances and charter amendments. None of them have been overturned as unconstitutional.
Outside authorities, such as COGA and the COGCC, have no right to diminish these rights. Community self-government is the very foundation of American constitutional law. This is what this lawsuit is about; it is not about the preemption of the Colorado Oil & Gas Law, which the judge failed to note.
In a very real way, our Community Rights Act is a “last stand” of asserting our community’s rights against the onslaught of corporate power that dominates our economy, our regulatory environment and our entire political system. The actions by large corporations to enforce their will over and against the will of local communities who do not want to be fracked, factory farmed, mined, poisoned or whatever has reached a breaking limit – and that limit should and will be tested by the COGA lawsuit, and in the preliminary injunction that two Lafayette citizens with the Colorado Community Rights Network (or COCRN) has filed against them.
This kind of fight, of local communities resisting corporate dominance, is taking place all over our planet in various forms, and the community rights movement will spreading as people wake up to fact that they do NOT have to live under corporate domination of our legal system and economies.
The way that corporations have acquired so much legal power through their steady acquisition of constitutional rights since 1886 is a travesty of American justice, of which too few Americans are aware. I am ashamed of the US Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United, which allowed unlimited corporate spending in American politics. Many fear this is the beginning of the end of democracy in this country – and I hope I live to see the day that decision is overturned. And, in a way, I have – by our Community Rights Act.
Because I am very proud to stand behind our Community Rights Act, which explicitly calls out corporate personhood, and explicitly states (quote) “Corporations seeking to engage in oil or gas extraction shall not have the rights of “persons” afforded by the US or Colorado constitutions, nor shall those corporations be afforded the protections of the commerce or contracts clause with the US Constitution or corresponding sections of the Colorado Constitution.” (end quote) Now THAT is a declaration worth fighting for!
The legal history of community rights is summarized very clearly in the brief that COCRN has filed against COGA, which I would like to leave with you so you can examine it at your leisure.
Thank you for this opportunity to express my concerns.