A Publication of theNew Hampshire Community Rights Network Educating and empowering communities and elected officials about our individual and collective right of local self-governance in order to secure and protect the inherent and unalienable rights of all inhabitants of New Hampshire to economic, social and environmental justice, including the rights of nature.
I'm asking you to please share this opportunity with
family and friends to help meet our goal.
Granite State citizens have discovered when they’ve endeavored to locally curtail corporate water withdrawals, fossil fuel pipeline infrastructure, unsustainable green-energy projects, toxic waste dumping, and water contamination, local democratic control has been stripped away by the combined effort of legislators who adopt corporate-lobbied laws, and the courts that uphold them.
As a local Community Rights activist in my own community and serving president of the NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN), I'm asking you to join me in this opportunity to advance local rights for People & Nature.
For those who have already given or pledged, I ask you to consider a response to this challenge gift with either extending and increasing your pledge for an additional year or make a one-time additional gift above and beyond your present pledge commitment.
SB 306empowers THE STATE SUPREME COURT with elective powers to appoint members to a “Housing Appeals Board.” In turn, the appointed board is empowered with judicial powers to override any and all collective local decision-making authority around housing developments and carry out the will of corporate actors against those living there. What a deal.
The bill passed the NH Senate, but was then tabled. The Senate then added the bill’s language to the Senate budget. Why do this? It's a way to pass legislation through the adoption of a budget, regardless of the outcome of the stand-alone bill.
A similar bill, HB 104, has already been killed in the NH House. Is this the Senate’s way of forcing legislation that the House has already rejected? Legislative shenanigans are not uncommon, especially at the end of the legislative season, but this action by the Senate stoops very low by allowing them to bypass additional public hearings and push SB 306 through this year.
Senator Guida of Warren, NH (District 2) proposed SB 306 and claims in an opinion piece published by the Concord Monitorthat “Lack of affordable workforce housing is a major crisis in New Hampshire. Senate Bill 306 addresses this issue by establishing a Housing Appeals Board whose sole purpose is to save time and money for all parties when an appeal is filed in relation to a decision rendered by a local land-use board.” But contrary to Sen. Guida’s claimed concerns about “affordable” housing, the 9-page bill only mentions “affordable” once in the preamble, not in the actual binding language of the law.
It would be one thing if SB 306 was being proposed as setting minimum standards of protection for affordable housing so as not to encourage gentrification, but this is all about overriding local voices so that the wealthy propertied of society can protect their privilege. Corporate developers that save a portion of their developments for housing could possibly use the new “Housing Appeals Board” to override local land-use ordinances that, for example, limit certain commercial uses to industrial zones only or maybe local laws that protect sensitive ecosystems and natural environments.
If SB 306 is adopted as part of the State’s budget, it becomes law. Any housing development application could be legitimately denied based on local ordinances but the developer could go to the State-created, NH Supreme Court-appointed, “Housing Appeals Board” and have the denial heard and overturned. It’s as simple as that. And, taxpayers would get to foot the bill at an estimated $400,000 each year to have their local collective voices silenced – the will of the citizenry be damned.
A growing number of Granite State communities recognize the State’s ever-increasing overreach and interference into local matters. These communities are adopting local rights-based ordinances (not land-use) that recognize the right of local self-government and ecosystem rights – empowering those most affected by governing decisions with authority to make those decisions. Join them and let’s work together to secure our right to decide what’s best for the human and natural communities in the places where it matters most – right where we live. Learn more by visiting the NH Community Rights Network (NHCRN) website at www.nhcommunityrights.org.
New Hampshire is often assumed to be the beacon of local representation. And why not? New Hampshire is the Live Free or Die state. The first colonial state to separate from British rule with its own constitution, six months prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It has the largest state legislature in the nation.
But the truth about local representation in the Granite State is very different. As a citizen of this state who has directly engaged with state legislators for the past four years, I can tell you that the state Legislature is beholden to party politics, not its citizens. In fact, I can tell you that New Hampshire is so dominated by party politics as to resemble the way corporations hi-jack our government and deny democracy to We the People.
Educating the people on local democracy is the work of the N.H. Community Rights Network (NHCRN). As a grassroots non-profit organization, NHCRN has been advocating for the N.H. Community Rights Amendment — a state constitutional amendment that would secure the right of local communities to protect their residents and natural environment against corporate activities that violate local rights. In a nutshell, the amendment recognizes that real people, communities, and natural environments have rights to health, safety, and welfare; the authority to prohibit corporate activities that violate those rights; and ensures that local laws adopted under this amendment’s authority can only strengthen and expand rights and protections — they “shall not” weaken or constrict existing rights and protections secured by other local, state, federal, or international laws.
In 2018, the N.H. Community Rights Amendment achieved a recommendation of ought-to-pass (OTP) from a Republican-controlled subcommittee. However, the chair of the full committee refused to allow the subcommittee to offer their report. The Republican-led N.H. House then denied advancing the N.H. Community Rights Amendment to the Senate. Even so, a roll call vote on the N.H. House floor revealed that one-third of the 2018 N.H. House did vote to support elevating the right of N.H. people to use their municipal governments to pass local laws protecting health, safety, and welfare of individuals, their communities, and natural environments against corporate activities that harm them. Of the one-third of the N.H. House that supported the people’s right to local community self-government, 73 percent were Democrats and 2 percent were Republicans.
After last year’s show of support from Democrats and with this year’s new Democratic majority in the House, one might have expected the N.H. Community Rights Amendment to receive an ought-to-pass (OTP) recommendation. That didn’t happen. The same Democratic Party that last year supported the right to self-govern collectively at the local level when the Republicans were in charge is the very Democratic Party that this year denied a people’s vote despite its control of the House. It turns out that neither party supports the right of New Hampshire citizens to protect themselves from plutocrats hiding behind corporations and profiting by harming our communities.
This result defines party politics, right down to the pressure to conform that made legislators buckle and abandon their constituents. Individual state representatives on both sides of the aisle expressed principled support for securing the right of local self-governance in the Live Free or Die state. But after the parties caucused prior to this year’s committee executive session and before the House vote on the N.H. Community Rights Amendment, some representatives who had taken a stand on the side of the people they represent changed their votes and aligned instead with the agenda of party leadership and their corporate handlers to vote against the amendment.
On the Republican side of the aisle, leadership went so far as to issue a gag order. Not only were the people’s elected representatives told how to vote on the amendment in caucus, but they were also told not to discuss it outside of the assigned committee. They were, in fact, forbidden by the political club in which they have membership from speaking or deliberating on behalf of the people. Granite State pride in a large “people’s” legislature means nothing if private political parties can control the votes and deliberations of the state representatives that we elect. Why do representatives comply? They don’t want to commit political suicide and risk losing leadership support for bills they propose. They don’t want to be politically punished for going against the party. But where does this leave the people? The answer: unrepresented in a supposedly representative republic.
I’ve had state representatives from both sides of the aisle apologize to me for voting against the amendment and against their own conscience. The sentiment is thoughtful, but truly, there is no room for apologies when state legislators are elected to protect and uphold the rights of New Hampshire citizens but instead uphold and protect the privileges given to corporations that let them buy elections and politicians. This is a catastrophe for democracy and has real-life consequences. State law now legally permits among a host of other evils, activities that have elevated New Hampshire to the highest rate of pediatric cancers in the nation and the second highest rate of breast cancers. Citizens don’t want to hear apologies, they want their state representatives to represent them and not the special interests that have purchased the political parties.
Exeter residents build on growing rights-based
efforts to stop climate change
At annual Town Meeting this year, Exeter residents voted 1176 to 1007 to adopt their Right to a Healthy Climate Ordinance. This is the first right-based climate law in the state of New Hampshire. The ordinance asserts the community’s rights to clean air, pure water, and local community self-government. It bans corporate activities that release toxic contaminants into the air, water, and soil as a violation of those rights.
Exeter community members face Liberty Utility’s proposed 27-mile long Granite Bridge fracked gas pipeline project, which is slated to cross eight New Hampshire towns. The project threatens to contaminate the Piscataqua River Watershed, an ecosystem that hundreds of thousands of people and countless species depend upon for clean air and water.
Maura Fay, co-founder of the community group Citizen Action for Exeter’s Environment (CAEE), declared, “Our right to a healthy climate is an unalienable right. Any new energy infrastructure in our town must align with that right. We live here, and what we envision for our community comes before what any project developer and state government envision if it threatens our rights.”
CELDF Community Organizer Michelle Sanborn said, “The residents of Exeter are well-organized, informed, and engaged. At Town Meeting, they made real their individual and collective right to make local governing decisions that protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents and ecosystems within the town. Exeter is joining a growing Community Rights movement in New Hampshire.”
Part of that growing movement is also a rights-based state constitutional amendment. Residents from across the state are advancing the New Hampshire Community Rights Amendment – CACR8 – which was drafted by the New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN)with assistance from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund(CELDF). CELDF also assisted Exeter residents in drafting their rights-based ordinance.
Nottingham residents codify their right to a healthy climate and Freedom from Chemical Trespass Ordinance
This year, residents at Town Meeting in Nottingham, NH, adopted a rights-based ordinance asserting their right to a healthy climate, clean air, pure water, and local community self-government. The rights-based ordinance bans chemical trespass resulting from toxic waste disposal as a violation of those rights.
With the adoption of the Nottingham Freedom from Chemical Trespass Ordinance, townspeople have empowered all inhabitants of the community with legal standing to protect both human and natural communities from corporate polluters.
“This is our town, our lives, and our future. No one cares more than we do what happens here. State and federal laws have failed to protect other communities surrounding us from hazardous waste dumping. We decided to protect ourselves before we become the next cancer cluster,” said Peter White of Nottingham Water Alliance.
The Town’s adoption of the law is a part of their long commitment to protect their water. Since 2007, Nottingham residents have worked with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to protect their community’s right to quality water. CELDF assisted them in drafting the Nottingham Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance in response to USA Springs corporation seeking to withdraw water from the community’s bedrock aquifer within the Lamprey River Watershed to bottle and sell for profit in Europe. Nottingham residents adopted the law in 2008, which bans corporate water withdrawals for resale.
CELDF Community Organizer Michelle Sanborn declared, “The residents of Nottingham have been engaged in local self-governance for over a decade, determined to protect their access to quality water within the town. They are an example to all of us that local democratic decision-making is not a spectator sport, but requires due diligence, determination, and persistence. The Nottingham story continues to inspire the Community Rights movement in New Hampshire.”
Almost immediately, the Nottingham Freedom from Chemical Trespass Ordinance has been legally challenged by a resident of the town who is using his LLC to usurp the will of the voters in adopting the local law protecting water for all residents and ecosystems.
NH-CAN (New Hampshire Citizen Action News) Wants to Celebrate and Advertise Citizen Action Groups Like Yours
Rarely, if ever, do local or statewide Community Rights efforts get a
platform to share what it is they are doing and WHY.
The NHCRN has reached out and spoken to Barbara Peterson of NH-CAN and came to the conclusion that this a friendly platform for the Community Rights cause!
This call to participate is being shared with you so that your local Community Rights activist efforts have an opportunity to be seen and heard! It doesn't matter how long ago or how recent your local effort, whether your local RBO succeeded in passing or not, your participation will help raise awareness for your local cause and the need to secure the right to local self-government within the NH Constitution.
Citizen action groups like yours need media coverage. NH-CAN (New Hampshire Citizen Action News) celebrates the work that ordinary citizens do to help improve their communities. There is a great deal of work and progress that advocacy and activist groups do in New Hampshire, but it rarely makes the news. While large events, such as massive marches or legislative protests may earn a column in the local paper, the everyday tasks that such organizations engage in, the visions they have, the goals they are advancing, the projects they are working on, and the people they energize into action is rarely if ever given the attention it deserves. NH-CAN wants to highlight all your good works. Our goal is to start bringing attention to what NH citizen groups are doing to make positive changes locally and statewide in the areas of socio-political equity, environmental sustainability, and economic justice.
We would like to ask you to answer a few questions so that we can include you and your group in our weekly news report that is due to launch late winter/early spring. Every week, NH-CAN will write 1-2 profiles, each about a different NH citizen group. We will cover any projects you may be working on, past achievements and events, visions and goals for the future, contact information so others can join your work, and anything else you may want to include in the information you send us.
Our news report will be available on social media as well as by direct email. We hope that by giving attention to all that you do, more people will come to recognize the importance of your work and join your group.
Click here for the questionnaire. If you would take a few minutes to answer the questions, we will start drafting an article to publish in NH-CAN, due to launch late-winter/early spring. We may contact you for further questions and clarifications before finalizing the article.
THOSE AFFECTED BY GOVERNING DECISIONS SHOULD BE THE ONES MAKING THEM
The right of local self-government Barnstead residents watched for years as sludge, laced with carcinogens from Monsanto and other toxic industries, was dumped on farmlands impacting groundwater. We then looked on as our neighbors in the town of Nottingham fought the USA Springs takeover of their water resources. Barnstead residents subsequently enacted a rights-based ordinance asserting our right to control and protect our water resources. And recently Barnstead enacted a Freedom from Religious Identification Ordinance in response to burgeoning religious intolerance.
Secretive Legislative Tactics to Undermine Powers of Local Governments SB 306 empowers THE STATE SUPREME COURT with elective powers to appoint members to a “Housing Appeals Board.” In turn, the appointed board is empowered with judicial powers to override any and all collective local decision-making authority around housing developments and carry out the will of corporate actors against those living there. What a deal.
Community rights ordinance only way to protect our towns There are a dozen towns in New Hampshire that have passed local rights-based ordinances to protect the health and safety of people and our natural resources from corporate exploitation. Nottingham and Exeter joined the growing coalition of communities asserting their right to self-govern at town meetings this year! If we don’t act then we are ripe for getting used and abused by energy monopolies and corporate polluters!
State reps block local rights effort Representative Ellen Read (D), prime sponsor of CACR8, said that local community self-government is the basis of our country. She asked, “Shouldn’t a town be able to decide to stop a corporate activity if it hurts their town?” Read also said that towns need constitutional protection in order to fight the deep pockets of corporate encroachment.
Democracy Schoolexplores the limits of conventional regulatory organizing and offers a new organizing model that helps citizens confront the usurpation by corporations of the rights of communities, people, and earth. Lectures cover the history of people’s movements and corporate power, and the dramatic organizing over the last decade in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon by communities confronting agribusiness, the oil and gas industry, corporate hegemony over worker rights, and others. Included with participation in the Democracy School is a 300 plus-page book of background reading material.
LOVE THY NATURE- Official Trailer Narrated by Liam Neeson and winner of 27 awards, LOVE THY NATURE points to how deeply we’ve lost touch with nature, and takes viewers on a breathtaking journey through the beauty and intimacy of our relationship with the natural world. The film shows that a renewed connection with nature is key both to our personal health and the health of our planet.
Rights of the Salish Sea Community Rights San Juan Islands is a non-profit working on Bill of Rights for the Salish Sea to bring to the San Juan County, WA ballot in 2019. This video describes why we are working towards this goal.
WHAT HAS PACRN BEEN UP TO? The Pennsylvania Community Rights Network has been busy over the past six months preparing, training, and promoting a Constitutional Amendment in the Pennsylvania legislature.
A letter from Carol Van Strum Fifty-six years ago, Dr. Seuss wrote the parable of the Lorax, who speaks for the trees, trying to save them from an insatiable factory that consumes every tree and poisons the river, air, and soil of a once-verdant forest.
Get Involved Join or start a Community Rights group or organization where you live! Community rights organizing begins when you, your friends, family and neighbors recognize that your fundamental, inalienable rights are violated; rights to clean air, water, soil and food; to health, safety and happiness; to privacy, prosperity and justice.
How to Arm Nature Against Corporate Profiteers Corporate powers—who have perverted law, logic and nature to have their lifeless profiteering entities declared "persons"—are aghast that Mother Nature not only has rights but those rights can be legally and morally superior to the claim that a corporation's right to profit is absolute.