Guest Opinion: Pushing for community rights |

Guest Opinion: Pushing for community rights

Mary Russell
Staff Photo |

Thanks to the Post Independent for the Nov. 23 column about Battlement Mesa’s PUD. I agree, the law is stacked against local communities all across the nation, to protect people and places from all sorts of corporate intrusions.

You wrote, “I don’t know the solution — and apparently I’m not alone in the state or nation on that point. A few places have banned fracking. That won’t happen here. A few intense battles have been settled with lease swaps — something, by the way, that Bill Nelson proposed in 2008 that withered for lack of local government support.”

I would like to address your three lines of thought:

1. “I don’t know the solution — and apparently I’m not alone in the state or nation …”

More than 200 communities and seven states across the nation who are working on a solution. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund ( is working with these communities, including several of us from Colorado, to craft Community Bills of Rights, and pass statewide Community Rights Amendments to do so. Ben Price of CELDF is working with a resident of the Battlement Mesa PUD to create a solution for that municipality.

2. “A few places have banned fracking. That won’t happen here.”

Banning fracking can happen here, if the citizens of Colorado learn about and vote for the 2016 Colorado Community Rights Amendment. Once the 2016 Colorado Community Rights Amendment ( passes, any municipality can choose to, or not, craft its own Community Bill of Rights, like Lafayette, Colorado, did last year.

Yes, Lafayette is being sued by Gov. John Hickenlooper, but residents believe it’s less important to get sued than to let their community get run roughshod over by their elected officials and outside corporations, with no say in the matter.

3. “… lack of government support.”

Our state’s and nation’s governments act along the premise that they are the parent and we (local municipalities) are their children. Four changes need to be made, three of which will be addressed with the passage of the 2016 Community Rights Amendment:

i. Pre-emption: States make lawful corporate activities that are then forced upon local communities, without first getting authorization or approval from those communities. (Lack of local, self-government.)

ii. Dillon’s Rule: Local communities cannot write laws that are more protective of people and places than is already established by the state. For example, it’s illegal for a community to pass a higher minimum wage than the state, unless you’re a home-rule community. Even then, the state can sue. (Parent telling the child what to do.)

iii. Corporate Personhood: Corporations are given more legal rights as people than natural persons (corporations are born from a piece of paper — natural persons are born from the womb of a woman).

Consider learning more about the growing national community rights movement. There is much to learn about how our system of government became this way (CELDF’s Democracy School), how it has evolved to strip the rights of people and hand those rights over to “commerce” since the 1789 Federal Convention, and what the solution is.

This is a long journey we are on, to bring democracy back to our communities. It’s been 226 years in the making, and it may take a few more years for us to reverse it. But I know it will be worth it when I see more communities in Colorado enact their inalienable rights of local, community self-government guaranteed by state and federal constitutions (

If you’d like to join me in recruiting people to help me collect the signatures needed to get the Colorado Community Rights Amendment on the 2016 ballot, go to and volunteer. I will be conducting petitioning trainings in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties starting in December.

Mary Russell lives in Carbondale.

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