The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is bringing its Democracy School to Paonia in October. Raleigh Burleigh spoke with Lesandre Holiday of the group North Fork Valley Community Rights Advocates at the recent Community Fair and Solutions Expo in Paonia Town Park.
“I think that everybody want more local control and everybody wants their rights to be upheld by their government.”
Motivated to protect their environment, Lesandre Holiday and the group North Fork Valley Community Rights Advocates are working to introduce a community bill of rights to Paonia's town government.
“Community rights ordinances are proposed local ordinances crafted with the held of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, that's CELDF. They're based in Pennsylvania and they're helping over 200 other communities in the United States craft similar bills of rights to restore local control, challenge state preemption laws and keep out unwanted corporate activity, whatever that is unique to the community...”
What does the draft bill of rights for Paonia include?
“So, we renumerate our right to self government, right to a healthy climate, clean air, water and soil, the rights of nature and natural systems to exist, and then the right to protect from governmental and corporate interference. And then the enforcements which is essentially, if this were to be passed then we would have the right as the citizenry to defend it with non-violent direct action.
According to Lesandre, there is interest in a similar movement for the Roaring Fork Valley.
“There's some interest in a chapter in the Roaring Fork that we may cooperate with and help establish.”
What kind of weight does such an ordinance hold?
“So community bills of rights are illegal, essentially. They challenge the law and break the law in an attempt to change it. And so, they are likely to be challenged in a court. State preemption is the concept that local municipalities can't really make that many of their own rules, they have to play within the confines of the state.”
In preparation for inevitable pushback from larger entities, like the state, county or well-financed corporations, North Fork Valley Community Rights Advocates are bringing Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund's Democracy School to the area this fall.
"We'll be hosting CELDF's Democracy School October 18 and 19 which is a Friday and Saturday. We got a grant to bring that and it's usually several thousands dollars. So we'll have room for about 25 people and would love to have some folks from the Roaring Fork come over as well."
More information about North Fork Valley Community Rights Advocates is available here.