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Democracy Denied in Small Town, USA

by: Mt. Shasta Community Rights Project, Molly Brown  from ReadtheDirt.org 

Editor’s Note: Read the story of the inner workings of Mt. Shasta, California’s effort to pass a Community Water Rights and Self-Government Ordinance. Hear how the citizens of this small town were, as our author states, “denied their right to vote on this admittedly controversial measure.” The Ordinance would have banned corporate cloud seeding and water extraction.

[T]hose of us involved in the Ordinance project are part of the Mount Shasta watershed protecting itself.” –Author, Molly Brown, Mt. Shasta Resident

Opening excerpts:

I live in the beautiful small town of Mt. Shasta (population 3,500) in far northern California. The town is nestled at the base of Mount Shasta, a 14,170-foot volcano that last erupted some 500 years ago. The town is surrounded by mountains and forests, high mountain lakes are scattered throughout. The headwaters of the mighty Sacramento River flow out of a spring in our City Park. In short, I live in paradise, and along with many other citizens of South Siskiyou County, I want to preserve it for generations to come.

Mt Shasta - Robin Milam

Mt. Shasta Community Water Rights and Self-Government Ordinance

A year and a half ago, a friend asked me to attend a meeting of a group promoting a citizen initiative called the Mt. Shasta Community Water Rights and Self-Government Ordinance. The group of younger (than me) people inspired me to join the effort, just for the pleasure of working with such a committed, intelligent, heart-centered group.

I knew that this group had formed in response to a cloud seeding program that PG&E, a California public utilities corporation, was proposing nearby. PG&E wanted to cloud-seed in hopes of artificially forcing clouds to rain upstream of their hydroelectric dams. Citizens concerned about this program had soon discovered that there was absolutely no regulation of this activity as long as the towers that would expel the cloud-seeding chemicals were located on private land—never mind that the chemicals would travel onto neighboring properties. The utility was required only to place a notice in the local paper, and nothing more—no Environmental Impact Report, no permit from the county, no oversight whatsoever. We receive no power from PG&E but would have to deal with any weather complications from the cloud seeding, and endure any chemical side effects—with no benefit and no recourse!

Shannon Biggs of Global Exchange contacted the group and offered help. Her “Community Rights Program” assists communities confronted by corporate harms to enact laws that place the rights of communities and the rights of Nature above the claimed “rights” of corporations. She also put the group in contact with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), which has helped over 150 communities on the East Coast to pass laws that have successfully barred harmful corporate activities. Shannon and Ben Price from CELDF taught a “Democracy School” to interested people in Mt. Shasta, who then launched the ordinance project. The School introduced the concept of rights-based law, which derives its authority from citizens’ rights to local self-government and to a healthy environment, and the rights of natural communities and ecosystems to survive and thrive (also called “the Rights of Nature”). Rights-based laws can prohibit specified harmful activities outright.

Read Molly’s full story in ReadtheDirt.org at http://readthedirt.org/democracy-denied-in-small-town-usa