The Community Rights movement, which asserts that communities have the same rights as governments and corporations, has expanded into eight Oregon counties.
The movement usually operates by encouraging local people to create ordinances that formally declare community self-determination, “community rights,” at a municipal level – as law.
Community Rights are usually invoked to protect a locality’s health, environment and to require sustainable practices. Doing this, communities around the nation have stopped corporations from establishing factory farms, from dumping toxic sludge and from building “big box” retail stores within their borders.
Colorado made national headlines last year when the Community Rights advocates assisted localities (Lafayette, Boulder, Boulder County and Longmont, among others,) in passing bans or moratoriums to limit or stop oil drilling and natural gas fracking.
“It’s about empowering communities, giving them the right to decide what rights to allow and protect,” says Kai Hunschke, organizer for the Community Legal Defense Fund (CLDF) who was in Salem recently. “Right now Josephine County [in Southwest Oregon] is petitioning for the right to be free of pesticides, and Benton and Lane Counties are petitioning for local food systems.”
In 2008, CLDF assisted the country of Ecuador in drafting a constitution that recognized the inalienable right of nature to exist, rather than being only property with no rights of its own.
Hunschke says that ten states have now adopted community rights laws and that, with momentum building in so many counties, Oregon is not far behind.