Liberty Tree News - Power to the Cities! (and towns, and villages, and counties)

November 2, 2014
Democracy News: a service of the Liberty Tree Foundation
 
 
Light Brigade protest of 
"Emergency Management" in Detroit
Dear friend,
In today's Liberty Tree news we bring you updates from the exciting movement for greater Community Democracy.
Across the country and around the world a growing number of cities, towns, villages, and counties are resisting the growing corporate assault on our environment, civil liberties, and economic future.
They are using eminent domain to restore residents to their homes.  They are invoking home rule powers to regulate toxins and mining.  They are protecting undocumented immigrantsraising wages, and nullifying federal drug laws.  And many are under attack, facing emergency management laws and preemption actions intended to subdue “power from below.”
 
Read on for a sampling of some of the many efforts communities
are engaged in to take back power for the people:
 
 
A Welcome to Liberty Tree Board Member Leland Pan!
 
 
We want to extend a warm welcome to our newest board member, Leland Pan.  As an activist, union organizer, and Dane County Board Supervisor Leland has worked tirelessly to advance the cause of community democracy in areas like environmental protectionpolice accountability, and local living wage legislation.
 
A student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 2010 to 2014, Leland was heavily involved in the Wisconsin Uprising and truly brings a wealth of energy and insight to the organization.
 
 
 
 
Week of action to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Nov. 8-14
 
 
In early November activists around the world will be staging a week of action to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP – a secretive "free" trade agreement described by some as "NAFTA on steroids."
 
Most disturbingly, the TPP would set up a tribunal system whereby multinational corporations could sue governments, including local governments, for setting labor, consumer, and environmental standards.
 
The TPP threatens our communities' democratic rights to do everything from passing local living wage laws to promoting "buy local" campaigns to enacting local measures to combat climate change.
 
 
 
 
 
The struggle for democracy in D.C. moves forward
 
 
The fight for democracy in Washington, D.C. moved forward last month with a congressional hearing on the New Columbia Admissions Act - a proposed bill requiring only congressional approval that would finally grant the people of D.C. statehood.
A recent article in Firedoglake points out that while the bill has little chance of passing right now it is notable because establishment District leaders like non-voting Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton are finally joining longtime democracy advocates in demanding statehood – not merely "voting rights" (meaning representation in congress) – for D.C.
Without statehood, D.C. residents have only a limited form of local democratic control because Congress has final say over their budgetary and policy decisions.  Congress has used this power to override the will of the people on many local issues including marijuana legalization, public school policy, and progressive taxation.
 
 
Chevron engaged in massive election spending to subvert local democracy
 
 
The oil giant Chevron is spending millions of dollars to undermine local democracy in two California communities.
 
In Santa Barbara, Chevron has spent over $2.5 million to defeat "Measure P" - a local ballot measure that would ban "high intensity" fossil fuel extraction, most notably fracking.  In total industry groups have spent nearly $7 million to affect the outcome, and the grassroots community organizations behind the measure are organizing countywide to overcome their outsized influence.  
 
 
 
Attack ads sent out by Chevron-funded campaign committees to influence  
Richmond's local elections
 
In Richmond, where Chevron has a major refinery, it has spent over $3 million dollars to oppose progressive city council candidates including outgoing Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.
 
During her mayoral tenure McLaughlin has been an effective advocate for community democracy by promoting the growth of cooperative businesses, utilizing a groundbreaking method of eminent domain to rescue homes in danger of foreclosure, and improving the city's financial health by forcing Chevron to pay $114 million in back taxes.  
 
 
 
 
Detroit's water crisis is a democracy crisis
 
 
For over a year and a half the city of Detroit has been run by an unelected city manager appointed under Michigan's unconstitutional Public Act 436.  
Four other Detroit cities have also had emergency managers imposed on them in recent years, and in total over half of Michigan's African American citizens live in a city without local democracy.
However, since the beginning community resistance to this removal of the fundamental right to local democratic control has been strong.
 
Detroit activist Maureen Taylor (center) participating in the international "Water Wars" panel at Liberty Tree's recent  Climate Convergenceconference in New York City
Most recently Detroit activists have been organizing to end the massive water shut offs affecting tens of thousands of residents.  
Encouraged by a recent U.N. delegation that came to investigate and condemn the city's undemocratically instituted water policy, community organizations are vowing to continue fighting for the complete restoration of water service and an end to the ongoing privatization of their water system.
 
 
Tribal activists plan community owned solar power plant
 
Black Mesa activists marching in solidarity with the people of Richmond, CA and their ongoing fight against Chevron
 
Navajo and Hopi communities near Black Mesa, Arizona are planning to develop a solar power plant on the site of a coal mine recently closed through grassroots activism.
 
According to a Yes! Magazine article about the project the The Black Mesa Water Coalition,  which is leading the effort, is working to ensure the plant will be owned and controlled directly by the community.  This would allow the plant to generate local reinvestment funds that could be used to create "new economy" oriented businesses like "wool production and food sovereignty projects".