James Lee: Mendocino Coast Transition Towns Upcoming Event Notice — Reasserting Community Rights — Going Beyond Single Issue Activism…

Anderson Valley

Are you frustrated by the apparent inability of local communities to stop corporate destruction of the natural world (unnecessary road building, fracking, sludge dumping on farmland, bottling and removal of water from local rivers, use of toxic pesticides in forests, oil drilling in pristine areas, etc.)? Are you wondering why the public seems to be powerless to stop these abuses of corporate power? This workshop will illuminate how and why the law has been used to progressively expand corporate powers. It will also provide a new and proven way to reestablish community rights, the power of community self-determination, and the power to stop destructive practices through local ordinance writing. Used in more than 160 communities in ten states across the USA, local ordinances are enabling local communities to assert their right to protect themselves and nature from corporate domination and control. In support of this, the California Constitution says: “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security, and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same, whenever the public good may require it.”

Well-known community rights organizer, and partner with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF.org), Paul Cienfuegos will be leading this intensive two-day workshop at the Community Center of Mendocino (998 School St., in the town of Mendocino), on President’s Day weekend — February 15-16, 2014. This two full day event includes two potluck lunches. Paul is the founder of Democracy Unlimited in Humboldt County, which models new ways of working on a variety of ecological and social justice issues such as forest clear-cutting, weakening organic food labeling standards, and big box store take-over of local business. He also co-founded CommunityRightsPDX.org, which is Portland Oregon’s first community rights organization. More information about his 38 years of local activism, and the many workshops and presentations that he has delivered across the country, can be found at PaulCienfuegos.com.

The last workshop delivered by Paul, a few months ago in Willits, was over-subscribed and filled up fast. To make sure you have a place in this one, you must register in advance. There is a sliding scale fee based on income, ranging from $60 to $260. To sign-up, contact Charles Cresson Wood, with Mendocino Coast Transition Towns, at ccwood@ix.netcom.com or 707-937-5572. This event is co-sponsored by the Alliance for Democracy, the Mendocino Coast Chapter of Move to Amend, and Community Rights Organization Willits (CROW).

If you are unable to attend, and would like to get involved in local Transition Towns events, email us atinfo@transitionmendocinocoast.org or call Charles Cresson Wood at 707-937-5572.

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A Quick Overview of Community Rights & the Use of Ordinances:

Paul Cienfuegos and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) work with communities to establish Community Rights – such that communities are empowered to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their residents and the natural environment, and establish environmental and economic sustainability.

Community Rights is a paradigm shift, a move away from unsustainable projects and practices at the cost of communities and nature, and toward community decision-making, while recognizing and protecting our interdependence with nature.

Today, communities across the country are finding that they don’t have the right to make critical decisions for themselves – such as the right to say “no” to fracking or factory farming, and the right to say “yes” to sustainable energy and food systems.

They’re finding that there is a structure of state and federal law in place that pre-empts local decision making, and that forces harmful activities such as fracking and factory farming into communities – despite community opposition and harm to the public health and environment.

And further, that our structure of law elevates corporate decision making over community decision making.  Thus, corporations have court-conferred constitutional “rights,” which they are able to wield against communities to eliminate local efforts that may interfere with industry plans to expand their operations, no matter the impact on communities and nature.

For example, residents of Tamaqua Borough, PA, were faced with the dumping of toxic sewage sludge in abandoned mining pits, and were told they had no right to say “no” to sludging.

Communities in Oregon’s fertile Willamette Valley are facing contamination of their farmland by genetically modified (GM) seeds.  They are finding that their state government is looking to pre-empt their efforts to say “no” to GM seeds and establish sustainable food and farm systems.

Communities in New Hampshire, facing construction of a massive energy transmission project that will cut through the most pristine landscapes of the state, are told they have no right to stop the project and in its place establish sustainable energy systems.

Faced with these and a wide range of threats, communities across the country are reaching out to Paul Cienfuegos and CELDF for help. Through grassroots organizing and public education, Paul Cienfuegos and CELDF are assisting communities to establish Community Bills of Rights that assert the right to local self-governance, such that communities are able to say “no” to threats and “yes” to sustainability.

In addition, recognizing that communities want to do more than just say “no” to harmful activities, and in fact wish to put in place their vision for healthy, thriving communities, CELDF works with them to develop Community Bills of Rights that establish the right to clean air and water, sustainable energy, sustainable food systems, and the rights of nature.

To protect these rights, the Community Bills of Rights prohibit activities that would violate those rights, such as fracking and GM seeds.  Harmful corporate activities that directly impact a community are banned as Community Rights are elevated above corporate “rights.”

CELDF has assisted more than 150 communities across the country to establish Community Rights ordinances that today are protecting communities from a range of harmful practices, from shale gas drilling and fracking to the land application of sewage sludge.

For more information, see www.celdf.org.

Transition Towns is an international movement of more than 300 communities worldwide that have organized to localize their economy, reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, establish food security and build resilience against climate change and peak oil.

Our local movement follows this model to work toward a sustainable and regenerative economy.


No criticism intended. Sounds like folks will have a good time at this program.

I do not understand how one forms community in a population that hardly talks to each other, and when it does it does so in small, socially isolated groups with very narrow concerns. This is the way that oppression engineers the social space. It is uplifting to have meetings like this for people who want to feel like there is a future, but it is discouraging that it almost never goes beyond the meeting stage except for a few very focused concerns that end up being promoted by the usual suspects while everyone else goes back to sleep.

A good first step to forming community would be to start open ended, inclusive, regularly scheduled but structured dialog sessions similar to Quaker dialog. It is simple. People take turns, just like in kindergarten. People insert a brief period of silence between speakers. People are discouraged from speaking to what others say directly, positive or negative, and encouraged to speak from their hearts and not against others. At the beginning of the discussion people can make one time rules, how many times around, how long for each speaker, etc. That is a good community building exercise. Folks interested in community building will find A World Waiting to Be Born: Civility Rediscovered by M. Scott Peck. He ran a group of professionals that facilitated the efforts of various groups of clients wanting to form community. This book is a good place to begin to understand how something so simple, and biologically correct for our social species, can be sooooo hard. My take is that folks always want to run before they can walk, walk before they can crawl, and crawl before they can sit. Lowering our ambitions to a workable goal is the first step, really.


Hi Ybera,

Actually this is a very large growing movement where average Joe and Jane’s are coming to the table to first learn how we got into the mess we are in and then start to enact positive action of self determination.

Jefferson County and other counties have filed succession papers.

Several North County Sheriff counties have organized to ‘prevent Federal and State Tyranny’, including Sheriff Allman of Mendocino.

I do not necessarily agree that we should be playing in the same cesspool as our current regime is dictating and controlling nor do not believe that I need a ‘leader’ or need to be led by those I cannot look, touch or feel and in no way ‘represent’ us or even know or care of our concerns, needs or who we are.

I also do not believe that we should blindly follow the Constitution that was written some 245 yrs. back and when enacted only allowed 7% of ‘We the People’ the right to vote and took some 200 more years before women and blacks were added.

it is time to assert our rights as humans to self determine our freedoms and rights. It’s a start though. It will be messy, it will take a long time to change but by community gatherings we can start the process and CELDF is doing an amazing job of bringing locals together to do just that. They were instrumental in getting Ecuador to write into their constitution the first ‘Rights of Nature’ law.

It’s very early in the self determination game but things are a-changin’ in the Revolution-Evolution game of Life.

I invite you, and all, to join us and find out for yourself what is workable or not.

Hi back J. Lee,

My physical condition limits my ability to get around just now to events, but thanks for the invitation.

Of the various limitations of movement politics, this problem of transportation is key. Movement politics presumes that folks can travel some distance to meetings and events. Unless I am blessedly wrong, the ability to do that is going to go pretty much away except for a narrowing economic segment. It may get the juices going, and that is not a bad thing, to trek off to meet up with folks who think like you do and renew one’s energy and commitment, but where I see the work needing to be done is with inclusiveness. Paradoxically movement politics tens to further balkanize the public and can have benefits for the Lewis Powell fan club.

Plus, beginnings are graced with simplicity, and attempts to improve them can wreck the embryo of solidarity and end up becoming yet another spectacle, full on the outside and empty on the inside.

Of course it never does to be a scold, even if it does feel good. One thought I had was to make regular neighborhood meetings an opportunity of gambling. A schematic would be that people divide up into groups of six, do their discussion, then roll a die to see who wins the six dollars collected as participants put their dollar in the pot. Subsequent iterations of this would be groups of the winners, adding discussion about what their group got into, and then another roll of the die and a winner! A dollar is so weak right now would probably work better with five dollars to enter and a thirty dollar first level payout. If you managed to get thirty six folks doing this the grand prize would be $180, a nice little score. But the point would be to do this with people within walking distance who see each other on some basis. The social payoff would happen at the post office where people would talk about what they had heard and were thinking about and generate enthusiasm for the process. Creative solutions of a very organic nature can arise from this sort of community action.

My first ever real job was as a Community Development Worker Volunteer, for real, not like Obama. Folks involved in human scale change understand what I am talking about, but it is more an experiential sort of understanding. Not, you must understand it before you do it,” but rather, “You won’t understand it until you do it.”