Monday, September 29, 2014

Bees are Coming!

ROCK BOTTOM in the Age of Extreme Resource Extraction:

Fracking, Sulfide Mining, and Tar Sands in the Great Lakes Region

The Beehive Collective brings its giant posters and stories to Decorah
Tue, October 7 at 7:00 PM 
@ArtHaus, 508 W Water St
A swarm is coming! Members of The Beehive Design Collective, a non-profit arts and activism organization dedicated to “cross-pollinating the grassroots,” are heading this way to share stories and images depicting today's greatest challenges. The event is free and open to the public.The Beehive is an all-volunteer swarm of educators, artists, and activists using images to communicate and educate about the complex realities of our times. The dizzyingly detailed, hand-drawn, large-format posters and banners are portable murals that come alive through storytelling, illuminating how single issues are interconnected and part of bigger systems.
Join in as the Bees deconstruct often overwhelming global issues in an engaging and interactive presentation, using metaphors from the natural world to connect social and environmental struggles.
ROCK BOTTOM is a special new presentation, using allegorical images from "The True Cost of Coal" and "Mesoamerica Resiste" graphics and informative stories from around the Great Lakes bio-region.The Bees’ strive to go beyond illustrating only the bad news, rounding out the talk with stories of grassroots organizing, collective action, and inspiration. The story begins with exploring the legacy of colonial and industrial expansion,connecting that history to today’s top-down development plans and resource extraction. It continues with examples of resistance and alternatives, especially organized and led by Indigenous peoples. Celebrating ecological diversity is also a priority, with a cast of characters that includes many hundreds of species of insects, animals, and plants!The collaboratively produced, educational illustrations were created through an intensive and ongoing process ofgrassroots research. After graphics are completed, Bees tour all of the world to distribute the completed graphicswidely as tools for storytelling, popular education, organizing, and movement building.
Contact: Sponsored by the Community Rights Alliance of Winneshiek County, More on the Beehive at

Mora County Commissioner John Olivas coming to the Driftless!

Come hear John Olivas of New Mexico talk about how his county banned fracking, and what came next. 
Could we BAN frac sand mining in the Midwest? 

John Olívas, elected in 2010 to the Mora County, New Mexico Commissioner, helped his county to ban tracking. Come hear him speak on one of the days when he is visiting in SE MN, NE IA, and SW WI, Sept. 27-30.  Olivas is an articulate and passionate proponent of rights-based local bans.

Read his public statement, 
"Defending Our Community Bill of Rights Ordinance
Which Bans Corporate Oil and Gas Drilling in Mora"
Confirmed venues include: 
  • Winneshiek county, IA: Sunday, Sept. 28at 7:00 at the Cellar, located at the old Armory at 421 W. Water St. in Decorah.  The event is free and open to the public.
  • Vernon County, WI: Monday, Sept. 29 at 7:00 at the main lobby of the Viroqua High School, 7-8:30 presentation followed by Q and A. Free and open to the public. 
  • Trempealeau County, Town of Whitehall, Tues. Sept. 30, 6:00. Location to be announced. 
  • Still available, if you'd like to bring John Olivas to your area somewhere in the tri-state area: Saturday, Sept. 27. (contact Liz Rog, 563-382-8013) 
More on John Olivas:
In April 2013, Olívas led the charge to make his county the first in the U.S. to permanently ban corporations from fracking or otherwise developing oil and gas within its borders. Olívas states, "A lot of people ask, ‘Who is this small community up in northern New Mexico that's picking a fight with oil and gas?' But as a matter of survival, local people have always prioritized conservation, and they resent outside corporations making money at their expense.” During six months of meetings, residents made clear that they want to protect their land-based heritage. "If you allow industry to come into your community, it changes the dynamics of the culture. I don't think we're ready for that."
Where Mora's fracking ban is concerned, the work is just beginning:  Four private landowners backed by oil and gas interests sued last November, followed by a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell in January, alleging violation of their constitutional rights. "We knew we were going to get sued," Olívas says. Mora County plans to fight, with help from the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. Given opponents' deeper pockets, that could mean five to seven years of wrangling, and the creation of some legal precedents. Other communities that have adopted similar measures, banning specific corporate activities that harm the resources of local citizens – Las Vegas, New Mexico, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and more – are watching.
Many counties in the Driftless are home to mines serving local needs such as road gravel and dairy farming. Frac sand mining is currently taking place in over 120 places of SW WI, with many more mines operating or pending in other parts of the region. Communities are deeply concerned about this new industry because of water pollution from surficants, air pollution from silica dust, and road damage from truck traffic.
The event is sponsored by the Community Rights Alliance of Winneshiek County (CRA). CRA was formed in May 2013 to peacefully assert our Constitutional right to local, democratic self-governance, for the purpose of protecting the health and integrity of our communities, our commonly shared natural resources, and our future.
Would You Like to Learn More? 

From right where you sit you can watch this 19 minute slide show and understand what the Community Rights Movement is all about: 

"So Your Community is Going to be Fracked, Mined, Factory Farmed or Fill in the Blank”

Visit us on Facebook: 
Community Rights Alliance of Winneshiek County

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cover Letter to John Olivas' March 2014 Statement (sent to Board of Supervisors)

Community Rights Alliance of Winneshiek County,
119 Winnebago Street
Decorah, Iowa 52101
September 19, 2014

Dear Supervisors Ashbacher, Karlsbroten, Kuhn, Logsdon and Thompson,

On Monday, September 29, the Community Rights Alliance will be on the morning agenda.  We want to share specific information with you regarding a community rights based ordinance used to ban fracing in Mora County, New Mexico.

In order to provide you with the fullest possible understanding of what that county did, we have invited John Olivas, chairperson of the Mora County Board of Commission to share during our presentation.

As way of background regarding what the Mora County commission did I am enclosing a copy of the statement Mr. Olivas released last March. It is challenging and powerful. I hope you will have the opportunity to read the statement before the meeting.

The need to utilize our constitutional rights to defend and protect our lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness is never more apparent than in this time of corporate control of the direction and decisions currently being made across this county. It is our time to say, “Yes!” to local decision-making and direction setting.

We are citizens concerned with keeping the geologic uniqueness of our county unencumbered by industrial removal of it. We stand and ask you, the supervisors, to take the steps necessary to prevent frac sand extraction from being permitted in our county.  


Steve Luse

for the Community Rights Alliance of Winneshiek County

Monday, September 22, 2014

CR Quiz - Question #2

When the Winneshiek County BoS voted unanimously to deny a permit from Millenium Ag Corporation to expand a factory hog confinement operation, the Iowa DNR and EPC ruled to…
a. support the decision of Winneshiek County citizens and deny the permit
b. approve the permit because current law gives more rights to corporations than it does to community majorities
c. approve the permit because they think Winneshiek County citizens are misguided

b. approve the permit because current law gives more rights to corporations that it does to community majorities

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"Home Rule Does Not Protect Us" - Community Rights Letter to the Board #2

CRA member Jim Tripp mailing the 2nd Letter to the Board

[This is the 2nd in a series of letters to the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors from the Community Rights Alliance of Winneshiek County. The purpose of these letters is to clearly illustrate a popular stance on frac sand mining in our county, while further articulating the legal and historical implications of the Community Rights approach to county law-making.]

To the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors:
The Board of Supervisors has stated that Iowa is a Home Rule state. While this is true, currently there are no counties with a Home Rule charter, and only 4 cities. Moreover, the Home Rule amendment to the Iowa Constitution does not guarantee our protection. Indeed, it leaves us extremely vulnerable to the whims of our state legislators.
“The home rule amendments of the Iowa Constitution give cities and counties authority to determine their own local affairs and government in a manner which is not inconsistent with state statute[emphasis added]
Some people, including Board members, have commented that we do not need to worry about state preemption of our local frac sand legislation. Others of us, meanwhile, feel it would be risky to dismiss this very significant and possible scenario. It is a fact that one preemptive state law regarding industrial silica sand extraction could weaken or nullify any strict regulations our county may think to impose.
This key caveat of state preemption is easily demonstrated by looking at our county’s recent experience with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. The Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Commission both ruled unanimously in 2013 that the rights of Millenium Ag corporation to expand its hog confinement operation outweigh our right to self-government. The egregious disregard of our local decision-making by the state departments that exist to protect our natural environment was based on the following precept:
“An ordinance is inconsistent with the state statute when the ordinance prohibits an act permitted by a statute or permits an act prohibited by a statute.”  (City of Council Bluffs v. Cain, Iowa 1983. Quoted in Crowley, Iowa Local Govn’t Initiative and Referendum).
Due to immense financial lobbying power of agribusiness on our state officials, and despite the unpopularity of such a law, the State of Iowa declared that CAFO’s are a guaranteed permitted activity and therefore cannot be kept out by affected citizens. In other words, our communities are forced to endure this corporate harm even if the majority of citizens don’t want it.
To sum this up, current settled constitutional law in the State of Iowa can and does grant corporations the right to their desired actions, even when they are harmful to our communities; whether it is by way of CAFO’s, or very potentially, frac sand mining. This isn’t good enough for many thoughtful and dedicated citizens of this county. We don’t want it to be good enough for our Board of Supervisors.

Jim Tripp
for the Community Rights Alliance of Winneshiek County

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"The American Promise of Local Self-Government" - Community Rights Letter to the Board #1

To the Board of Supervisors:  

   The Community Rights Alliance of Winneshiek County, along with hundreds of county residents and regional supporters, oppose the idea that permitting frac sand mining is in the best interests of the county.

   In a formal address to the public in March of this year, Supervisor Thompson declared his intent to “put distance between this Board and the Community Bill of Rights ordinance.”
Consider the following shows of support for this approach.

-At least 17 individual residents of Winneshiek County have written rational and articulate letters published in county news sources;

-Current petition signatures are in excess of 1000, with well over half of those being county residents;

   These numbers warrant serious consideration by the Board of Supervisors for the Community Bill of Rights ordinance.

   While individual Supervisors may choose to disagree with a novel approach to protect the interests of our county’s citizens and ecosystems, “distance” is the last thing that should be put between the electors and the elected, the governed and governors. Anything less than attentive dialogue and honest debate falls short of the ever-important declaration in our State Constitution:

“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, at all times, to alter or reform the same, whenever the public good may require it.” (Art. 1, Sect. 2)

   People across our country are using rights-based ordinances to stand up to injustice. Over 150 different localities, including Pittsburg, PA and one county, Mora, New Mexico, have adopted such ordinances.

   Four years after the ratification of our 1787 Constitution, the 9th and 10th amendments were added to our federal constitution as the final pieces to the Bill of Rights. These two very essential amendments define the power of We the People of Winneshiek County to claim rights above what we are guaranteed in our state and federal constitutions.

Amendment IX – The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people

Amendment X – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
   We believe it is wise to assert our rights when it helps prevent harm to the local community. And especially when that harm will undermine our general health and welfare, it is imperative that we endorse the American promise of local self-government.

Thank you for your attentiveness,
the Community Rights Alliance of Winneshiek County