Thursday, April 20, 2017

We Need New Laws To Stop CAFOs - Steve Luse Letter-to-the-Editor

Mr. Luzum recently wrote that hog producers exploit us because of weak laws. Unfortunately, the laws of the regulatory system aren’t broken; they are “fixed.” The regulatory system is designed to set the approval terms for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).  A high enough matrix score means CAFO approval.

Since Iowa State law currently preempts any local action on CAFOs, citizen safety, health or other concerns don’t even enter into the DNR regulatory discussion. Citizens and elected officials can only attend hearings, write letters, sign petitions, and protest decisions and those actions have little or no impact. William Penn said, “Let the people think they govern, and they will be governed.”

However, in over 200 communities nationwide, the people are enumerating their rights and enacting rights-based laws. By substantiating their inherent right to clean water, air, and soil citizens have exercised local control and stopped undesired corporate actions.  To protect our future we’ll need such community rights laws here.

Steve Luse

(Published in the Decorah Journal)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Voices of Opposition Unreported - Jim Tripp Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Three people were quoted in's September 8th article Winneshiek County Zoning Commission Recommends Approval of Revised Zoning Ordinance, all giving high praise and gratitude for the work of the P&Z.  I think decorahnews readers would appreciate knowing that a few people raised serious concerns about what the passage of this ordinance would mean for our county.

One person pointed out that the greatest fine a mining company would endure if they violated the ordinance is $750 (state law maximum). She followed saying that for multi-million dollar corporations, this is simply "a cost of doing business" and likely not to be taken seriously.

A young Decorah woman who had traveled through Wisconsin on a "frac sand tour" last year, recalled an eye-opening conversation she had had with a local resident affected by this type of mining. She quoted him as saying "I wish we'd never let them in. Because once they get a foothold, you'll never get them out."

I also spoke that evening. I made clear that this ordinance would LEGALIZE frac sand mining, in the face of what could be the most unpopular proposed industrial activity this county has ever seen. I also mentioned that many county residents are of the opinion that this issue is first and foremost a civil rights issue, not a land use issue. A bold and creative response from our Board of Supervisors is in order when corporations have more say than a community majority.

Jim Tripp

(published a

Friday, September 4, 2015

What do you do?

What do you say to a Board of Supervisors who, except for one (Thank you Supervisor John Beard for being open-minded and educating yourself about our lack of real local decision-making power), will not even consider a fresh approach to local law-making? Frac sand mining is being forced on us. As are CAFOs.

The overwhelming majority of citizens are saying "We don't want this here! Here's why and here's how we might be able to keep it out." The response from Supervisors Thompson, Logsdon, Ashbacher, Kuhn: "Our hands are tied. There's nothing we can do about it. Sorry. Try contacting your state representative."

Other elected officials have taken a deeper look at our fixed regulatory system and decided there IS something we can do. Pittsburg PA and Mendocino County CA have successfully banned unwanted hazardous industry, along with nearly 200 other communities across the nation.

Threats are high, but actual legal challenges by industry and state are well under 10% of all adopted rights-based ordinances. Why so low? Because it's a hard argument to sell in America... that community majorities do not have a right to decide their fate or that of the natural systems they depend on.

So what do you say? What do you do? It's clearly time to elect some folks who are willing to step outside of the box-of-allowable-harm and stand up to this madness.

Monday, May 11, 2015

IA County Supervisors Polled... Majority Want More Local Control on CAFOs

Dickinson County supervisors over in NW Iowa are getting taunted by corporations wanting to build CAFOs. This is Iowa Great Lakes region, where people come to get away and enjoy the outdoors. They aren't wanting to take any chances with tons of fermenting hog manure and toxic ambient air.

So they polled the rest of the state's supervisors. Here in Winneshiek, and surely across the state, it spurred some important discussion.

And the results are in. Many supervisors responded. The majority are in favor of "more local control for counties to preserve and protect the environmental resources within their county".

We don't think it's wise to wait until our state legislators decide we deserve local control over our agriculture future and resource protection. We the People decide in a real democracy, not Corporate Ag and the politicians in their pocket.

Thanks Dickinson County for getting the ball rolling!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Rally to Protest Proposed CAFO

If 7,500 hogs were moving in next door to you, would you join others and say 'NO?' This Monday, come stand with neighbors from across Winneshiek County and show that you care.

They Dump It; You Drink It: CAFOs
Monday, Feb. 23, 11:45am
Winneshiek County Courthouse steps
Rally to protest the proposed CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation, aka Hog Confinement) for 7,500 hogs two miles south of Cardinal Marsh.
This is our home. Let’s keep it safe.
Send a message to the state of Iowa that people who live in our county will resist the siting of any more hog confinements in Winneshiek County and to put pressure on the state to empower local units of government to protect their citizens and communities from the destructive impacts these confinements cause.
The local government and Board of Supervisors are powerless on this issue. Decisions are made by the Environmental Protection Commission and the DNR. 
The facts are clear on this issue.
  • There is NO local control of the siting or size of CAFOs & the state does nothing to prevent them from being built virtually anywhere (next to sinkholes. parks, rivers, lakes & streams).
  • There     is no protection for environmentally sensitive areas or neighboring  property owners.
  • All the pollution consequences are borne by the citizens of Iowa and our air, water, soil and landscapes are degraded with each new  CAFO.
  • The raw, untreated sewage from these operations is stored in pits or lagoons and land applied on farmland across the state - contributing to the contamination of hundreds of rivers, lakes and streams statewide.        
  • The highest concentrations of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide air pollution in the country are now found in the skies over Iowa with resulting increases in asthma and other respiratory ailments especially among children who live near confinements.
  • School  children at North  Winneshiek School right here in this county have suffered negative health effects because of the air pollution around the school site.   
  • Antibiotic resistant strains of dangerous bacteria are now being found at elevated levels among people who live near CAFOs.
Human lives are being put at risk.  There are scientific studies confirming all of these problems associated with this industrial scale of agriculture being forced upon the people of Iowa, yet the various agencies and government bodies in Iowa have done nothing to address these issues.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Report on 2nd Regional Gathering for CR in the Driftless

Five Winneshiek County citizens traveled to Whitehall, WI (Trempealeau County) yesterday for the 2nd regional gathering for Community Rights in the Driftless. Over 50 people were present from over 15 counties, with more unable to attend due to icy conditions. What a day! Lots of energy and reason for this big shift to a local living democracy.

The new national CR support organization (yet unnamed) was unveiled by Paul Cienfuegos, Jane Anne Morris, Laila Johnson, Malia Burkhart, and Lindsey Schroman-Wawrin. What a powerhouse crew!! And there are a couple others working behind the scenes, including Winneshiek County's own Jono Ruf (though currently living and studying in Arizona)!

But of course the most vital element of this gathering: The thoughtful and informed people, eager to network and grow. (And the food... what amazing food we were served!)

A few of the sessions to choose from this last weekend:
-Q&A with Jane Anne Morris (author of Gaveling Down the Rabble and other books)
-Discussion with lawyer Lindsey Schroman-Wawrin for elected/appointed officials
-Panel Discussion with members of the new CR support organization
-Internal Structures and Considerations for Local CR groups
-Visiting a Frac Sand Mine

And a sample of the "Open Space" spontaneous sessions offered:
-Rights of Nature and Nature's Trust
-What it took to stop an unwanted mine in WI
-Online Community Rights course
-Republic and Democracy
-CR Education with Theatre and Arts

We're continually amazed at the support we're seeing among a variety of people on the spectrum of age and political affiliation. This is truly a People's Movement. 

Response re Mora County Court Ruling

(Submitted to Feb 5 2015)

Judge Browning did not “completely side” with SWEPI LP as Decorahnews reported, but enough so that he found it necessary to strike down the ordinance entirely. This is a sad day for democracy, because it reinforces the idea that corporations have more say over what happens in a community than the people who actually live there.

Decorahnews could have included a couple important points regarding this court decision. First, that any struggle from oppression loses some battles in the courts, but eventually prevails (e.g. women's rights). Second, that a big part of Judge Browning's decision to overrule Mora's ordinance is not applicable here in Winneshiek County, because there is currently no conflicting state law regarding silica sand extraction. Third, that Mora County and the defendant-intervenors will likely appeal this decision and continue to fight.

Oftentimes justice is simple. Paid-for politicians and corporate lawyers take that simplicity and tie a thousand knots in it. 

Jim Tripp

Friday, January 30, 2015

Community Rights Attorney Lindsey Schroman-Wawrin to visit Decorah

Can our counties use Community

Rights ordinances to address the

very real threat of frac sand mining? 
Public Talk with Nationally Known
Community Rights Attorney

Tue, February 3 at 4:00-5:30 pm 
at Northeast Iowa Peace and Justice Center,
119 Winnebago Street
, Decorah
Attorney Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin from Washington State will give a short presentation with time for Q&A regarding a Community Rights ordinance to ban frac sand mining in Winneshiek County.
Civil Rights and Constitutional Law Attorney Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin has spent the last several years assisting communities as they attempt to keep out unwanted industrial activity and to re-establish their right to local decision-making. His work seeks to "challenge the legitimacy of corporate rights, as large corporations frequently use their 'rights' at the expense of the community." Here in Winneshiek County we face the threat of frac sand mining corporations invoking their "right to mine."
Schromen-Wawrin will discuss potential next steps in our effort to ban frac sand mining. The content of the talk will presume a basic understanding of Community Rights, but those unfamiliar with the approach are welcome to attend. The event will take place at the Northeast Iowa Peace and Justice Center on 119 Winnebago Street in Decorah from 4-5:30pm.
Over 150 communities across the country, including the city of Pittsburg and Mendocino County, CA, have already passed into law what are commonly referred to as "Community Rights ordinances."
The Community Rights Alliance of Winneshiek County is an alliance of citizens of the Driftless Region of the Midwest. We 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.
For More Info, Contact: Jim Tripp, 382-6029

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CR Quiz - Question #3

If a corporate project contaminates a river and destroys its ecosystems, the corporation may be held responsible for its carelessness by…
a. paying damages to property owners for loss of use
b. restoring the river and its ecosystems to their previous state
c. facing criminal prosecution for infringing upon the river’s right to exist and flourish
d. paying a fine for violating state or federal regulations
            a. paying damages to property owners for loss of use
(Similar to blacks and women whose murder was considered a property loss issue for their owner before the 14th and 19th amendments, respectively, Nature does not yet have the right to exist and flourish beyond its property owners’ wishes)
            d. paying a fine for violating state or federal regulations
(This fine is tax-deductible and calculated as a cost of doing business. Smithfield Corporation violated state water permits 22,520 times within the span of a decade!)

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