Over the past five months, residents of Bellingham, WA, have gathered almost 10,000 signatures to successfully place on the ballot this November a legally-binding initiative that would ban coal trains from passing through their city. Unlike the conventional regulatory and zoning laws which municipalities try to pass, and which are always struck down as violating corporate "rights", this new rights-based approach is much more complicated to challenge, and is therefore a much greater threat to those in government and corporations who want to maintain the status quo situation where We The People are powerless to defend our communities.
Last week, the quite liberal city council of Bellingham voted unanimously to file a lawsuit to legally challenge the right of Bellingham residents to even get an opportunity to vote on this initiative in November. You can read details about their actions in the local press HERE and HERE. And you can read the latest Press Release from the campaign at the bottom of this article.
Organizers of Coal Free Bellingham are outraged that their own City Council would have the gall to pre-empt local residents from exercising their right to govern themselves at the local level. They are calling on people throughout the country to stand up for the right of Bellingham voters, and asking YOU to contact the Bellingham City Council ASAP and tell them to let the voters have their say.
Here's their Call to Action. Please forward this alert widely to your own e-lists, and thanks so much for your assistance!
(For ongoing updates about this growing movement, you can sign up for my blog at PaulCienfuegos.com.)
PRESS RELEASE: Bellingham Community Bill of Rights Qualifies for 2012 Ballot
P.O. Box 5991
Bellingham, WA 98227
CONTACT: Rick Dubrow, 360-319-3705 firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Whatcom County Auditor's office has just verified that Coal-Free Bellingham, sponsor of the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights, submitted a sufficient number of valid signatures, more than enough to qualify for inclusion on the November, 2012 ballot.
Upon hearing that close to 10,000 signatures had been submitted for validation early last week, the City Council met with their attorneys, weighed their options and decided to challenge the legality of the initiative via judicial review. There was another option before them: allow the voters to decide whether they want to stand up to possible legal challenges from corporations that will profit greatly from coal trafficking through Bellingham. The Council rejected the choice to allow the voters to make this crucial decision and chose instead to legally challenge the validity of the initiative.
Council President Terry Bornemann stated, "When there are serious questions about the validity of an initiative, it is the Council's duty to both uphold and enforce the law and represent the people of their community."
"Mr. Bornemann claimed that the Council acted to represent the people of our community, but, in reality, the council is acting in opposition to the will of the 10,000 people who petitioned to have this initiative placed before the voters. This action denies the people their right to decide," responded Naomi Bunis, a steering committee member of Coal-Free Bellingham.
Council member Michael Lilliquist was quoted on the City's website as saying, "While the Council wants to protect our families and our community, in all likelihood the proposed initiative is not legalŠ.I share people's deep concern with the proposed coal terminal and increased cargo train traffic through the middle of Bellingham, but in good conscience I cannot expose the City to expensive and futile lawsuits."
"The Council members are between a rock and a hard place," said Cindy
Franklin, another steering committee member of Coal-Free Bellingham. "The
main purpose of the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights is to challenge the existing laws that favor the profit-making ventures of major corporations
over the interests of our community. By this action, our City Council
seems resigned to uphold these unjust laws and are taking away from the voters of Bellingham the right to decide on this crucial issue."
Coal-Free Bellingham believes that the people, in whom power is clearly vested within our state and federal constitution, should decide whether or not we should protect ourselves from this looming corporate abuse.
"Allowing this vote to occur is our government's ultimate duty. Coal-Free Bellingham is asking the Council to remove this challenge and listen to the people," declared Rick Dubrow, another steering committee member of Coal-Free Bellingham.
And, ten thousand citizens agree.
Coal-Free Bellingham has issued a Call to Action for the supporters of the Community Bill of Rights, who have submitted numerous letters and emails asking our City Council members to rescind their vote to legally challenge the initiative and to consider the other option before them: allow the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights to be placed on the November ballot and let the voters decide.
Coal-Free Bellingham wishes to thank all those who helped gather signatures and also those who signed the petition and voiced their support for declaring that we, the citizens of Bellingham, assert that it is our right to decide whether or not coal should be transported through our city.
Rick Dubrow, Chair
NO COAL! Political Action Committee