Persistence pays off: The People of Barrington, NH, Vote in Community Rights at Town Meeting
FOR IMMDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2016
BARRINGTON, NH: Tonight, residents at Town Meeting in Barrington, NH, voted 795 to 759 to adopt a Community Bill of Rights asserting their right to clean air, pure water, and local, community self-government. The rights-based ordinance bans corporate gravel extraction and water withdrawals as a violation of those rights.
For three years, residents have worked tirelessly to educate elected representatives, neighbors, and other local groups of the threat posed by corporate interests intent on gravel mining and withdrawing water from the Isinglass River. These extraction activities risk harm to the local economy, drinking water, and the natural environment.
Residents requested the assistance of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to help provide organizing, education, and legal support, as part of their work to protect themselves. Their perseverance since 2013 resulted in tonight’s enactment of the Community Bill of Rights to Protect the Waterways of Barrington Ordinance, drafted with CELDF’s assistance.
CELDF has been working with New Hampshire residents to advance Community Rights since 2006. Barrington follows the precedent set by nearly a dozen other New Hampshire Towns, codifying the right to a healthy environment, the right of local self-government, and the right of residents to protect their own health, safety, and welfare. Further, the Barrington Ordinance recognizes the Rights of Nature, such that “ecosystems possess rights to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve” and “residents of the town shall possess legal standing to enforce those rights on behalf of those ecosystems.”
Barrington resident and Community Rights leader Cilia Bannenberg, said, “In our corporate-run world, a few people wield corporations as a sword for their own benefit, harming our communities. Not after today. Our Town is not a resource colony for the profit of a few. We are proud to join the growing Community Rights Movement, and are ready to stand by our Community Bill of Rights.”
CELDF Community Organizer Michelle Sanborn declared, “The Community Rights Movement in New Hampshire applauds the determination of Barrington residents to assert Community Rights within their Town. Today Barrington joins the growing coalition of communities from across New Hampshire that are working to drive the right of local, community self-government into our New Hampshire Constitution.”
Communities across the state are working together to advance Community Rights to the state level through a state constitutional amendment. The New Hampshire Community Rights Amendment – CACR 14 – was drafted by the New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) with CELDF’s assistance, and was sponsored by Representative Susan Emerson of Rindge. Despite gaining bi-partisan support from both the House and Senate, a legislative committee prevented it from moving forward. Supporters are determined to advance the measure again in 2017.
New Hampshire Communities Part of Growing Movement
New Hampshire residents and their local and state representatives who are advancing Community Rights are part of the broader Community Rights Movement building across the United States. Local communities and state Community Rights Networks across the country are partnering with CELDF to advance fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They have worked with CELDF to establish Community Rights and the Rights of Nature in law, and prohibit extraction, fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other industrial activities as violations of those rights. Communities are joining together within and across states, working with CELDF to advance systemic change – recognizing our existing system of law and governance as inherently undemocratic and unsustainable.