Las Vegas Optic: Letters to the Editor
March 30th, 2012
Support for city’s ‘rights’ ordinance
A letter in the March 9 Optic questions the Las Vegas City Council’s consideration of an ordinance affirming the city’s rights to self determination. Among their concerns, the writers mention the following two items. First, they claim that the ordinance “annul(s) the federal and state constitutional rights of certain entities and individuals,” and secondly, they express concerns about water.
Their first statement is a misrepresentation of the ordinance. The ordinance protects individual and community rights against rights of corporations (“entities”). Nowhere in either constitution are corporations allotted any rights.
Such rights have been assigned to corporations by the courts, by asserting that corporations are “persons” with rights that were intended for individual humans. These court cases have continually allowed corporations to control governments and therefore dominate political decision-making. This has resulted in loss of rights to self-determination for communities and individuals. This community rights ordinance seeks to redress these unfair rulings by returning the rights to real flesh-and-blood people. Even the New Mexico legislature passed a resolution opposing corporate personhood.
As to the writers’ concerns about water, this ordinance protects our water by also disallowing corporate lawyers and out-of-town legislators from mandating drilling and hydrofracking for natural gas against the will of Las Vegas residents. Natural gas extraction commonly damages and depletes water resources.
Surely protecting water is the absolute priority in our region. Desire for money from an industry that will destroy water resources is foolhardy.
Communities across the nation have passed ordinances banning drilling for these very reasons. Rather than, as the writers suggest, “devoting its time and energy to the development of a reasonable regulatory ordinance,” the Las Vegas City Council is acting to protect the city. Regulatory ordinances always permit harmful activities. Regulation does not regulate industry; it regulates communities and individuals.
The real question here is not the details of the community rights ordinance. The question is, do we have the right to determine what we want in our communities? Under state and federal regulatory laws, we do not.
Under these laws, citizens across the country have lost their clean water, their clean air, and their communities. Do we want the same thing to happen here in Northern New Mexico? Do we want to lose our land and our communities because we don’t dare to question the status quo, which is designed to cater to corporations? Or do we want to take a stand? Do we want to live in an industrial zone, with polluted air and water along with high cancer and asthma rates like those in San Juan County? Do we want corporations and legislators to decide our future, or do we choose our own future? This is the real issue.
I commend the forward-thinking mayor and city council for their courage in choosing not what is easy but what is correct, which is to follow their oaths of office, which direct them to protect the health and safety of their constituents. The community rights ordinance does just that.
Upholding Basic Freedoms
Ed Merta, Albuquerque
I write in respectful dissent to the recent letter “Rights ordinance full of problems.” The writers portray the ordinance as an illegal invitation to anarchy, when in fact it upholds basic rights, legal doctrines, and values that date to the founding of the United States.
The Las Vegas ordinance does not grant local officials the right to disobey laws they don’t like. Rather, it prohibits pollution of local air, soil, and water by multi-national corporations engaged in the extraction and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of oil, natural gas, and other hydrocarbons.
Currently, state legislatures and federal bureaucracies require local communities to allow such activity — even when those communities don’t want it. If a town decides it doesn’t want outsiders dumping chemicals into their water supply, does an outside power really get to override the will of the local population? The Las Vegas community rights ordinance declares the answer to be “no.”
Las Vegas is not alone. More than 140 other U.S. communities have passed, and many others are considering, similar measures. If we live in a democracy, with state and federal constitutions based on the fundamental rights of “we the people,” then it can’t be true that distant, centralized power may order local communities to compromise the safety of their neighbors and families.
This is the legal foundation of the Las Vegas community rights ordinance. Like all of American law since July 4, 1776, the ordinance holds that governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed. There is no government closer to the governed than that of the community in which we live.
Acting on that philosophy, the Las Vegas measure does not create an authoritarian local government to take away property or rights, or install wind turbines without consent. To the contrary, Section 4.6 explicitly declares that the people have authority over the municipal corporation of Las Vegas, which is “subordinate to them in all respects at all times.” This empowerment of human beings explains Section 4’s protection of natural ecosystems like watersheds — because upon them depends the life and health of all human beings.
The protections in the ordinance do not mandate secession from the United States. Section 9 simply recognizes that residents of Las Vegas may insist upon their inalienable, democratic right to determine their own future, free of coercion. This idea is as old, lawful, and legitimate as our country. If taxation without representation violates democratic freedoms, so does contamination without consent. By fracking, or any other environmental harm.
The community rights ordinances being considered in Las Vegas and ever more communities across the United States deserve our support.
Mora Co. can’t have life and fracking
Irene Rosa, Wagon Mound
Northern New Mexicans and Mora County commissioners Garcia, Olivas and Quintana, I’d love to be diplomatic, polite, play political games of smiles and nuances — but I cannot do so and be honest with myself.
I recently returned from the 2012 Colorado Environmental Film Festival — the platform I choose to participate in for global information, education and inspiration. Of 53 films shown in three days in three venues, I was able to enjoy and learn from 23. I am unable to express without serious emotion the desperate need for you to pass the ordinance preventing hydraulic fracturing in Mora County.
The big global plan to fuel exponentially increasing energy consumption with the U.S. leading the destructive parade is to frack the bijezzus out of the planet without regard for anyone or anything.
Mama Earth is crying and dying. Collectively our state legislators are hesitating, denying the blatant truth, playing games that we cannot afford to have played with this arid space.
There is no longer scientific nor political debate about global warming nor talk of stopping or reversing climate change.
The extremely difficult immediate planetary issue is how will human beings adapt to the conditions they have created in their consumer-driven, rampant fossil-fuel-gulping destructive, disrespectful, unconscious lifestyles.
Much of the planet in our lifetimes is in for hellish climatic events. Where are the renewable sources of energy that should be seen across every horizon? Especially here in New Mexico, where sun and wind are abundant — almost nothing — and residents fight against wind generators — where we cut trees to keep us warm yet do not replenish, replant and reforest — a pitiful unconscious state. Officials in positions of responsibility for today, tomorrow and the future are twiddling their lotioned and bejeweled political thumbs.
These winds and dust storms, this drought — it is nothing — just the beginning of ferocious changing weather patterns that are happening much, much faster and with much more devastating consequences that even the most radical of scientists could foresee.
The southwestern states are in deep, deep, deep dry trouble.
We no longer have time to wait and waffle — heads stuck in the dirt. Northern New Mexico is on the list for imminent drilling. The natural gas industry openly states that as the people have not educated themselves, qualified themselves in the usage of renewable energy and the construction and maintenance of renewable projects, nor do they bother to educate themselves to make changes — with the United States far behind many countries in efforts to use renewable energy — then no one can stop the drilling industry from taking over any and every targeted space.
Simply put, Mora County does not have the resources to support both life — human and otherwise — and fracking.
Fracking not the way to go
Emilio Aragon, Las Vegas
Keep up with the City of Las Vegas’ vote on the issue.
Fracking pollutes our water, lowers the water table, causes earthquakes and “booms,” violates our basic laws against intrusive corporate takeover (privatization) of our right to safe utilities, etc.
Don’t lose sight of the effort to sneak fracking past us.
If fracking is the means by which we maintain our energy levels, it is high time we turn this ship of state toward alternative energies (see Germany’s efforts, see France’s efforts, etc.
Stick to your ‘rights,’ Las Vegas
by Judith Lawson
I observed with great pleasure the Las Vegas City Council meeting March 21. It was a credit to the citizens of Las Vegas, many of whom spoke eloquently in favor of a proposed Bill of Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance intended to protect your city’s water, air and land from corporate predation, and specifically from the poisoning of water sources by hydraulic “fracking” for natural gas.
As a visitor from Maine presently living in Santa Fe, I noted that the council chamber was full. I counted about 70 people, plus the mayor, councilors and other city officials. The Optic’s reporter, Martin Salazar noted there were, “More than two dozens (sic) people wearing green armbands in support of the ordinance,” but failed to mention that the room was packed and support for the ordinance was unanimous. As a veteran of New England Town Meetings, relics of original citizen-run local democracies that have nearly vanished from our country — at enormous cost to our social, political and economic well-being, I was mightily impressed by what I saw and heard in Las Vegas on the evening of the spring equinox.
There are few things more irritating than people from “away” telling you how to run things. In Maine we call them “summer nuisances,” when we’re polite, much worse when we’re not. I reverse that with a bow of respect to your citizens and City Council, who clearly and with feeling speak of what they know is right and true for Las Vegas, New Mexico: a model for every village, town and city across New Mexico similarly threatened. Stick to your guns, Las Vegans!
Frank Splendoria, Las Vegas
The Las Vegas City Council is considering a new ordinance that will give ecosystems “rights.”
Aside from the legal absurdity that the ordinance would establish local government as “sovereign” over state and federal, and the environmental hubris that places the City Council in a position to determine what is evolutionarily correct, this ordinance will likely lead to the decline of the acequia culture along the Gallinas.
Parciantes must recognize that once a riparian system has “rights” like you, their benevolent human conscience will determine each waterway must have a certain amount of water to maintain its health and well-being. Someone from Santa Fe, Dallas, Denver, etc. will eventually argue in court that re-charging aquifers and maintaining biological diversity in riparian ecosystems is just as, or more important, than any human use. The court then, considering ecosystems have equivalent rights to water, could easily decide riparian areas are the true seniors and transfer acequia rights to riparian systems. And though, the ordinance’s jurisdiction is for Las Vegas, the water transfers would also likely affect upstream acequias because that’s where the water comes from.
Picture in the future the Gallinas River flowing through Las Vegas, while the acequias wait for the ecosystem to be satisfied before parciantes can irrigate. This proposed ordinance will then be known as “The Ordinance of Unintended Consequences.” Think about it, parciantes.