What happens in Tacoma when the people exercise their inalienable right to protect their water, and their democratic right to initiative?
The corporate state strips those rights.
A methanol plant for tacoma
After decades of being poisoned by toxic industries, Tacomans have been reclaiming their City over the last 20 years, ending many of the heavy industrial harms and revitalizing the City’s culture and economy.
Enter the oil and gas industry. Six months ago, residents learned the industry proposed Tacoma as the site for the world’s largest methanol plant. The plant threatened the community’s air quality, spewing waste from fossil fuels. It promised an insatiable demand for water: 10 to 14 million gallons of water daily. And, it undermined the vision the people of Tacoma had for their City.
The project was backed by the City’s major powerbrokers, including the Mayor of Tacoma, Port of Tacoma, Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce.
After years of rebuilding the City, and at a time of record-breaking drought, Tacomans are clear that they need to protect their community and their water. The methanol project has been scrapped – for now – but the people’s passion and commitment are just getting started. They are galvanized to action to safeguard their community from future fossil fuel projects or unsustainable water use proposals.
tacomans in action
In less than 100 days, volunteers from the grassroots group Save Tacoma Water gathered 17,000 petition signatures to protect water for people, the community, and nature. If it had been approved by Tacomans in November, the new law would have required water use projects over one million gallons daily be decided by a vote of the people.
They were laying the legal foundations for sustainable water use.
Enter the corporate state
On June 6th, as active petitioning was still underway, Tacoma’s powerbrokers filed a lawsuit against residents – including those who signed the petitions. Their goal: use the courts and intimidation to stop the people’s right to make law through direct democracy.
On July 1st – the eve of celebrating America’s Independence – the case was heard. Pierce County Judge Jack Nevin protected corporate interests over the people’s right to initiative in Tacoma.
The hearing lasted over an hour. Yet it took Judge Nevin under two minutes to deny 116,000 people in Tacoma the right to vote as he blocked two duly-qualified citizen initiatives from the ballot.
Time to Protect Direct Democracy and Community Rights
Washingtonians are bristling at this unabashed protection of the corporate state at the cost of their communities and people’s rights. The Court’s decision to snuff out the right to direct democracy and the right to protect precious water in Tacoma, is an attack against the source of all political power: We, the People.
As the corporate state reveals itself, it is becoming clear to communities that they must continue advancing rights-based initiatives locally, defying the Court’s claim that they have no right to do so. And it is becoming clear that their local work must advance to the state level to institute legislative and constitutional change.
The specific next steps in Tacoma, and across the state, are being formulated. The people, however, know that for Tacoma, Spokane, Bellingham, Seattle, Yakima, and cities and towns in between, they must:
- Protect direct democracy by securing the right to initiative locally.
- Protect the right of local community self-government by securing the right for communities to advance greater protections and rights than the state, without corporate interference.
Whether it is protecting water in Tacoma, securing rights for workers in Spokane, or saying no to coal trains in Bellingham, people and communities have the inalienable right to bring forward new, just law. If that law is adopted – by initiative or through elected officials – that law must prevail over corporate “rights.”
Photo by Andrew Albertson, Port of Tacoma at Night, Flickr Creative Commons
Sign up now to show your support
Dear People of Tacoma:
I support Tacoma’s Right to Water Protection initiatives! The people of Tacoma – and across the U.S. – have the right to vote on critical matters like preserving water. Corporations or government should never be able to interfere with that right. Your democratic right to sign petitions without fear of consequences is paramount. Your inalienable right to direct democracy must be protected to the highest degree. No court should stand in the way of the political power of the people. Tacomans, you are inspiring in your refusal to be bullied and your commitment to stand up for what is right!