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To the Editor:
I am happy to return to questions about the purpose and strategy of the “Community Rights Based Ordinance” that the Town of Sangerville enacted by a 86 to 40 margin in September. The RBO was written outside of Town government by the Sangerville Community Rights Group, a group of concerned citizens in Sangerville, who are opposed to the proposed East/West Corridor.
The SCRG has no connections to Town government, even though many of our members are, or have been, involved in Town government. SCRG’s members are all graduates of the CELDF Democracy School, which graduated over 150 people in Sangerville and surrounding communities over the past year.
At Democracy School, we learned how the regulatory law process works; and how regulatory law, the kind of law enforced by the EPA and the DEP, favors corporate interests over the interests of local communities. We learned how corporations became “persons”, because the Court system, beginning in the early 1800’s, “found” corporations in the individual rights enunciated in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We learned that, as it stands today, communities, i.e., the municipal corporations, do not have the right to say “No” to unwanted corporate projects.
But, we also learned about CELDF’s Community Rights-Based Ordinance, whereby we, as a community, can assert our “inalienable and indefeasible right to institute government, and to alter, reform, or totally change the same, when their safety and happiness require it.” (Art.1, Sec.2, Maine State Constitution) Inalienable means that these rights cannot be given away by, or taken away from the possessor. And indefeasible means that our rights cannot be lost, defeated or overturned. We have the right to change government when it does not suit us. Our Legislature practices this right at every session, and we, Townspeople, exercise this right at every Town Meeting. This is the Right to Self-Governance.
In respect to the threat of the Corridor, there are many paths of resistance. The SCRG choose to write the Sangerville RBO first, because it could be done quickly. Regulatory law, written through the Planning Board and lawyers, can take years. It is essential that RBO’s be put into place before the unwanted project goes into “permitting” with the DEP or the Army Corp. of Engineers. By enacting our RBO in September, we have ensured that, since the Corridor does not officially exist yet, that any corporation building a corridor will not have “standing” in a suit against the Town. They are not “vested” because they have not been injured by our actions. We said “No” before they started.
Our RBO asserts we value clean air and water, a healthy climate, the scenic beauty of our land, and our commitment to sustainable infrastructure. We, also, specifically, assert the our right to self-governance. This is an extremely important statement for Sangerville, because we failed to pass a Comprehensive Plan. If the RBO ever is challenged, one of the considerations the judge will face will be to determine the intent of the Town at the time the RBO was enacted. With no Comp. Plan, the Bill of Rights section of the RBO, serves as a statement of our values and intent.
Some people, in Sangerville, labor under the misconception, that the Select Board must develop and write all ordinances. Nothing is further from the truth. The Select Board is the Administrative Branch of Town Government. Our responsibility is to take the direction the Town gives us at our Annual Town Meeting, and make sure that the money and the projects authorized by the legislative body, i.e., the people who came and voted at Town Meeting, are expended and carried out as they wished until the Town Meeting reconvenes. The SCRG, by developing the RBO and bringing it, through petition, to a vote of the Town, has demonstrated that the people, themselves, direct Town Government.
As a Select Board, we are taking the initial steps toward developing a Road Ordinance. Anyone involved town politics understands how divisive an issue roads can be. A “rulebook” that spells out how we build, maintain, and manage the roads in Sangerville can only help. If there are sections of that proposed Ordinance that prohibit corridors, then that is all to the good.
Sangerville has received State and national kudos for its first-in-the-nation infrastructure RBO, as well. People report being moved and awed by the model Town Meeting that we all participated in on September 18th. (They saw it on YouTube.) We can be proud of our positive contribution. Any of the members of the SCRG would be happy to explain any part of the ordinance to anyone who still has questions. My father taught me, as a child, not to mock the things I don’t understand, but to go out and seek answers.