“The corporate state expects obedience. They are getting defiance. Community Rights is our refusal to bow down, and our insistence on protecting our communities.”
— Doug Shields, Pittsburgh City Council President


Doug Shields, featured in We the People 2.0 – the Second American Revolution, is a former member and President of the Pittsburgh, PA, City Council. There, he led the way for adoption of the first Community Bill of Rights banning fracking in the United States. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh – for 62 years it has been his home. He is determined to protect it from the oil and gas industry.

In 2010, we learned about leases being signed with the oil and gas industry for fracked gas wells in the City. We were alarmed – fracking brings with it air and water pollution, and was going to be sited near homes and schools. We also wanted to protect our riverfront: It had been a heavy industrial site during the steelmaking era. For decades we have been working to transform it into the vibrant riverfront it is today – home to residents, and retail and commercial businesses. We didn’t want to jeopardize this thriving part of our City with reindustrialization.

Pittsburgh Waterfront, Neill Turner, Flick Creative Commons

So protecting the City – my community – was a priority. As part of the City Council, I thought our zoning code would be a solution. But then I realized no matter how stringent our restrictions, Pittsburgh would still be fracked, because zoning doesn’t let us say “no” to any harmful activity. It simply tells us where it will go.

I learned about CELDF and Community Rights, and a light bulb switched on! Shifting from a conversation about zoning to one about rights – our rights – completely changed the discussion. This was our remedy! With overwhelming community support – and a few months of public discussion, debates, and meetings – we unanimously adopted our Community Rights Ordinance, 9-0. It was November 16, 2010.

It was an incredible moment. We refused to shut-up and do as we were told. We not only banned fracking, but we asserted our right to self-government. We asserted nature’s rights, and our obligation to protect the ecosystems that sustain us. We rejected the claimed authority of the state and federal governments to treat us as a resource colony. We rejected the claimed authority of corporate directors living far from Pittsburgh to determine the character of the place we call home.

"We refused to shut-up and do as we were told. We not only banned fracking, but we asserted our right to self-government."

Equally important – we inspired surrounding communities, and communities across the U.S., to do the same. Despite the fear of challenging the corporatocracy that we live under, communities are digging in deep and finding their courage.

Really, I think fear is the biggest hurdle we face in the Community Rights Movement. The risks are real: job loss, blackballing, SLAPP suits… all are in the arsenal of retaliation against local elected officials and residents daring to stand up to the corporate state. And yet, people are taking action anyway. Corporations and the governments they run expect obedience. Instead, despite their threats and intimidation, they are getting defiance. Community Rights is our refusal to bow down and our insistence on protecting our communities and creating a sustainable future.


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