Uniting the Westside with the Eastside

In 2012, 22 people gathered in Spokane to craft and sign what is known as the Spokane Declaration and launch the Washington Community Rights Network (WACRN). Representing six communities from across the state, the joint statement put forward observations and a call to action. “Our communities are under siege from corporations exploiting our communities for resource extraction and a variety of other uses harmful to us and the natural environment,” it read. “We recognize that this system of law renders economic and environmental sustainability illegal and impossible.” It called for collective action, declaring “that if democracy means ‘consent of the governed,’ a democracy does not exist in our communities or in Washington State, and that we must now create democracy in our municipalities and within the State.”

As efforts of such boldness do when confronting a system as powerful as the one we live under today, the WACRN faced challenges and was unable to gain and maintain the traction needed to become an agent for change. However, as also happens when injustice is so deep and pervasive, individuals and even new community rights groups kept the flame lit by embodying the words of the Spokane Declaration. The WACRN has awakened again in 2021, thanks to old and new advocates. 

Spurned by the need to protect the Salish Sea, confront corporate development, call out false green energy solutions, and reimagine what true public safety could look like, the group has put forward understandings such as “citizens of the biosphere are urgently seeking to address ecological collapse and climate chaos. The health and survival of all living beings is in jeopardy as natural systems continue to be disrupted and destroyed” and “corporate power continues to usurp and corrupt true democratic processes, override individual civil liberties, and exploit communities.” These and other “understandings” helped inform a new but also old mission statement:

“With the failure of existing governments to represent the will of the people, and in response to the urgency of climate and ecological crises, the WACRN educates, connects, and empowers communities in the pursuit of  local self-determination to create new  structures that protect the inherent rights of nature’s living systems, human and non-human, to equitably exist, regenerate, and flourish with each other.”

The WACRN is now working to operationalize the network to be that change agent it set out to be nearly 10 years ago. The intention of the group is to inform, educate, and activate people and communities to undertake the necessary transformational work. Contact kai@celdf.org.

Democracy School for Snohomish County Held Virtually

Despite the numerous impacts and issues that the Covid-19 pandemic has invoked or exposed, CELDF’s Democracy School has had a significant boost of interest and participation over the last two years. Virtual schools, though falling short of what in person gatherings can provide for discussion, debate, and learning, has made it far more convenient to conduct the school in a manner that has made certain elements perhaps more engaging and effective. In addition, it has allowed for a cross pollination of people from outside the host community which has benefited the quality of the schools. Over two weekends in October, Snohomish County Community Rights hosted the CELDF Democracy School. People in attendance came from Snohomish County, Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver. It probably isn’t uttered that often but, “thank you Covid-19 for bringing people together in a way that wouldn’t have happened previously.” Contact: sccr2017.org.

The United States of ALEC

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the name and state ceiling preemption is their game. From state to state, issue to issue, corporate friendly groups like ALEC have been quite successful in drafting and passing state laws that define how particular industries will be allowed to operate. A major component to such legislation is to define if and/or how local governments will be allowed to regulate industry. Quite often these state preemption laws impose a strict ceiling on that involvement by explicitly prohibiting communities from having any say at all, impacting issues ranging from wages to rent control to fracking to public health to agriculture to gun control to land use.

CELDF’s Kai Huschke conducted a workshop this fall in partnership with Snohomish County Community Rights titled “Preemption as a Lethal Weapon: How Corporations and Government are Deliberately Destroying Communities and Nature.” The workshop walked attendees through what preemption is, how it works, how it has been applied, what it means for nature and local democracy, and how people are organizing to both stem the tide.

Photo by Lucas Davies on Unsplash