Most citizens have political opinions. Many are involved in nonprofit community-based organizations. But the time-impaired average person remains politically disorganized and distracted. Collective political action nationally is often limited to mobilizing for wars and elections. Disengagement can seem the norm. Community organizers are bucking this trend. Local issues, be they environmental, fair wages, or municipalization of energy and Internet services, are getting more and more people off their couches. Efforts to assert community rights encounter structural obstacles to direct democracy such as Dillon’s Rule, regulatory law, and the effects of nearly 100 years of corporate constitutional rights. Undaunted, groups like We the People, and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund urge passing local ordinances to defend citizens from further environmental damage and corporate exploitation.
Paul Cienfuegos is a regional leader in the Community Rights movement, which works to dismantle corporate constitutional so-called “rights” and assert the people’s inherent right to self-government. He founded Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County in 1995, co-founded CommunityRightsPDX.org in 2011, and is helping to establish the Oregon Community Rights Network which launched in 2013. He is based in Portland, Oregon.