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Driftless residents gather for Community Rights Meeting in Ontario, Wisconsin

Driftless residents gather for Community Rights Meeting in Ontario, Wisconsin

On Saturday June 8th a group gathered at the Ontario Library to learn about the Community Rights movement from Paul Cienfuegos. He explained three main legal constraints; the Commerce clause, state pre-emption and Dillon's Rule and how all these make it almost impossible for communities to fight off corporate projects that affect their health and well-being.

The Commerce clause makes it difficult to fight corporate activities that are involved in commerce. The Commerce Clause refers to Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution.

Congress has often used the Commerce Clause to justify exercising legislative power over the activities of states and their citizens, leading to significant and ongoing controversy regarding the balance of power between the federal government and the states. The Commerce Clause has historically been viewed as both a grant of congressional authority and as a restriction on the regulatory authority of the States.

State pre-emption allows states to override community laws saying that state laws have final say in disputes. Preemption is the use of state law to nullify a municipal ordinance or authority.

In some cases, preemption can lead to improved policy statewide. However, preemption that prevents cities from expanding rights, building stronger economies, and promoting innovation can be counterproductive when decision-making is divorced from the core wants and needs of community members.

Dillon's rule is based on a decision by Iowa Supreme Court justice Forest Dillon saying a municipal government has authority to act only when:

 (1) the power is granted in the express words of the statute, private act, or charter creating the municipal corporation;

(2) the power is necessarily or fairly implied in, or incident to the powers expressly granted; or

(3) the power is one that is neither expressly granted nor fairly implied from the express grants of power, but is otherwise implied as essential to the declared objects and purposes of the corporation.

The Dillon rule is used in interpreting state law when there is a question of whether or not a local government has a certain power.

Cienfuegos explained that 200 community rights ordinances are in effect all over the United States and that only 5 have been challenged in court, so 195 are currently holding off corporate activities that threaten the health and well-being of the communities that have enacted them. His website, communityrights.us contains ordinances for people to read and use in their own communities.

The group discussed how to enact local laws to control large agricultural operations called CAFOs like the Wild Rose Dairy near Lafarge to keep them from polluting surface and ground water.

Wild Rose recently leaked liquid manure into Otter Creek killing countless fish and affecting the multi-million-dollar fishing and tourism industry.

Ordinances can also be written to control cell tower projects like the current 5G cell tower roll-out happening in the region, stop Frac sand mining proposals, and high capacity wells that deplete ground water reserves.

Paul was invited to the area by Dena Eakles of Echo Valley Hope. She envisions communities coming together to discuss possible solutions to community stressors like dealing with flooding, loss of businesses and challenges to community health. Paul is the primary organizer for Community Rights in the nation.

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