Youngstown, Ohio will, yet again, vote on a radical “rights of nature” charter amendment dressed up as an anti-fracking initiative and “community bill of rights.”
Tomorrow will mark the third time in little over a year that Youngstown, Ohio voters have gone to the polls to vote on a “rights of nature” charter amendment, the facade of which is an anti-fracking message, but this isn’t what its really about. See two earlier posts we did on the last attempt and a similar effort in Mora County, New Mexico, where elected officials were actually conned into adopting the measure, for CELDF background. The Youngstown proposal is ostensibly about fracking but, as EID’s Shawn Bennett notes, there’s no fracking basis for the law.
No, this is the ugly head of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) raising itself, yet again, into the public eye to sell its radical message under the cover of being a way to stop fracking.
The Hidden Hand of the CELDF
The CELDF is the force behind the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee, although you would never know it from the Committee’s website, where there’s no mention of the group that wrote the language of the proposed charter amendment. But, write it they did (the language is from their models) and if the public knew just how radical the CELDF is, they wouldn’t give it more than 10% of the vote. That’s why the CELDF always hides behind issues of the day and calls the Youngstown measure a “community bill of rights” rather than the rights of nature initiative it is, but here is what the charter amendment says:
“natural communities and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, wetlands, streams, rivers, aquifers, and other water systems possess inalienable and fundamental rights to exist and flourish within the City of Youngstown” and stating “residents of the City shall possess legal standing to enforce those rights on behalf of those natural communities and ecosystems.”
The CELDF was formed by partners Thomas Linzey and Stacey Schmader, in 1995, at the same time he was graduating from law school. They had apparently had little need for either mentoring or a steady income (and don’t get paid by the CELDF, according to its latest 990 return). Such is the case with many extremists, of course, who always manage to live off the inherited culture and wealth of those who have gone before them. Linzey and Schmader decided they didn’t like the system that allows for their free speech and quickly went for a wholly new one that, by no coincidence, would further empower themselves with the rights to shut down others.
What is that system they would prefer? It’s one that would give representatives of nature veto power over any form of development whatsoever by granting them standing that takes precedence over the rights of landowners, communities, individuals, and all human beings for that matter. Who might those representatives be?
Well, obviously, it will be the attorneys who take the rest of us to court on behalf of nature. They talk democracy but only respect it to the point it puts them in this position of power. Then, it’s strictly the courts and there is no more democracy or room for the will of the people. Special interest lawyers rule from then on out. All modern tyrants come to power on the back of democracy and then jettison it as soon as they are able.
Linzey is very proud of the fact he was apparently named by Forbes Magazine as one the Top Ten Revolutionaries in 2007 (it’s no coincidence, of course, that he loves the recognition of the corporate world he attacks). The Forbes piece quotes him as saying “When majorities in communities can’t make decisions, we don’t have democracy anymore,” which is supremely ironic given the fact his stand-ins in Youngstown have twice refused to accept the democratic decision. If anything demonstrates democracy is but a byword for these folks until they secure power, this is it.
The Change the CELDF Wants
The CELDF gang (which, of course, includes the Youngstown gang), according to Linzey’s book, Be the Change, seeks the following (emphasis added):
It’s structural change they’re after, because they’ve become convinced that nothing short of this will actually take their communities off the defensive and put them in a place where they control their own futures. In short, they do it because there’s nothing left to lose anymore in their communities. The cost of doing nothing now outweighs the cost of acting.
You may be surprised to learn that most of the people who appear in the pages ahead don’t know each other. That will be changing in the years to come, as community leaders across the country join hands to begin a journey that will end with new local and state constitutions, and perhaps even the rewriting of the United States Constitution. These people are convinced-from the things they’ve seen, heard, and experienced – that nothing short of a complete overhaul will solve the problems they face in their communities.
It’s not hard, from this, to figure out what these people are all about. It has nothing to do with fracking per se, excepting the fact the process is on a long list of things they say they’d stop, but even then, it’s secondary. The goal is massive structural change; replacement of our Constitution with something that will empower themselves to pursue some utopian scheme. Here’s what Linzey told Mother Jones:
“You treat the courts as a means to building an army,” he says—one that will eventually lead to overhauls of state constitutions, and finally the federal one. The U.S. Constitution, he says, simply focuses too much on “property and commerce,” and eventually pressure will build on Congress to call a convention and start from scratch.
Whether they’d actually stop fracking is another matter, though, for the CELDF doesn’t follow what it prescribes for others. Thomas Linzey attacks corporations with a vengeance, but he and Stacy Schmader use corporations to protect their own interests and gain tax-exempt status. They have incorporated in at least four different states, including Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon and Washington.
That isn’t all. The CELDF’s 990 return for 2012 (most recent) indicates it had a net income of $144,371, swelling its assets to $1,252,358. Among those assets, ironically, was $20,021 of Exxon-Mobil securities someone apparently donated to it. It also owned an interest in the Robert Half, Inc. and received $746,439 in contributions from various foundations such as the Colcom Foundation ($100,000) and the Wallace Global Fund II ($80,000), many of whom, like the CELDF, are organized as non-profit corporations or similar entities that enjoy the same privileges.
The CELDF, as the reader can see, is more than happy to adopt corporate personhood when it suits its own purpose. They just don’t want you or anyone else to have rights to organize as a corporation. What the CLEDF is about is power and nothing more; the power to tie communities up in nots and stop anything they don’t like. One hopes the voters of Youngstown will see through the charade tomorrow. I expect they will.