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The tar sands are an abomination. In a desperate move to counteract peak oil, Canada and the United States are waging war on Alberta’s ecosystem and indigenous communities, as well as on the planet as a whole.  This crime must be stopped.

Clayton Thomas-Muller also recently spoke on Democracy Now!, see the video. [alex]

greenpeace.org

Tar Sands: The World’s Largest Climate Crime
By Clayton Thomas-Muller

Published originally in Left Turn Magazine, Jan/Feb 2010

Often when one looks at the global climate crisis and the critical necessity of forests as carbon storehouses, we have visions of the Amazon rainforest in South America, or the vast rainforest cover in places like Malaysia, Indonesia, across south East Asia and Africa. What many don’t envision is the second largest carbon storehouse on Mother Earth located in Canada’s northern region known as the Boreal Forest.

This soggy, wet, biologically diverse region spreads across the continent east to west. It is home to hundreds of First Nations/Indigenous communities that have utilized these ecologically diverse regions for their livelihood from time immemorial. Many also do not know that the Boreal Forest is second only to the Amazon region in terms of daily forest loss due to industrial expansion. This tree loss is further exacerbated by an infestation of the spruce pine beetle, brought on by milder winters in the north, which has been destroying millions of hectares of trees from southeast Alaska all the way to western Alberta.

Also found beneath the pine-covered ground are vast stores of minerals and fossil fuel deposits, the most famous of which is known as Canada’s Athabasca Tar Sands in Northern Alberta. Second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of recoverable oil reserves, Canada’s tar sands have an estimated 177 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The main difference between these two sources is the fact that the tar sands in Canada are not a conventional form of oil; they are a tarry clay and sand like mixture that at room temperature is hard as a hockey puck.

To remove this oil, one of two methods must be used. The first is surface mining, where industry removes the top layer of muskeg, trees, clay and sand as well as lakes, streams and even rivers to depths of up to 300 feet. They then use the world’s largest steam shovels, earth movers and dump trucks (300 tons per load) to strip mine out the mix that is then hauled off to industrial upgrader facilities and processed into synthetic oil. In the end it works out to around 5 tons of earth for every barrel of oil. Every day they move enough earth to fill the famous home of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Rogers Sky Dome.

ran.org

If the deposits are more than a depth of 300 feet, producers must use a deep well injection process called “In Situ” or Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAG-D). This process is six times more carbon and water intensive then conventional oil extraction. The industry must also utilize vast amounts of natural gas to superheat fresh water to be injected into Mother Earth to “melt” the bitumen that then is sucked out of the ground with uptake pipes for upgrading.

Thanks to the 600 million cubic feet of natural gas is burned every day for this type of extraction, the tar sands is the single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in Canada, and the primary reason Canada is not fulfilling its legally binding emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. By 2030 at the current rate of expansion, the tar sands will be responsible for an emission level between 100-187 million tons of CO2 every year.

Probably most disturbing part of this extraction process are the runoff streams created by the use of water in the separation process. Once water is no longer usable it is dumped into a vast network of ten tailings ponds that can be seen from outer space. Every day these tailings ponds leak eleven million liters of contaminated water into the Athabasca River and ground water in the surrounding area. By the year 2030 if the tar sands continue to grow at the current rate of expansion these tailings ponds volume combined will represent a body of water as large as Lake Ontario.

Frontline Nightmares

As a result of this “Tarmageddon,” many local Indigenous communities have seen an increase in the presence of deadly forms of cancers and other autoimmune diseases in their populations. Many have observed the negative effects on critical traditional food sources such as the fish, moose, muskrat, beaver and plants that they depend on for sustenance and cultural needs. Moose have been found to have levels of arsenic 400 times the acceptable level as well as sores and tumors. Muskrat have been found with bloody noses and their homes smelling of petroleum. Fish with lesions and deformities are a common thing for fisherman in the region. The effect this has on First Nations/Indigenous communities is amplified when considering our fundamental connection to the sacredness of Mother Earth expressed through our reliance on traditional hunting, fishing and gathering practices. Read the rest of this entry »


Sakura Saunders’ excellent article from ZNet exposing one form of the “modern Enclosures” – displacing communities from their land to make money for transnational corporations, in this case mining companies in Papua New Guinea. Read this closely!

As described by Silvia Federici’s excellent book Caliban and the Witch, the Enclosures are the violence and displacement that created the first class of landless workers in Europe, commodifying their labor with the wage.  And these Enclosures have continued to expand and develop alongside the system of capitalism, in fact I will make the argument that this violence is the base, the foundation, for the system as a whole, and it could not function without it.

We must never forget that at every moment, capitalism is committing violence against poor and indigenous communities in order to make its profits. As Sakura cites, “more than 10 million people are involuntarily displaced every year to make room for development projects.” So much for ‘laissez-faire’!  [alex]

Mining Through Roots

Displacement, Poverty and the Global Extractive Industry

Monday, June 14, 2010

In the highlands of Papua New Guinea, several villages rest on a man-made island literally surrounded by an open pit gold mine and its expanding waste dumps. As the waste dumps have grown, they’ve devoured homes, schools, and most of the areas once used for gardening, making the indigenous population rely on money to acquire food while crowding them into increasingly squashed living quarters. At the same time, these same communities – the original landowners of the mine site – are criminalized for what the company calls “illegal mining,” a practice of panning for gold that the local community considers its birthright.Apalaka village

This so-called illegal mining is used by the company as a pretext for detentions, killings, and even the burning down of an entire hillside of homes*. Meanwhile, public funds are diverted from schools and hospitals to deal with “law and order” issues and the construction of a multi-million dollar fence to surround the mine site.

This scenario – the protection of the have’s from the have-not’s by a process of criminalization, militarization and the construction of walls – is an all-too-familiar response to the social issues created by global capitalism and colonization. Immigration policies criminalize people, militarize borders, and separate communities along boundaries set up to trap people in an economic reality that conspires against them. Meanwhile, the developed nations that aggressively protect their borders against new entrants have created a global economic and military system that forces people out of rural areas that are then used by large industry to extract resources, be they cash crops, minerals, lumber, oil and gas, or the industrial infrastructure needed to produce and export these goods (such as dams, highways, and pipelines). This rural to urban migration turns cities into sweatshops with expendable labor and the corresponding rights, leaving few options for the dispossessed. Labor exploitation becomes codified in Temporary Foreign Worker Programs, where developed countries attempt to receive maximum benefit from the desperation of the world’s impoverished. Read the rest of this entry »


Yesterday CNN broke the story that BP is dumping toxic dispersant Corexit 9500 into the Gulf in order to sink the oil under the surface, hiding the true size of the spill and therefore reducing their financial liability.  In other words, instead of cleaning up the horrible mess they’ve made, BP has decided to try to hide the disaster as much as possible so they won’t need to pay for it.

Such outrageous corporate irresponsibility perfectly illustrates of how capitalism’s obsession with profits necessarily leads to ecological and social trauma. BP is forced by the stock market to concentrate all their efforts on increasing their bottom line and limiting losses, even if it means driving more oil underwater and away from the cleanup crews.

We need to move to a world where marine life, biodiversity, as well as human health and well-being are valued as more important than a corporation’s profit margin. It fills me with great anger and frustration for every daily tragedy that we have to suffer at the hands of this monstrous system. Even the slightest amount of rationality or simple human empathy would prevent these kinds of machine-brained crimes against the Earth if they were allowed to intervene.

Here’s the transcript, via Crooks and Liars, which also has the video. [alex]

Anderson Cooper talked to Fred McCallister, an investment banker with Allegiance Capital Corporation, who is going to be testifying before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today about something that’s appeared painfully obvious to me for some time now, that BP is using dispersants to hide the size of the oil spill in the hopes if limiting their liability. My only question is why has the government allowed them to do it?

ANDERSON COOPER: Fred McCallister joins us now.

Fred, why do you think that BP would prefer to use dispersants over skimmers?

FRED MCCALLISTER, VICE PRESIDENT, ALLEGIANCE CAPITAL CORPORATION: Anderson, thank you for having me on tonight.

The issue that BP is facing right now is whether to use what’s practices that are normal around the world, which is to try to cause the oil to come to the surface, and then deploy the right amount of equipment and the right type of equipment to gather that oil up and get it out of the Gulf.

Using the dispersants allows the oil to stay under the surface, and this accomplishes several purposes. It allows the — it makes it a lot more difficult to quantify the amount of oil that’s coming out, which has a direct impact on damages and royalties that have to be paid.

It keeps it out of sight and out of mind. And it allows BP to amortize the cost of the cleanup over several years, 10 to 15 years, because some of this oil is going to biodegrade, but a lot of that oil is going to roll up on the beaches for 10 or 15 years.

And if they can amortize that over 10 or 15 years,as opposed to dealing with that over the next 15 months, that’s a much better financial position for BP to be in. Read the rest of this entry »


Also published on The Rag Blog.

BP Oil Disaster in the Gulf - Energy Department Photo. retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/leonarddoyle/4583740105/in/set-72157624005298860/

Just two weeks after the Massey Energy coal explosion on April 5 that killed 29 miners in West Virginia, the BP oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 more workers. These back-to-back tragedies have brought attention to the fossil fuel industry’s terrible safety record – in both cases there were known safety violations on site, but the government did nothing to prevent disaster from occurring. See the interview below which explains how the federal government approved this BP rig and many more without conducting the environmental review they are legally obligated to.

Unlike the industry executives attempting to shift blame and avoid responsibility, we must look beneath the surface to discover the deeper meaning of these horrible crises.

Is the universe giving us a warning that fossil fuels are going to destroy us? Because if global climate change continues at the rate it has, in the not-too-distant future we will see many thousands, or even millions more deaths as crops dry up, floods destroy coastal wetlands, and diseases migrate to temperate regions. This is no joke. Families and communities are being destroyed so coal and oil corporations can boost their profit margins.

We need to be open to hearing the lessons that are all around us, especially  from those who have been silenced and beaten down by capitalism.

Immediately after the Massey explosion and the BP explosion, was Earth Day – April 22. And on this date, indigenous and poor people from around the globe were meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia for the World People’s Conference on Climate Change, a grassroots response to the corporate fraud that was the Copenhagen Summit. Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was proclaimed “World Hero of Mother Earth” by the United Nations General Assembly in October, hosted the conference, proclaiming “The capitalist system looks to obtain the maximum possible gain, promoting unlimited growth on a finite planet. Capitalism is the source of asymmetries and imbalance in the world.”

30,000 people from 140 countries convened and approved the “Cochabamba Protocol”, which calls for an International Climate Justice tribunal to prosecute climate criminals, and condemns REDDs which put a price on wild forests and encourage development, along with carbon market schemes. The protocal proposes a Universal Declaration of Mother Earth and demands that industrialized polluting nations cut carbon emissions by 50 percent as part of a new, binding climate agreement.

Global momentum is building towards confronting capitalism in terms of the ecological devastation it is causing. Here in the United States, Rising Tide North America is calling for a “Day of Action, Night of Mourning” this Friday, May 14 to call for BP to pay for all cleanup and long-term ecological effects of their spill, for the abolition of offshore oil drilling, and for “a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels.”

[alex]

Government Exempted BP from Environmental Review

Video/interview published by Democracy Now!

May 7, 2010

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well now to the Gulf of Mexico where the enormous oil slick in the Gulf continues to expand. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has ordered a 3-week halt to all new offshore drilling permits. Emphasizing that the companies involved had made “major mistakes,” Salazar spoke to reporters Thursday outside BP’s Houston crisis center. He noted that lifting the moratorium on new permits will depend on the outcome of a federal investigation over the Gulf spill and the recommendations to be delivered to President Obama at the end of the month.

    SECRETARY KEN SALAZAR: Minerals Management Service will not be issuing any permits for the construction of new offshore wells. That process will be concluded here on May the 28th. At that point in time, we’ll make decisions about how we plan on moving forward. There is some very major mistakes that were made by companies that were involved. But today is not really the day to deal with those issues. Today and the days ahead really are about trying to get control of the problem.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Secretary Salazar added that the existing offshore oil and natural gas drilling will continue, even as public meetings to discuss new oil drilling off the Virginia coast have been canceled for this month.

AMY GOODMAN: Salazar’s announcement comes on the heel of a Washington Post exposé revealing that the Minerals Management Service had approved BP’s drilling plan in the Gulf of Mexico without any environmental review. The article notes that the agency under Secretary Salazar had quote “categorically excluded” BP’s drilling as well as hundreds of other offshore drilling permits from environmental review. The agency was able to do this using a loophole in the National Environmental Policy Act created for minimally intrusive actions like building outhouses and hiking trails. Well, for more on this story, we’re joined now from Tucson, Arizona by Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. Welcome to DEMOCRACY NOW!, Kieran. Explain this loophole, how you found it, and what it means for the Gulf.

KIERAN SUCKLING: Well, when a federal government is going to approve a project, it has to go through an environmental review. But for projects that have very, very little impact like building an outhouse or a hiking trail, they can use something called a categorical exclusion and say there’s no impact here at all so we don’t need to spend energy or time doing a review. Well, we looked at the oil drilling permits being issued by the Minerals Management Service in the Gulf, and we were shocked to find out that they were approving hundreds of massive oil drilling permits using this categorical exclusion instead of doing a full environmental impact study. And then, we found out that BP’s drilling permit—the very one that exploded—was done under this loophole and so it was never reviewed by the federal government at all. It was just rubber-stamped. Read the rest of this entry »


Are we living through the twilight of democracy, or the dawn of a new day?

That is up to us.

The Chambersburg Declaration is a brief but promising political document coming out of Pennsylvania, specifically the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. Explanation follows. [alex]

photo by neeloyunus on flickr

THE CHAMBERSBURG DECLARATION

BY THE UNDERSIGNED IN CHAMBERSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA, ON
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20TH, 2010

We declare:

– That the political, legal, and economic systems of the United States allow, in each generation, an elite few to impose policy and governing decisions that threaten the very survival of human and natural communities;

– That the goal of those decisions is to concentrate wealth and greater governing power through the exploitation of human and natural communities, while promoting the belief that such exploitation is necessary for the common good;

– That the survival of our communities depends on replacing this system of governance by the privileged with new community-based democratic decision-making systems;

– That environmental and economic sustainability can be achieved only when the people affected by governing decisions are the ones who make them;

– That, for the past two centuries, people have been unable to secure economic and environmental sustainability primarily through the existing minority-rule system, laboring under the myth that we live in a democracy;

– That most reformers and activists have not focused on replacing the current system of elite decision-making with a democratic one, but have concentrated merely on lobbying the factions in power to make better decisions; and

– That reformers and activists have not halted the destruction of our human or natural communities because they have viewed economic and environmental ills as isolated problems, rather than as symptoms produced by the absence of democracy.

Therefore, let it be resolved:

– That a people’s movement must be created with a goal of revoking the authority of the corporate minority to impose political, legal, and economic systems that endanger our human and natural communities; Read the rest of this entry »


Also published on No Cure for That.

Last week President Obama announced an $8.3 billion loan of taxpayer dollars for the construction of two new nuclear reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia. He has also proposed tripling the loans for new nuclear reactors to $54 billion in his 2011 budget.

In his announcement he argued, “To meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, we’ll need to increase our supply of nuclear power. It’s that simple.”

Sadly, Mr. Obama is mistaken on all points.

If by “we” the President means to speak on behalf of his Wall St. advisers and the industrial capitalist system he represents, “our” energy needs are not growing. They’re shrinking along with the economy. And while preventing the worst consequences of climate change is necessary, nuclear power is not.  It’s not necessary by any stretch of the imagination.

Here are 5 simple reasons why nuclear is not a sustainable solution to the energy woes of the 21st Century:

1. Nuclear is Too Expensive.

In economic hard times such as ours, we need cheap, readily-available sources of energy to create jobs and keep the lights on.  Nuclear is the opposite. Nuclear reactors require billions of dollars of government subsidies just to be built, because no private investor wants to throw their money into an expensive and dangerous project that might never produce a return.

To grab those government subsidies, nuclear companies regularly low-ball their price tags, knowing they’ll have to beg for more money later and that the feds will always give in. The recent TIME article “Why Obama’s Nuclear Bet Won’t Pay Off” explains:

If you want to understand why the U.S. hasn’t built a nuclear reactor in three decades, the Vogtle power plant outside Atlanta is an excellent reminder of the insanity of nuclear economics. The plant’s original cost estimate was less than $1 billion for four reactors. Its eventual price tag in 1989 was nearly $9 billion, for only two reactors. But now there’s widespread chatter about a nuclear renaissance, so the Southern Co. is finally trying to build the other two reactors at Vogtle. The estimated cost: $14 billion. And you can be sure that number is way too low, because nuclear cost estimates are always way too low.

Environment America’s report, “Generating Failure: How Building Nuclear Power Plants Would Set America Back in the Race Against Global Warming”, explains nuclear’s faulty economics further:

Market forces have done far more to damage nuclear power than anti-nuclear activists ever did. The dramatic collapse of the nuclear industry in the early 1980s – described by Forbes magazine as the most expensive debacle since the Vietnam War – was caused in large measure by massive cost overruns driven by expensive safety upgrades after the Three Mile Island accident revealed shortcomings in nuclear plant design. These made nuclear power plants far more expensive than they were supposed to be. Some U.S. power companies were driven into bankruptcy and others spent years restoring their balance sheets.

At the end of the day, there are much cheaper and better ways to produce energy.  The TIME article points out, “Recent studies have priced new nuclear power at 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour, about four times the cost of producing juice with new wind or coal plants, or 10 times the cost of reducing the need for electricity through investments in efficiency.”

Instead of pouring billions of dollars into something the market wants to keep its distance from, why not spend that money on efficiency improvements or wind and solar, for which there is a growing market and massive public support?

2. Nuclear is Too Inefficient.

A big part of why nuclear is so expensive is that it’s incredibly inefficient as an energy source, requiring a high proportion of energy inputs as compared to what it produces in output.  Between the cost of building the plants and equipment (tons of steel, concrete, and intricate machinery), mining the uranium, enriching the uranium, operating under stringent safety regulations, disposing the radioactive waste, and eventually decommissioning the plants, there is a tremendous about of energy and money poured in to nuclear reactors, making the energy they produce proportionaly less impressive than is often touted. Read the rest of this entry »


This is one of the most timely and insightful articles I’ve read in a long time – the editorial from the new issue of Turbulence magazine. They discuss the economic crisis within the frame of the collapse of the neoliberal order that has been the standard-bearer of global capitalism for the last 30-35 years, resulting in a state of “limbo” where no “deal” exists tying the system together. Nevertheless, the system persists like a zombie, dead and discredited but carried forward by sheer momentum and the fact that nothing else has shown itself capable of replacing it. Our job then, is to hold up an alternative way of life (a new “common ground”) that values communities and the planet above narrow profit, and that job becomes easier by studying analysis like this. Thanks, Turbulence! [alex]

Life in Limbo?

By Turbulence

We are trapped in a state of limbo, neither one thing nor the other. For more than two years, the world has been wracked by a series of interrelated crises, and they show no sign of being resolved anytime soon. The unshakable certainties of neoliberalism, which held us fast for so long, have collapsed. Yet we seem unable to move on. Anger and protest have erupted around different aspects of the crises, but no common or consistent reaction has seemed able to cohere. A general sense of frustration marks the attempts to break free from the morass of a failing world.

There is a crisis of belief in the future, leaving us with the prospect of an endless, deteriorating present that hangs around by sheer inertia. In spite of all this turmoil – this time of ‘crisis’ when it seems like everything could, and should, have changed – it paradoxically feels as though history has stopped. There is an unwillingness, or inability, to face up to the scale of the crisis. Individuals, companies and governments have hunkered down, hoping to ride out the storm until the old world re-emerges in a couple of years. Attempts to wish the ‘green shoots’ of recovery into existence mistake an epochal crisis for a cyclical one; they are little more than wide-eyed boosterism. Yes, astronomical sums of money have prevented the complete collapse of the financial system, but the bailouts have been used to prevent change, not initiate it. We are trapped in a state of limbo.

Crisis in the middle

And yet, something did happen. Recall those frightening yet heady days that began in late 2008, when everything happened so quickly, when the old dogmas fell like autumn leaves? They were real. Something happened there: the tried and tested ways of doings things, well-rehearsed after nearly 30 years of global neoliberalism, started to come unstuck. What had been taken as read no longer made sense. There was a shift in what we call the middle ground: the discourses and practices that define the centre of the political field.

To be sure, the middle ground is not all that there is, but it is what assigns the things in the world around it a greater or lesser degree of relevance, validity or marginality. It constitutes a relatively stable centre against which all else is measured. The farther from the centre an idea, project or practice is, the more likely it is to be ignored, publicly dismissed or disqualified, or in some way suppressed. The closer to it, the more it stands a chance of being incorporated – which in turn will shift the middle more or less. Neither are middle grounds defined ‘from above’, as in some conspiratorial nightmare. They emerge out of different ways of doing and being, thinking and speaking, becoming intertwined in such a way as to reinforce each other individually and as a whole. The more they have become unified ‘from below’ as a middle ground, the more this middle ground acquires the power of unifying ‘from above’. In this sense, the grounds of something like ‘neoliberalism’ were set before something was named as such; but the moment when it was named is a qualitative leap: the point at which relatively disconnected policies, theories and practices became identifiable as forming a whole.

The naming of things like Thatcherism in the UK, or Reaganism in the US, marked such a moment for something that had been constituting itself for some time before, and which has for the past three decades dominated the middle ground: neoliberalism, itself a response to the crisis of the previous middle, Fordism/Keynesianism. The era of the New Deal and its various international equivalents had seen the rise of a powerful working class that had grown used to the idea that its basic needs should be met by the welfare state, that real wages would rise, and that it was always entitled to more. Initially, the centrepiece of the neoliberal project was an attack on this ‘demanding’ working class and the state institutions wherein the old class compromise had been enshrined. Welfare provisions were rolled back, wages held steady or forced downwards, and precariousness increasingly became the general condition of work.

But this attack came at a price. The New Deal had integrated powerful workers’ movements – mass-based trade unions – into the middle ground, helping to stabilise a long period of capitalist growth. And it provided sufficiently high wages to ensure that all the stuff generated by a suddenly vastly more productive industrial system – based on Henry Ford’s assembly line and Frederick Taylor’s ‘scientific management’ – could be bought. Bit by bit, the ferocious attack on the working classes of the global North was offset by low interest rates (i.e. cheap credit) and access to cheap commodities, mass-produced in areas where wages were at their lowest (like China). In the global South, the prospect of one day attaining similar living conditions was promised as a possibility. In this sense, neoliberal globalisation was the globalisation of the American dream: get rich or die trying. Read the rest of this entry »


In November, community members in Spokane Washington articulated these Community Bill of Rights, to give neighbors the ability to control their neighborhoods and their futures. It was defeated by massive opposition of corporate and political elites, but the model of communities organizing at the grassroots level for basic economic, social and ecological rights is something that I’m sure will be reproduced and improved upon in the New Year.  Happy 2010! [alex]

Spokane Considers Community Bill of Rights

by Mari Margil, November 4, 2009

Yes! Magazine

Thousands of people voted to protect nine basic rights, ranging from the right of the environment to exist and flourish to the rights of residents to have a locally based economy and to determine the future of their neighborhoods.

Of all the candidates, bills, and proposals on ballots around the country yesterday, one of the most exciting is a proposition that didn’t pass.

In Spokane, Washington, despite intense opposition from business interests, a coalition of residents succeeded in bringing an innovative “Community Bill of Rights” to the ballot. Proposition 4 would have amended the city’s Home Rule Charter (akin to a local constitution) to recognize nine basic rights, ranging from the right of the environment to exist and flourish to the rights of residents to have a locally based economy and to determine the future of their neighborhoods.

Communities Take Power - Barnstead, New Hampshire was the first town in the nation to ban corporate water mining.

A coalition of the city’s residents drafted the amendments after finding that they didn’t have the legal authority to make decisions about their own neighborhoods; the amendments were debated and fine-tuned in town hall meetings.

Although the proposition failed to pass, it garnered approximately 25 percent of the vote—despite the fact that opponents of the proposal (developers, the local Chamber of Commerce, and the Spokane Homebuilders) outspent supporters by more than four to one. In particular, they targeted the Sixth Amendment, which would have given residents the ability, for the very first time, to make legally binding, enforceable decisions about what development would be appropriate for their own neighborhood. If a developer sought to build a big-box store, for example, it would need to conform to the neighborhood’s plans.

Nor is development the only issue in which resident would have gained a voice.  The drafters and supporters of Proposition 4 sought to build a “healthy, sustainable, and democratic Spokane” by expanding and creating rights for neighborhoods, residents, workers, and the natural environment.

Legal Rights for Communities

Patty Norton, a longtime neighborhood advocate who lives in the Peaceful Valley neighborhood of Spokane, and her neighbors spent years fighting a proposed condominium development that would loom 200 feet high, casting a literal shadow over Peaceful Valley’s historic homes.

Proposition 4 would ensure that “decisions about our neighborhoods are made by the people living there, not big developers,” Patty said. Read the rest of this entry »

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