Did the powers-that-be, including the City of Bellingham (COB), Warren Buffet’s Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway Company (BNSF), and the Whatcom Superior Court System (Court) just prove Coal-Free Bellingham’s (CFB) point?
Is it true that there exists a systemic and structural dysfunction that has turned our government of the people, by the people, and for the people on its head?
Are CFB members correct when they state in their Bellingham Community Bill of Rights that, “the assertion of constitutional rights, including civil rights, by the legal constructions known as Corporations has fundamentally unbalanced our system of government?”
Are the legal tools available to “we the people” inadequate to prevent the destruction of our own communities - leaving us without any genuine local control?
Has the current system enabled certain businesses to decide policies that are supposed to regulate those very same businesses? Are land use guidelines overly influenced by developers and other businesses that profit from development? Are energy strategies and regulations determined by energy corporations? And do financial conglomerates essentially establish our nation’s financial and economic plans?
Has the current system actually placed municipal corporations, like our own COB, on the same side as for-profit corporate entities, thereby requiring our electeds to actually defend the rights of these businesses over our own?
And is our court system really designed to prevent cities like Bellingham from screwing with the laws that place corporations above the people?
These are the claims made by the sponsors of the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights initiative. And when you consider that on Aug 3rd the Court essentially precluded a duly qualified citizen initiative from appearing on the November ballot, you’ve gotta ask yourself:
- Did the powers-that-be just prove CFB’s point?
As CFB emphasizes in its legal filings, under Washington's initiative laws the only “pre-election” challenges allowed are those that involve:
a) whether the proposed ordinance is administrative, as opposed to legislative; or
b) whether the initiative is a power of the municipal government, rather than the municipality as a whole.
Legal “pre-election” challenges do not include those concerned with whether the initiative will withstand post-election constitutional scrutiny or whether the ordinance potentially conflicts with established federal or state law.
According to CFB, “The other interest underlying the prohibition on substantive pre-election challenges to initiatives is that such challenges hinder the evolution of the law. Law changes to reflect new social standards, especially in the recognition of expanded horizons for equality and protection of rights. Allowing substantive pre-election challenges stunts that process, renders the law static, and places residents entirely at the whim of their elected officials as to moving new laws forward. Proposals for new laws that are unpopular with governments never emerge from the discussion between people and their elected officials, and necessary movements towards change in legal structures are stillborn. Waiting for government institutions to act on their own, especially when needed change runs contrary to the vested interests of government officials (and the interests they represent in many locations), would guarantee the doctrines of ‘separate but equal’ and ‘women as property’ would have remained the law of the land.”
Are the actions taken by COB, BNSF and the Court indicative of systemic and structural dysfunction?
Do we need the CFB Bill of Rights initiative on the ballot so that these critical questions can be answered?