Community Bill of Rights

July 4, 2014


DeForest Times-Tribune

Dear Editor:

            It is my wont this time of year to reread the greatest of our foundational documents.  If you decide to join me in rereading The Declaration of Independence, resolve with me to do so slowly and with understanding.  You will find that it has everything to do with the natural rights of man and woman, flesh-and-blood human beings.  You remember the rights: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.  Later, then, when the Constitution came about, they further enumerated more of those inalienable, flesh-and-blood human rights: religion, speech, assembly, self-protection, and others.  At our last local election, we passed two community referendums, reaffirming that the rights we speak of as natural and inalienable are the rights of flesh-and-blood human beings, men and women, not the rights of made-up entities like corporations and unions.  "We the People," we reaffirmed, means "We the People."

            The time has come to build again on that assertion.  The time has come to enumerate further what we mean by God-given, natural human rights and to further protect those rights in law.  There are those who would subordinate our natural human rights to exploitation for economic gain.  For that reason, there has come to be in some political subdivisions around the country a legal instrument known as a COMMUNITY BILL OF RIGHTS.  That new bill of rights aims to protect by law and ordinance all human beings' access to clean water, clean air, clean soil, sustainable energy, sustainable local economies, public schools, livable incomes, decent housing, health care, healthy food, modern communications systems, natural ecosystems, and decent workplaces.

            We need to remember our human roots, planted on The Fourth of July.  We need to pass ordinances that state plainly our sacred values.  We need those community rights ordinances in place, before our current ordinances are co-opted by powers whose motivations would subordinate the rights of flesh-and-blood human beings to the blind and bloodless forces of the market place alone.

            Planning and zoning are good ways to protect our sustainable natural communities, ecosystems, and individual local residents.  However, planning and zoning are in danger of co-optation by economic interests.  It is not the fault of the economic interests, for profit is the motivation, and the quest for profit gives rise to many good things in the good life we enjoy.  We must make sure, though, that in the quest for the economic good life, we do not sacrifice the natural good life defined in the fundamental and inalienable rights of natural communities, ecosystems, and local human residents.  We must enact new bills of rights, adding to the older existing ones.  We need new, legally enforceable ordinances that supersede any that might jeopardize the inalienable rights of flesh-and-blood human beings.  We need a COMMUNITY BILL OF RIGHTS in every community in Wisconsin.


                                                John Scepanski

                                                DeForest, Wisconsin, USA


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