The Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors has received a proposed community bill of rights ordinance from the Community Rights Alliance of Winneshiek County.
At Monday's Board meeting, Steve Luse, representing the Community Rights Alliance, presented a proposed ordinance to the county which would establish a bill of rights and prohibit frac-sand extraction (and other potentially harmful activities) in the county.
Luse first commented on a previously proposed ordinance submitted by the Winneshiek County Protectors which would serve to regulate frac-sand extraction.
"We rebuke the idea that legalizing extraction will prevent it from happening," said Luse, in reference to an ordinance previously provided to the Board by the Winneshiek County Protectors (WCP), which regulates, rather than bans the activity.
Luse next referred to previous comments made by Board Chair John Logsdon that he is not aware of any plans by the Legislature to address frac sand at the state level.
"When the Legislature passes a state law, that will exempt you (the supervisors) from holding any authority regarding what happens," said Luse.
"The elephant in the room is that subjugating local control is an opportunity for profit," said Luse.
"The Wall Street Journal recently referred to frac sand as the new gold," he said.
The Community Rights Alliance is working in collaboration with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a principal advisor to many community groups.
CELDF, based in Pennsylvania, works to establish community rights so communities are empowered to protect the health, safety and welfare of their residents and the natural environment, and establish environmental and economic sustainability.
Luse said since its formation in 1995, CELDF has been successful in helping over more than 160 other communities reclaim local decision-making rights.
Luse said corporations "will be diligent about ensuring their business plans to extract the county scenery with no regard for conservation to the county or quality of life."
"Their lawyers will have courts declare any buffer zones or zoning as barriers to their constitutional rights under commerce laws," he said.
Luse said CELDF's proven approach is to "intentionally provoke controlled confrontations, forcing any legal challenge to argue something different."
Luse said his group is asking the supervisors to approve the ordinance and has started a petition drive with a goal of 2,000 signatures supporting it.
Logsdon reminded the group of the county's previously approved 18-month moratorium on frac-sand mining.
"We're still in our fact-finding phase," he said.
With regard to a community bill of rights, Logsdon said the group the county does not have its own set of bylaws or constitution.
"The state of Iowa does ... Unless you want to secede from the state of Iowa ..." he quipped.
Luse said the group's intention is to begin from the bottom up and "change those legal precedents that override hog confinement rulings by our supervisors."
Logsdon added, "We can write anything we want, but if the state decides ... I just don't want anyone to be set up for disappointment ... Winneshiek County is Winneshiek County and we are included in the constitution of the state of Iowa. I believe if this came to a Legislative showdown, the state is going to win."
"That doesn't mean we shouldn't try. We shouldn't sit back and say, 'Haul away our bluffs," said Birgitta Meade.
Luse said his group will return in a month to revisit the proposed ordinance with the supervisors.
"We ask you to adopt this ordinance ... support what the people want, which is no frac-sand extraction. You can exercise your authority to set the course of our county," said Luse.
"We have an expectation you will adopt the ordinance and start the public hearings to further honor the sanctity of American democracy," he said.
The Community Rights Alliance is hoping the ordinance will be adopted by Independence Day, July 4.
The ordinance is written in 10 sections, including definitions, a local bill of rights, prohibitions necessary to secure the bill of rights, enforcement, "Corporate powers shall be subordinate to people's rights," effective date and existing permits, people's right to self-government, Iowa and Federal constitutional changes, severability and "repealer."
To view a compete copy of the ordinance, visit communityrightsalliance.org.
To contact the Community Rights Alliance, call 563-382-8013 or email communityrightsalliance.com.
A different approach
Following the meeting, Lyle Otte, president of the Winneshiek County Protectors, said while both the WCP proposal and the Community Rights Alliance proposal "seek to protect the beauty, health and economic strength of the county and region, we believe operating within the existing legal process and structure of planning and zoning regulation is the proper way to achieve our goal. The Community Rights Alliance proposal shares the Protectors' goal, but seeks to reach it another way."
For more information on WCP, visit winneshiekcountyprotectors.com.