Community Bill of Rights (Measure S)

Jan. 2015

Mendocino County Passes Measure S: Community Bill of Rights-Ban on Fracking  

     - Adapted from an article by Shannon Biggs, Global Exchange

In the Nov. 4th 2014 election, voters in Mendocino County made California history, passing Measure S by a whopping 70% of the county vote. Measure S is the Community Bill of Rights Ordinance that bans fracking, dumping of frack waste and protects our water from being used for fracking anywhere in the state.  It was not the only measure in the state to ban fracking—San Benito, CA voters passed Measure J despite the heavy influx of Big Oil funding to defeat it, while Santa Barbara’s anti-fracking measure succumbed to corporate money influence.

But residents of Mendocino County did far more than ban fracking this election.

With the passage of Measure S, Mendocino County made history as the first California community to adopt a Community Bill of Rights, placing their rights above corporate interests. Residents see enactment of this ordinance as a step in asserting their right to local self-government, rejecting the idea that their community will be a sacrifice zone for corporate profits. This is a huge milestone for the community rights movement in California—joining with over 180 communities across the country which have also changed the structure of law by passing rights-based legislation.

This movement in Mendocino County grew with extensive help along the way from Paul Cienfuegos, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), the Californians Against Fracking coalition, and Global Exchange.  But it was the community that came together to put this into law. Peter Norris of Willits was instrumental in initiating trainings by Paul Cienfuegos and CELDF. A core group of 30 and countless volunteers then formed the Community Rights Network of Mendocino County (CRNMC). They worked tirelessly throughout 2014 to collect the signatures for the ballot, host public events, write letters to the editor, paint lawn signs and go door-to-door with the message that decisions about water protection in Mendocino belong to residents and residents alone.

As CRNMC member Kelly Larson said, “Measure S was organized around a network model, rather than the old hierarchical top-down leadership, thereby modeling the ‘community’ in community rights.” Another organizer, Jamie Lee, said “This is only the beginning of local self-governance for us here in Mendocino, the first step of many toward changing the rules about ‘who decides’ what happens here. WE do.”