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Thursday, July 17,2014

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COLORADO COMMUNITY RIGHTS AMENDMENT PULLED 

After assessing the odds of obtaining their target of 125,000 signatures on the petition for Ballot Initiative 75 by the Aug. 4 deadline, the Colorado Community Rights Network has called off its efforts to get the initiative known as the Colorado Community rights Amendment on this November’s ballot.

The amendment, if it had passed, would have given Colorado communities the right to local self-government that would have extended to enacting laws to protect the fundamental rights of individuals, communities and nature, regardless of the rights and powers of corporations or business entities and without being pre-empted by federal, state or international law.

After the initiative was filed in January, it boomeranged in and out of legislative review before a court challenge and appeal by the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, among others. Such legal ploys prevented organizers from collecting signatures for the amendment until after the May 23 ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court that the initiative was a single-issue amendment, as required in the state of Colorado. Only at that point could proponents begin gathering the required 86,105 valid signatures. The Colorado Community Rights Network was using an all-volunteer team to try to collect 125,000 signatures — a target that would allow some leeway for signatures that might be invalidated during the verification process — during the nine-week period between the May ruling and the August deadline. Generally, initiatives have six months to collect signatures.

Efforts to collect signatures also lagged, according to Cliff Willmeng of the Colorado Community Rights Network, after the Protect our Colorado Coalition formed and drew in many of the anti-fracking groups statewide and tried to start its own initiative.

“There was a whole lot of distraction in that that also factored into the component of getting enough volunteers,” Willmeng says.

The Denver Post editorial board called the measure “easily the most extreme of possible ballot measures that targeted the oil and gas industry” in its efforts to circumvent international, federal and state laws in the name of preserving the “fundamental rights” of nature.

“We don’t really feel that democracy and the protection of fundamental rights can be overreaching. Those concepts aren’t something that can be negotiated away,” says Willmeng. “The typical criticism of 75, saying that it’s overreaching, really what they’re saying is that democratic rights go too far. The Mayor of Greeley called it a tyranny of the majority — that’s versus a tyranny of the minority, which is what we normally have.”

“Money talks, and it’s telling us that the industry is very afraid,” the CCRN board said in their announcement that they’d be putting an end to their effort to collect signatures, after citing a figure that the oil and gas industry has spent $9.2 million to oppose local control initiatives and support their own.

The Colorado Community Rights Network is now focusing on assisting local communities in passing local control initiatives, Willmeng says, and will plan to resubmit the Colorado Community Rights Amendment for an upcoming election when they would expect to be able to avoid holdups in the court system and have a full six months to collect signatures.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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