100Grannies to host community rights workshop Saturday
Can everyday people counteract corporate influence on American life? Organizers of a workshop set for Saturday in Coralville say that it’s possible — and that they’ll show Johnson County residents how to do it.
Attendees will “learn a lot of U.S. history that you never knew,” said Paul Cienfuegos of Portland, Ore., a community rights advocate who will lead the workshop. “We’ll review the community rights movement over the last 15 years.”
The free event runs from 9 a.m. to noon in Schwab Auditorium at the Coralville Public Library. Anybody can attend. 100Grannies for a Livable Future of Iowa City, a group that advocates for action to fight climate change, is the host for the workshop.
“All economic decisions are made by corporate boards of directors,” Cienfuegos said. “We live in a corporate state that has been building for almost 200 years.”
The aim, organizers say, is to protect future generations and nature from being harmed or corrupted.
“We can no longer expect our elected, heavily lobbied state and federal officials, or their government regulatory agencies, to prevent corporations from harming us and destroying the natural world, which is the source of all life,” Dawn Jones, a 100Grannies organizer, said in a news release. “We are determined to introduce a Community Bill of Rights which will allow the Johnson County/Iowa City community to determine the environment we wish to live in.
Cienfuegos said that an 1819 U.S. Supreme Court cause, Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, opened the door to the concept of corporate personhood and decades of individuals and communities being deemed subordinate to corporate interests.
Change, he said, “starts by passing local laws that strip corporations of the right of communities to self-govern.”
100Grannies has been working on community rights for six months, Jones said. It has not identified specific issues about which to approach local governments. Cienfuegos was available because he is leading a workshop in Fairfield on Sunday. If the October event is deemed successful, 100Grannies will host a three-day workshop with Cienfuegos from Nov. 13 to 15, which could lead to a specific platform.
Some common issues addressed by community rights activists include square footage of big box stores, sewer sludge disposal, and environmental issues related to concentrated animal feeding operations and sand mining for use in hydraulic fracturing.
“Typically before a community writes an ordinance, they have one overarching problem or threat to the community,” Jones said. “We don’t have that in our city that we can pinpoint right now.”
To that end, “the October event is to get the word out to a large number of people in the community. … It allows the community to decide what is important to them.”