Right now, the right of the people of Lincoln County to decide is under attack.
A judge of the Lincoln County Circuit Court will soon determine whether or not to allow gathering signatures for an initiative petition, based on arguments heard in court, representing the profit-driven interests of industry invested in aerial spraying of pesticides in our county on the one hand, vs. the right of the people to use the initiative petition process to propose new law to protect their safety and that of the environment on the other. The answer should be clear – let the people decide.
The initiative petition in question is titled “Freedom from Aerially Sprayed Pesticides of Lincoln County” and has been put forward by Citizens for a Healthy County. It asks the people of Lincoln County if they want to ban the practice of aerial spraying of pesticides (a practice that has already been banned in federal forests for 30 years) in order to protect our right to clean air, water, and soil and to stop our continued exposure to toxic chemicals.
The judge is not considering whether aerial spraying of pesticides should or should not be banned, but whether the people of Lincoln County can be asked that question through circulation of a petition which could only become a ballot measure if it receives the required number of signatures.
The government of Lincoln County already decided that asking the question is reasonable and should happen. However, on February 29th, the attorney for the party opposing circulation of the petition argued in court that wanting clean air, water, and soil somehow entails a hidden threat to voters; that questioning the authority of industry profiting from aerial spraying of pesticides and the state to force toxic chemicals on our forests, watersheds, and people also entails that threat. Perhaps worst of all, the opposing attorney argued that people wanting to defend their constitutionally-guaranteed rights, even when our government and the courts may fail to do so, is again a threat that voters need to be protected from.
We must let the people decide. The petition must go out for signatures. With enough signatures the initiative becomes a ballot measure. Then the people – not vested interests – and not a single judge – decide. What is at stake here is much bigger than the question of aerial spraying of pesticides. The real issue is our right, as the people of Lincoln County, to govern in matters that pertain to our fundamental rights.
People of all political stripes are sick and tired of having money influence how we vote. If the judge stops circulation of the petition for signatures, thereby supporting the opinion of the attorney opposing our initiative, it means that money can influence not only how we vote, but whether we get to vote at all.
We believe in Article I, Section 1 of the Oregon Constitution, where it declares : “All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness; and they have at all times a right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper.”
We look forward to the judge in this case doing the right thing – letting the people decide. Otherwise, those constitutional words aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.
María Sause and other members of Lincoln County Community Rights