Direct Action Spokane
Initiative Banning Coal and Oil Trains Through Spokane
Background: On Friday, June 10th, Gunnar Holmquist, M.D. filed an initiative with the Spokane City Clerk which seeks to ban the transportation of crude oil and coal through the City of Spokane, because of climate change and the threat to public safety. The initiative would do several things – (1) recognize a right of all Spokane residents to a healthy climate and public safety; (2) ban the transportation of crude oil and coal as a violation of those rights; and (3) suspend the arrest of those using nonviolent direct action who attempt to enforce the law if either the City refuses to enforce, or the courts overturn the initiative.
The Issue: Councilpersons Breean Beggs, Ben Stuckart, and Lori Kinnear have committed to vote to bring some type of local law to a vote of the people in November of this year. However, they have not committed to support Direct Action Spokane’s initiative. Instead, they are working to draft and finalize a “zoning” ordinance, which would seek to better regulate the safety of the coal and oil trains as they travel through Spokane. They are not planning to raise the issue of climate change as the core reason for the banning of the trains, but plan to rest their law on the safety implications of the trains.
Direct Action Spokane’s Position: While the group believes that any movement in the right direction is a good thing, framing the coal and oil trains as solely a public safety issue falls short of laying the foundation for a long-term campaign to permanently ban the transport of fossil fuels through the City. It treats the problem merely as one of the safe transportation of fossil fuels through the City, rather than a recognition that even if safely transported, the fossil fuels will inevitably be combusted, and ultimately, cook the planet.
Support for Direct Action Spokane’s Initiative: Several local groups have been advocating for the initiative presented by Direct Action Spokane. Those include the Lands Council, who have called for a permanent ban, the Upper Columbia River Chapter of the Sierra Club, and several leading environmental activists in the City. At the request of Councilman Breean Beggs, a forum has been scheduled at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Saturday, June 29th to discuss the direction that the City will take in response to the coal and oil trains. Hardcopies of letters drafted by those groups and individuals are being delivered to Councilmembers on Monday, June 20th, and digital copies will be circulated soon after.
DIRECT ACTION SPOKANE’S REQUEST: Direct Action Spokane is requesting that the Council vote to directly place our initiative onto the ballot for a vote of the people of Spokane on the general election ballot, November 8, 2016.
ACTION REQUEST: We’re asking you to send an e-mail to the members of the City Council, asking them to vote to directly place our initiative onto the November 8, 2016 ballot. Here’s a sample e-mail:
Dear Councilman Beggs,
As you know, Gunnar Holmquist, M.D. filed an initiative drafted by Direct Action Spokane, on June 10, 2016, with the City Clerk, which seeks to ban the coal and oil trains in Spokane on the basis of climate change and public safety. Without Council action on that initiative, it will not qualify for the ballot until November, 2017.
I believe that any delay in stopping the coal and oil trains will be disastrous to the residents and natural environment of Spokane. This year alone, over six thousand high temperature records have been set across the United States, and climate change has now created the conditions for another record year of forest fires which will burn Spokane.
Climate change is the issue of our time. It is also the ultimate public safety issue.
I’m writing to urge you, as part of the Spokane City Council, to vote as soon as possible, to place Holmquist’s initiative directly onto the ballot for the November 8, 2016 general election, and not require the initiative to qualify through the regular signature gathering process. Our fate depends on your action.
E-mails for Councilmembers: Here are the e-mail addresses for all of the City Council members, except for Mike Fagan, who has taken a position that the coal and oil trains are beneficial for the community:
- Council President Ben Stuckart – email@example.com
- Amber Waldref – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Breean Beggs – email@example.com
- Lori Kinnear – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Candace Mumm – email@example.com
- Karen Stratton – firstname.lastname@example.org
For copying and pasting into your e-mail header:
All e-mails should be copied to Gunnar Holmquist, at email@example.com.
Thank-you in advance for working on this important issue. Copy of initiative below, and attached to this action alert.
Adding a New §4.5 to Article I of the Spokane City Home Rule Charter
Recognizing a People’s Right to a Healthy Climate and Public Safety
Whereas, the people of the City of Spokane realize that the continued burning of fossil fuels is causing planetary warming, and that such climate change is a threat to all life on this planet; and
Whereas, the people of the City of Spokane have the right to public safety, health, and welfare, which includes the right to be free from the danger of explosion or fire from railway cars carrying coal or crude oil; and
Whereas, the people of the City of Spokane recognize that we all have a duty to stop the warming of the planet and to safeguard the health and safety of all Spokane residents; Therefore, the people of Spokane adopt this Right to Climate and Public Safety Amendment, providing:
Section 4.5 (A) – Statements of Law – A People’s Right to a Healthy Climate/Public Safety
(1) People’s Right to a Healthy Climate. The people of the City of Spokane possess the right to a healthy climate unaffected by fossil fuels.
(2) People’s Right to Public Safety. The people of the City of Spokane possess the right to public safety, which shall include the right to be free from the danger of explosion or fire from railway cars carrying coal or crude oil through the City of Spokane.
Section 4.5 (B) – Statements of Law – Prohibitions.
It shall be unlawful within the City of Spokane to transport coal or crude oil by rail.
Section 4.5 (C) – Enforcement.
(1) If the City of Spokane fails to enforce or defend this Amendment, or a court fails to uphold this Amendment, any person may enforce this Amendment through nonviolent direct action. If nonviolent direct action is taken to enforce the provisions of this Amendment, law enforcement personnel employed by the City of Spokane shall be prohibited from arresting or detaining persons directly enforcing this Amendment. “Direct action” as used by this provision shall mean any activities carried out to directly enforce the prohibitions of this Amendment.
(2) Any corporation or other business entity that violates this Amendment shall not be deemed to be a “person” to the extent that such treatment would interfere with the rights or prohibitions enumerated by this Amendment, nor shall it possess any other legal rights, powers, privileges, immunities, or duties that would interfere with the rights or prohibitions enumerated by this Amendment, including the power to assert state or federal preemptive laws in an attempt to overturn this Amendment, or the power to assert that the people of the City of Spokane lack the authority to adopt this Amendment.