New draft Rockland Food Sovereignty Resolution, (not an Ordinance), would usurp State Legislator role and appoint City representative to lobby at State level

By Maggie Trout | Feb 03, 2017
Photo by: Trout Newsflash: Possession of national brand canned spaghetti reported to local foods enforcement squad.

The draft resolution includes:  "

THAT the City Council will appoint a representative on behalf of the City of Rockland to
advocate in support of food sovereignty for local food producers, processors and consumers to the State Legislature."  The shadow of disrupting and circumventing the democratic process of electing state representatives, chosen by the majority of voters, looms large and unsettling.  Presumably, as the sitting mayor determines appointments to boards, committees, and commissions, would empower the mayor to 'elect' a State representative, or appoint? a State Lobbyist?  Funded by whom.  Rockland resident, or outside party?  Council member?  Why would this even be suggested as reasonable.  And, as this would be unprecedented, what would prevent a sitting Council member from being appointed to, essentially, a State Legislator.  There is probably a state law against that.
City-appointments have a murky history regarding who gets appointed to boards, committees, and commissions, and the idea that one or more of the proponents of this clause in the draft proposal has developed amnesia regarding the very tough sell for their appointment to same, is breathtaking.
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On Sunday, February 5, Rockland held, or planned to hold, a "public forum" at the home of Chelsea Avirett and Nathan Davis, with invited speakers, Councilors Geiger and Ackor.  I've not seen the alternative Food Sovereignty ordinance proposed by Councilor Ackor, and I cannot access it on the City of Rockland website.  Apparently, these people will have done. The letter from Renew Rockland read as follows:

"Hello,

You're receiving this message because you've expressed interest in food sovereignty in Rockland, and because there have been important related developments in City Council.  Councilor Valli Geiger introduced an ordinance promoting food sovereignty that passed Council in first reading in January, and since then, Councilor Adam Ackor has introduced an alternative resolve in place of the original ordinance that would promote food sovereignty but via different means and potentially with different outcomes.  There are therefore now two pieces of legislation regarding food sovereignty before Council, and it is possible that one or the other will pass, but unlikely that both will.

Renew Rockland is hosting a public meeting on food sovereignty on Sunday, February 5 at noon, which Councilors Geiger and Ackor have graciously agreed to attend and at which they will offer their perspectives on the ordinance, the resolve, and food sovereignty in general.  Supporters of Renew Rockland and other interested parties are invited to attend, ask questions, and discuss the issues.  This will be the last public forum on food sovereignty before the February City Council meetings, so please consider attending, learning about the options, and making your opinion known.

The meeting will be held at the home of Chelsea Avirett and Nathan Davis at 10 Fulton St. in Rockland.  Snacks will be provided.  RSVP if convenient to ... so we can provide appropriate seating, food, etc."  (email address omitted by me due to probably website hyperlink error).

Sincerely,
Renew Rockland"

PS  I am unable to access the agenda for the February 6 meeting, and the City of Rockland pdf files are the only pdf files I can not download, so I can't see the Ackor resolve if it is within that file.  The City website was to have been brought up to speed months ago.  I could not cut and paste the letter due to changes in formatting on the Village Soup website, so retyped it, and any errors are mine.

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There are no local laws prohibiting the sale of local foods privately sold to local consumers, grown or prepared under any conditions.  However, a license to sell in Maine is approximately $15, and that includes a safety inspection. 

The proposed ordinance also grossly omits addressing pesticides, ambient pollutant controls, (there are no local ordinances that prohibit toxic emissions from household products, or enforcement of vehicles idling), setting apart organic-method growers and producers from others, quality and safety of ingredients, or methods of production. or the use of genetically-engineered seeds and plants.  It also grossly overestimates what constitutes knowledge that is shared, and the quality of knowledge that is gained through hearsay. "Trusting" that people are capable of self-education, does not equate to guaranteeing self-education to the necessary degree.  Even an "expert" in one field, may well be substantially lacking in expertise in others. 

There Is nothing in the ordinance that prohibits the growing, selling or processing of foods containing additives known or suspected to be harmful to health, nor is there the prohibition of genetically engineered seeds, produce, or animals.

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And there is that pesky "enforcement" provision:  

Statements of Law:  Section 5.4  Right to Enforce.  Rockland citizens possess the right to adopt measures which prevent the violation of the rights enumerated in this Ordinance."  Ah.  So this ordinance would give extraordinary legal rights to measure-taking against people who would, for instance, report "dirty" food to the State, for example?  And then in Section 11.  "Human Rights and Constitutionality.  Nothing in this ordinance shall be construed as authorizing any activities or actions that violate human rights protected by the U.S. Constitution or the Constitution of the State of Maine." 

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"Sovereignty."  Food, or otherwise, I am a citizen of this sovereign Republic, myself - aren't they?  Aren't you?...

I believe in working to change the laws, and not declaring sovereignty for any reason.  I actually didn't know, until last night, that there were such things as "sovereignists," and frightful numbers of them in this country.  Southern Poverty Law Center has quite the essay about people claiming sovereignty.  Even though I hadn't known of the extent of this, somehow, in my well of ignorance, I knew that claiming sovereignty was a bad idea in this Republic, if we want to keep it such or believe in the messy way it works and work toward maintaining the ideals.

Beyond that, the stated goals do not demand a declaration of "sovereignty" of any kind.

Another reading of the ordinance indicates that the ordinance must come to public referendum in order to reflect the will of the "self-governed," to the extent that the majority of the citizenry is not deprived of access to locally-grown and/or processed foods, save for financial and barriers of physical ability, and education, that ability being available to either grow, (if only in a container), and/or process foods at home, and sell this product to known end home-users, without conforming to state or federal laws.

The stated purpose of the "Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinace is to:

"(I)  Provide citizens with unimpeded access to local food;

(II)  Enhance the local economy by promoting the production and purchase of local agricultural products;

(III)  Protect access to farmers' markets, roadside stands, farm based sales and direct producer to patron sales,

(IV)  Support the economic viability of local food producers and processors;

(V)  Support and promote small-scale, local and backyard farming;

(VI)  Preserve community social events where local foods are served or sold;

(VII)  Preserve local knowledge and traditional foodways."

(Ordinance Amendment No. 35, Section 3, I through VII. City of Rockland, Maine)

Question:  Would declaration of sovereignty require an amendment to the City Charter of Rockland.

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There are no impediments to the growing and selling of local foods without this ordinance..  I think we're all facing enough anarchy, and far bigger actual problems, that are not, apparently, of sufficient concern for those pushing these ordinances, who sure don't seem like they're deprived of a single thing.  Stopping corporate food monopolies, would, of course, be much more difficult.  The ordinance still reads very much like an act of sedition.  No need.

If the ordinance passes, would that allow growers and producers to sell their goods at the public landing without having to pay fees to the farmer's market, and, hence, to the city.  That would help a few people.  I think it would be great to have free market days on city property where everyone could bring anything they wanted to sell. 

I'd still like to know who paid what attorney  to write this extensive document.  Nah.  It's a very unfortunate cut and paste, essentially, taken from the movement, and always struck down by the Courts.  More importantly, someone please balance what is, most essentially, the need for agricultural land and healthy soils with, for example, the proposed infill ordinance.  There is no proposal that would ensure that local land would be secured for agricultural practices.

 

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