Occupy Denton Goes to City Hall

The Denton City Council and Occupy Denton have organized an open town hall meeting on Thursday, December first (12-1-11) at 6:00 pm. The meeting will be at Denton City Hall 215 East McKinney street in the Council Chambers room.

This meeting has been organized to address policy issues in our community including but not limited to switching the City of Denton to using 100% renewable energy, the dangers of natural gas drilling and “fracking” to public health, helping the homeless instead of criminalizing them, additional public transportation and bike lanes, and a city ordinance against corporate person-hood.

The format of this meeting will be similar to our daily General Assemblies. We will show the Denton City Council, as well as our friends and neighbors, what direct democracy looks like. The City Council will participate in this discussion with us as equals, not as superiors. Someone will give a prepared opening remark about each issue and then we will facilitate a timed discussion about how to implement solutions and what the City Council can or cannot do for us. There is not likely to be any formal proposals or calls for consensus. Our goal is to start a conversation between the community and the City Council so that positive policy changes can be made.

As is the case with any democratic process, the issues below do not represent all of the perspectives of the Occupy Denton movement. There may even be those among us who disagree or have other issues not included here. This list is not exhaustive, and they are welcome to bring up other issues or on Thursday. This list is the result of our consensus process among those who chose to participate in our regular meetings. We have tried to narrow our concerns into five things that the City Council has some, if not complete, control over. Our goal is to implement immediate solutions, not to educate the City Council about issues they should already be aware of.

The city must transition from burning 60% dirty fossil-fuels to 100% renewable wind energy as soon as possible. The infrastructure already exists. We need to make the switch for the sake of our own health and the health of the planet.

The City boasts that we are already 40% wind energy making us one of the national leaders in renewable energy. This is admirable, but inadequate. We are still getting more than half of our energy from the unacceptable burning of fossil-fuels. Sustainability means nothing if we aim for 40% and then use it as an excuse not to innovate more.The goal should be 100%.

Individual citizens can already choose to switch to using wind energy on their utility bills through the Denton Municipal Electric partnership with the Muenster Wind Farm. Citizens should do this, but the City can set a necessary example by making the switch itself, especially since the City consumes more electricity than any individual citizen does.

We must address the deadly pollution and health risks caused by natural gas drilling and “fracking” in our community. We can do this by having tougher regulations on new permits, steeper fines for violations, and a moratorium while the council deliberates.

Our neighbors in Flower Mound have already shown us the way with their activism and policy changes. Any new developments in Denton should be at least 1500 feet away from any residential or commercial area. The $2000 per day cap on fines for violations should be increased to protect Denton’s health. We require a moratorium on new developments while the Council deliberates because this issue is so crucial to our public health and is likely to face opposition from those who profit from poisoning our community.

The city must stop criminalizing the homeless and lift all curfews on all of our public parks. Laws which prevent people from helping the homeless are also unacceptable. We need money for shelters and food banks especially now that so many people are losing their homes due to fraudulent foreclosures and the crimes of Wall Street.

The City’s current “brothel laws” which prohibit more than four unrelated adults from living in one dwelling prevents the compassionate citizens of Denton from opening their homes up to the less fortunate. Some in our community have faced legal consequences for the crime of helping the homeless. This is unacceptable in a democratic society. Laws which prohibit people from feeding one another are equally atrocious. These laws are an assault on the very idea of community.

The City of Denton is criminalizing the homeless by putting curfews on public parks and enforcing them through police power. Many people have nowhere else to go and our public parks are the only safe place they have to stay. The homeless are among the most oppressed in our society because they are so often ignored or marginalized. The City of Denton has a history of not taking this issue seriously. Being homeless is not a crime.

The thousands of dollars already committed to new bike lanes in Denton is admirable, but it only begins to address our public transportation needs. We need more services and more accessibility to them. The A-Train and bike lanes are not enough.

Accessibility means lowering costs for commuters and committing funds to future infrastructure. These things cost money and should be paid for in a way that does not cut public services. The City Council must recognize that although this infrastructure is expensive it will help the local economy by making it more accessible. Economic prosperity is not possible without the roads, buses, trains, and bike lanes that move customers through the city.

Local governments across the nation are declaring through city ordinances that corporations are not the same as people in defiance of the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and the institution of “Corporate Person-hood”. This is in solidarity with the growing movement to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights. (movetoamend.org)