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On July 6, 1998, Citizens Concerned About Corporations (CCAC), a spin-off project of Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (DUHC), turned in almost 2000 signatures in an attempt to qualify the first ballot initiative in US history on the subject of dismantling corporate rule. "The Arcata Advisory Initiative on Democracy and Corporations" needed 1110 signatures to make it onto the November 3 ballot, which was successfully accomplished by a small but extremely energetic group of 5 core members and 15 additional volunteers over 25 hectic days. We were surprised by the almost complete lack of any organized or isolated opposition. Even the owners of the many locally-owned businesses we met with were either supportive or neutral, and two businesses ended up publicly endorsing the initiative.
On July 6, 1998, CCAC turned in almost 2000 signatures in an attempt to qualify the first ballot initiative in US history on the subject of dismantling corporate rule.
The only opposition we encountered was an absurd editorial in the Eureka Times-Standard, the local corporate daily, owned by MediaNews Group Corporation, the seventh largest newspaper corporation in the country. The editorial, written by the paper's managing editor, claimed that the $200 our initiative would cost the local taxpayers was a waste of money, and better spent on filling potholes. He refused to allow us a prompt editorial response, so we went to the local community radio station and framed his comments as yet another example of a distant corporation interfering in the democratic yearnings of a people. Until the turn of the century, corporations were prohibited from any involvement in the democratic process (funding elections, lobbying, donating to charities, etc.), and this is exactly what America will need if "we the people" are ever to reclaim our authority over the corporate form.
We are on the ballot as "Measure F." We will be canvassing by phone and at doorsteps, organizing a series of public educational events, and trying to raise the thousands of dollars it requires to run a campaign.
We believe that virtually all Americans are fed up with corporate crime and corporate manipulation of our democratic institutions. Everyone we talk to here in Arcata is excited about the possibility of people engaging each other city-wide in ongoing discussions about the proper role of corporations in a democracy, and specifically in Arcata. If we win in November, Arcata may ultimately turn out to be, as Jim Hightower has described us, "...a shot that will be heard 'round the world!"
For more information, or to find out how you can help to spread the news across North America, please write Citizens Concerned About Corporations, POB 27, Arcata CA 95518 or call 707-822-2242 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations should be made payable to Democracy Unlimited, with a memo notation: "CCAC."
Paul Cienfuegos has been a grassroots community organizer since 1977. In 1986, he co-founded Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County, based in Arcata, Calif.
City of Arcata Advisory Initiative on Democracy and Corporations
The People of the City of Arcata do ordain as follows:
WHEREAS, The US Constitution establishes the principle that "We the People" hold sovereign power to govern ourselves;
WHEREAS, Historically in this nation, corporations were created to be and were regarded as artificial entities, chartered only to serve the public interest, cause no harm, and at all times be subordinate to the sovereign people;
WHEREAS, The California Constitution of 1879 contained the following passage (similar to many other state constitutions): "... the exercise of the police power of the state shall never be so abridged or construed as to permit corporations to conduct their business in such manner as to infringe the rights of individuals or the general well-being of the State." (Article XII, Section 8)
WHEREAS, A century ago, large corporations began an effort to transform the law and claim civil and political rights and privileges which were intended only for real human beings under the Constitution, including full participation in our democratic processes (such as unlimited spending to influence elections);
WHEREAS, Over the last century, large corporations were also successful in removing the language in most state constitutions (including California's) which had asserted citizen authority over corporations;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That the People of Arcata support the amending of the California Constitution so as to clearly declare the authority of citizens over all corporations. To this end, we request that our City Council co-sponsor (in cooperation with the drafters of this Initiative) two town hall meetings in the five months following passage of this ballot measure on the topic: "Can we have democracy when large corporations wield so much power and wealth under law?"
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the People of Arcata request that the city government of Arcata immediately act to establish, through the creation of an official committee, policies and programs which ensure democratic control over corporations conducting business within the city, in whatever ways are necessary to ensure the health and well-being of our community and its environment;
AND BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, That the People of Arcata request our city government to immediately forward copies of this ballot measure to all of our elected representatives at the county, state, and federal levels, and to members of the press.
Summary of Initiative as Prepared by Arcata's City Attorney
If passed by the voters, the Advisory Initiative on Democracy and Corporations would request that the Arcata City Council co-sponsor with the Initiative sponsor two town-hall meetings within five months following passage of the Initiative on the topic, "Can we have democracy when large corporations wield so much power and wealth under law?" The Initiative would additionally request the creation of a committee to advise the City Council regarding the establishment of policies and programs to ensure democratic control over corporations conducting business within the City for purposes of maintaining the health and well-being of the community and its environment. Finally the Initiative would request the City Council to immediately forward copies of the ballot measure to all elected representatives at the county, state, and federal levels, as well as to members of the press.