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Paul Gallegos, Humboldt County District Attorney (6 mins)
Kaitlin-Sopoci-Belknap, Campaign Co-Manager for Measure T (19 mins)
John Bonifaz, Attorney and Founder of the National Voting Rights Institute (17 mins)
By Maxwell Schnurer, Adbusters Magazine
In 2005, a small community group in Eureka California successfully authored and passed a ballot initiative, called Measure T, which forbids non-local corporations from giving any money to county elections. Considering the prevailing American political climate where big businesses are given anything they want, it is worth exploring how a little organization called Democracy Unlimited persuaded their community to ban out-of-town corporate money.
Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, campaign co-manager of Measure T, explains that this was a “readymade issue.” Humboldt is a rural county which had attracted the negative attention of big business before. In 1999 Walmart spent $235,000 to re-write local zoning laws, and in 2003 the lumber company Maxxam spent hundreds of thousands in an attempt to recall a district attorney critical of big timber. Both of the campaigns created “an educated public who were primed for Measure T,” says Sopoci-Belknap.
Democracy Unlimited made sure that the public arguments for Measure T were about community control. Arguing that big corporate money undercut Humboldt Elections, the group positioned Measure T as a modern day Boston Tea Party, an anti-corporate rebellion. Complete with purple tea bags and yard signs, the campaign connected the very real negative impacts of corporate indifference with a political movement.
While the symbols of the campaign were radical, the foundation of measure T was traditional organizing. The all-volunteer campaign, largely consisting of veteran Green Party and progressive organizers, scoured voter lists, staffed phone banks and walked door-to-door to explain the issue to voters. With an explicitly feminist model and with women in key positions, the structure of the campaign was effective at creating new activists who could take the message of Measure T to the farthest reaches of this rural community.
Measure T is an amazing model for other communities to help defend themselves from corporate influence. There is no place on this planet that has not been touched by major corporations. With the success of Measure T, Democracy Unlimited has given us an effective template for community groups to protect the places we live.
Find out more about Democracy Unlimited.
This article appeared in the May 2007 issue of Adbusters Magazine. Maxwell Schnurer is a community organizer and professor of communication at Humboldt State University.
Humboldt County Leaders Endorse Measure T!
Democratic Party of Humboldt County
Green Party of Humboldt County
Central Labor Council of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local #1684
Building and Construction Trades of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties
Carpenters Union Local #751
Operating Engineers Union Local #3 AFL-CIO
Paul Gallegos, Humboldt County District Attorney
Peter LaVallee, Eureka Mayor
Chris Kerrigan, Eureka City Council
Dave Meserve, Arcata City Council
Harmony Groves, Arcata City Council
Paul Pitino, Arcata City Council
Bob Ornelas, Former Arcata Mayor
Connie Stewart, Former Arcata Mayor
Elizabeth Conner, Former Arcata City Council
Julie Fulkerson, Former Humboldt County Board of Supervisors
... and hundreds of other individuals and local businesses! Join us today!
Learn more about Measure T in a Pros and Cons Video, produced by Eileen McGee (51 mins)
Humboldt Coalition for Community Rights