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Measure T: Flawed, Feeble and Fully Justified

Kevin Hoover, Arcata Eye Get Involved Today!
May 23, 2006

Corporations provide a useful structure by which people may organize for a productive, profitable end. I have good relationships with various corporations, particularly ones which demonstrate technological leadership, continuous improvement and benevolence toward employees. These companies, not surprisingly, tend to provide the highest level of customer service.

And that’s their proper role – service, not governance. There is no logical reason corporations good or bad should be granted rights comparable to those of individual persons. Some corporations can well outspend entire communities of individuals in the many ways available to influence government policy. From drenching Washington, D.C. with paid lobbyists (who now write legislation) to summoning up special elections, then subsidizing specific candidates in ensuing races, these business entities wield influence via means and on a scale the framers of the Constitution could never have foreseen.

The core problem with corporations is that Organization Man frequently consents to acts contrary to his or her personal values. It’s been shown over and over again that when part of a larger entity ? a street gang, a political party, a labor union, a corporation ? people will behave in ways that don’t necessarily line up with their personal values.

It’s doubtful that any of the guys who allowed a log pond to fill up with toxic waste at the former Louisiana-Pacific plant on West End Road would have dumped poison on their neighbor’s lawn. L-P’s gone away now, but the lake of poison remains for the rest of us ? those millworkers’ neighbors to someday do something about.

The stockholders of Maxxam Corp. don’t start their days dreaming of ways to undermine democracy in a remote rural county, but they went along with just that when the mother ship deemed it necessary to oust a public official who posed a legal challenge – one which would have been better dealt with via the justice system.

There was the Stanford Prison Experiments, the Milgram Experiment and the lesser-known Radio Shack Experiment of 15 years ago, which involved me selling crummy computers to people when I knew they could do better elsewhere.

Another point is that corporations don’t even know what their own best interests are a lot of the time. As we’ve seen, American corporations tend to focus on quarterly reports and short-term stockholder dividends at the expense of longer-term survival, not to mention the well-being of the the general public, the environment, labor and so on. So why should these exigency-driven entities be manipulating our government?

I’m meandering here into issues Measure T doesn’t address, but it’s all of a piece. People – normal, non-zealot citizens – are coming to realize that corporations are distorting our society, and, fed up, people are coming up with things like Measure T to curb the advantages these entities have over the citizenry. There’s nothing in Measure T to prevent any corporate employee from asserting her or his citizen rights on behalf of their company. T barely begins to rein in the duplicative super-rights corporations enjoy.

Measure T’s opponents haven’t had any trouble finding flaws in it, though some of their objections seem contrived. The first thing we do these days when we don’t like something is search out areas of inconsistency and pounce. But I really don’t believe that if T actually did manage to eliminate all corporate and other untoward influence across the board, and overcame all consistency problems, that the opponents would suddenly support it.

The opponents supposedly champion “genuine” reform instead of this, but what have they really done in that regard besides a whole lot of nothing? Measure T is a good place to start, but it isn’t the end-all.

While I’ll vote for Measure T, and am fairly optimistic about it passing, I doubt that it will take long for the titans of industry to find ways around it. The pressure to get their way (whatever that may be at the moment) is just too great. They’ll just throw money at smartypants attorneys who will work like busy little badgers to find new ways to bend the political process to suit Mr. Big, until he gets fired by Mr. Bigger.

But we seem to have passed some sort of tipping point recently. People are seeing through the deceptions and distractions promulgated by big companies and governments. So, fast as those shiny-suited slicksters come up with new ways to disenfranchise ordinary citizens, we’ll just come back with Measures U, V, W, X, Y and Z. The bad-behaving corporations have only themselves to blame for the advent of citizen uprisings like this.

I refuse to get all red-faced and invested in this issue, as it seems to me just the sort of routine housekeeping any democracy has to do from time to time to keep special interests from getting too grabby.

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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

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