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Signatures for Election Reform Initiative Delivered to County

Nathan Rushton, Eureka Reporter
January 20, 2006

Get Involved Today!It wasn't a squeaker.

Humboldt Coalition for Community Rights said it needed 4,389 valid signatures to qualify its ballot initiative to limit outside corporate funding of local elections in the county, but it gathered 7,668.

More than 40 supporters, elected officials and community members gathered outside the Humboldt County Elections Office on Thursday to celebrate the completion of the first hurdle to qualify the HCCR's ballot initiative for June's ballot.

If passed by a majority of voters, the initiative, called the Humboldt County Ordinance to Protect Our Right to Fair Elections and Local Democracy, would enact an ordinance intended to ensure the integrity of local politics by prohibiting non-local corporations from contributing to Humboldt County elections.

Humboldt County businesses and individuals would be able to contribute to local elections under city and county fair political practices laws, according to HCCR.

Local corporations are defined as those whose employees, owners or stockholders live and are headquartered in Humboldt County and are not owned by another corporation.

Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, campaign manager for HCCR, said the day was "historic" because the initiative signature collection effort, which was accomplished in 120 days by more than 300 volunteers, was more than any other previous ballot initiative in the county's election history.

"The success of the petition-gathering stage of the campaign reflects the broad and deep support that this effort enjoys, representing every region of the county," Sopoci-Belknap said.

Sopoci-Belknap called the organization a "true coalition" consisting of the Humboldt County Democratic Party, organized labor and other social justice and environmental protection groups. She also said the organization has the endorsements of Eureka Mayor Peter La Vallee, Eureka City Councilman Chris Kerrigan, a slew of past and present Arcata City Council members, as well as Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos.

Not long after being elected, Gallegos found himself on the receiving end of a recall campaign in 2003-04, during which it was reported that The Pacific Lumber Co.'s Texas-based owner MAXXAM Corporation contributed nearly $300,000 to see him ousted in an effort, many contend, to prevent Gallegos from filing a fraud lawsuit against PALCO.

Although there were allegations that the recall effort's petition gatherers violated several laws governing how the signatures are to be gathered, including the use of outside-area signature gatherers, Measure F made its way onto the March 2004 election ballot, but was defeated by more than 61 percent of the county's voters.

Gallegos, who also spoke during Thursday's event, expressed his gratitude to the volunteers who participated in the signature gathering for the coalition's election campaign initiative.

"Such a demonstration of civic determination truly reflects the best spirit of Humboldt County," Gallegos said.

"Out-of-county corporate political donations are a real and persistent problem in Humboldt elections and the Humboldt Coalition for Community Rights is providing a clear and straightforward solution," Gallegos said.

Speaking to concerns about whether county voters have the legal authority to pass a law limiting outside corporations from contributing to local elections, Gallegos said he agreed with former Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist's opinion in the case of Citizens Against Rent Control v. Berkeley.

Quoting Rehnquist's legal opinion, Gallegos said "the Supreme Court has always recognized that preserving the integrity of the electoral process, preventing actual or perceived corruption, and preserving citizen confidence in government is an interest of the highest importance in ballot measure elections."

Gallegos said he would work with the coalition to pass the "much-needed" reform.

"The ability to protect the integrity of our elections is not merely our right - it is our responsibility," Gallegos said.

Also speaking at the event was Bob Borck, secretary and treasurer of the Building and Construction Trades, who said he was supporting the initiative because it was in the best interest of all working people in the county.

"The working class could never compete with outside corporate interests who have bottom-line profits as the driver of their decisions," Borck said.

Marilyn DeWitt, a clerk with the Humboldt County Elections Office, confirmed Thursday the receipt of the box of more than 7,000 signatures.

The elections office has 30 days to verify the accuracy of the signatures, which is done by a random statistical sampling of 500 of the signatures, DeWitt said.

Among the things the elections office does to check accuracy are verifying that signatures are from registered voters, who may only sign once, and making sure the signers' addresses match the addresses listed on the petition during the time the circulator declared the signature was obtained.

"We are not swamped, so we expect to have it done well before the 30-day deadline," DeWitt said.

After the certification is completed by the elections office, the ballot initiative will be passed along to the county to make its way onto the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors' agenda for consideration.

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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

... and hundreds of other individuals and local businesses! Join us today!

View the full list of public endorsements!


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Chris Kerrigan, Eureka City Counsel, and Kate Christensen, owner of The Garden Gate, support Measure T! (1 min)


Paul Gallegos, Humboldt County District Attorney, and Nezzie Wade, community member, support Measure T! (1 min)


Larry Glass, owner of The Works, and Dennis Rael, owner of Los Bagles, support Measure T! (1 min)