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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)
Rebecca Bender, Eureka Reporter
The ordinance, which comes before voters on June 6, would prohibit nonlocal corporations from making contributions to local elections.
“We have a right to protect our elections, and that’s what Measure T is about,” campaign co-manager Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap said. “This is about deciding our destiny ourselves.”
She gave a brief overview of the history of corporate rights and powers, concluding finally with the current battle against the equation of money with speech, and of corporations with people — embodied locally in Measure T.
“All legitimate power resides in our hands,” she said.
Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos, who has publicly endorsed the measure, expanded on his reasons for taking that position.
The legal system, being a human creation, is flawed, he said. Furthermore, the Constitution places limits on government’s power, while people’s rights are inalienable.
“If there was no federal government, you would still have rights,” he said. “The only legitimate power comes from you.”
So in the case of corporations, “If the government can’t give rights, when did corporations, as a creature of government, get rights?” he asked. “We need to correct this wrong to our rights.”
Keynote speaker John Bonifaz, the founder of the National Voting Rights Institute, expressed his support as an individual for Measure T, praising its challenge to the involvement of corporate power and money in elections.
“With the corporate dominance of our electoral process, we have the drowning out of ordinary citizens’ right to speak,” he said. “Money is not speech; money is an amplifier of speech.”
He referenced several court cases that have, over time, addressed the role of corporations in the electoral process and transformed the legal landscape.
“(The Constitution) is an evolving document,” he said. “Only through people’s struggle has it evolved to the place where it is today.”
Measure T tackles those issues head on, he added.
“What Humboldt County voters have an opportunity to do today ... is to let this evolving document evolve further,” he urged. “The voters of Humboldt County have the chance to make history.”
In response to audience questions about legal challenges to the measure, Gallegos said, “The question isn’t, will it be challenged; the question is, is it worth doing?”
The right to participate in community and in government, he said, is
not just an individual’s right, but a legacy to our children.
Kathryn Donahue, chief nurse representative with the California Nurses Association, also introduced the Clean Money and Fair Elections Act, now being circulated to qualify for the November ballot.
“I’m here tonight because it goes hand in hand with Measure T,” she told the audience.
The bill sets up a voluntary system under which candidates could choose to run “Clean Money” campaigns, providing public funds for Clean Money candidates and setting restrictions on all other campaign contributions.
“We are hoping to change the political landscape in our state and in Humboldt County,” she said.
More information on Measure T, including the full text of the ordinance, can be found at www.votelocalcontrol.org.
(Rebecca S. Bender can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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