exciting news from Arcata, CA


Jan Slakov

Date: Sun, 13 Sep 1998 21:09:36 -0700
From: •••@••.••• (Paul Cienfuegos)
Subject: Arcata Corporate Rule Ballot Measure - update - please reprint /

To:  Journal and Newspaper Editors, Friends, Activist Allies near and far.....
From:  Paul Cienfuegos, Founding Director, Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt
County (California)

Enclosed please find two short introductory (and complimentary) articles,
plus the full text of our ballot initiative as it will appear on the ballot
on November 3rd. The entire set of pieces totals 1913 words (excluding
titles and author info). We would be very appreciative if you would include
this material in your next issue and/or share it widely with your friends
and allies. We want very much for a huge number of Americans, of all
political stripes, to become aware of the ground-breaking work that we are
doing in Arcata, CA. If you do choose to run this material, we ask only
that you send us A MINIMUM OF THREE FREE COPIES. Of course, those journals
which pay for articles: please contact me to arrange details in advance.
Thanks! Finally, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Paul Cienfuegos
POB 27, Arcata CA 95518
707-822-2242, fax 3481


by Paul Cienfuegos,
Founding Director, Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (DUHC)
(September 1998)

Two years ago, a small group of energetic people living in Arcata,
California launched a local grassroots organization with a bold goal. The
organization was Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (DUHC); the goal
was to begin educating and organizing to dismantle corporate rule in
California. Originally inspired by Richard Grossman, co-director of The
Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD) based in Massachusetts,
our small organization has blossomed and matured into one of the country's
most active and effective grassroots groups challenging not simply the
harms that corporations do, but the very rights which corporations claim:
free speech rights, property rights, political participation rights, and
much more.

There are two world views one can have about how our society is organized:
A)  The corporation is the primary actor in society and there are
stakeholder groupings (workers, consumers, taxpayers, environmentalists,
B)  It's a democracy and We The People all have decision-making authority.
Unfortunately, virtually all citizen action that has taken place in this
century (labor, environmentalist, human rights, etc) has conceded
fundamental rights to corporations. We have grown accustomed to treating
them as we would a human opponent: we negotiate with them, sue them, plead
with them to cause a little less harm. There is a fast growing new social
movement afoot across this nation which is refusing to play this game. We
are relearning our history, and uncovering extraordinary examples of how
state legislatures once defined the purpose of each new corporation they
created - one at a time, and utilized fundamental state law (State
Constitutions, State Corporate Codes, Corporate Charters) to maintain legal
and cultural authority over the corporate form. Democracy Unlimited is
proud to be one of the first local organizations on the west coast teaching
and leading this important work.

In May '98, Democracy Unlimited helped to launch a spin-off project named
Citizens Concerned About Corporations (CCAC), which exists solely to run
ballot initiatives that challenge corporate rule. We organized quickly in
order to meet the 1998 deadline for ballot initiatives, and on June 10th,
launched the "Arcata Advisory Initiative on Democracy and Corporations". We
believe that it is the first ballot initiative in US history on the subject
of dismantling corporate rule. We held a press conference in front of
Arcata City Hall, and to our surprise and delight, all three local TV
stations and all of the daily and weekly newspapers showed up to cover the
story, and all did an admirable reporting job. We emphasized that this was
not an anti-corporate campaign, we were simply trying to reclaim citizens'
democratic authority over the corporation.

In just 26 days, with a core group of five extremely energetic people, we
succeeded in gathering the 1110 legal signatures required to place it on
the Arcata ballot on November 3rd. Many people offered to help and few
refused to sign once they understood our unusual goals. We were surprised
by the almost complete lack of any organized or isolated opposition. We
made a point of meeting with many local business owners to let them know
that we were not targeting local businesses, and most of them were either
supportive or neutral, with two businesses ultimately endorsing the

The ONLY opposition we encountered was an absurd editorial (on the 9th day
of signature gathering) in the Eureka Times-Standard, the local daily,
owned by MediaNews Group Corporation, the 7th 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 (less
than $.02 per voter) was "a waste of money", and better spent "fill[ing] in
a couple of potholes"! He refused to allow us a prompt editorial response,
so we went to the local community-access radio station's news director who
offered us a platform where we could reframe the editor's refusal as yet
another perfect example of a distant corporation lecturing a community
about how it should spend its money, and in the process, banning the
community from even responding. From our perspective, MediaNews Group
Corporation has a responsibility to provide balanced news and editorial
coverage of issues concerning our county, and if it fails to meet its
responsibility, it is the people's proper role to challenge its right to do
business here. After the radio station aired the story, he promptly printed
our response.

Election Day already looms large on the horizon. We are on the ballot as
"Measure F". We will be canvassing by phone and at doorsteps, organizing a
series of public educational events, registering voters, and trying to
raise the $1600 we will need to run the campaign. We believe that virtually
all Americans are fed up with corporate crime and corporate manipulation of
our democratic institutions. Most of the local folks we talk to are 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"! Please lend us your support!
For More Information:
We want the nation to know what we're up to - please help us to get the
word out: to your local media, both corporate and independent, to activist
groups, etc. We'd also love your generous donation toward our substantial
expenses. Checks may be made payable to Democracy Unlimited (with a memo
notation: 'CCAC'), and mailed to: Citizens Concerned About Corporations,
POB 27, Arcata CA 95518. If you have further questions - or ideas on how
you can help - please phone us at 707-822-2242, or email us at
<•••@••.•••>. Our web site goes on-line October '98 at:
www.monitor.net/duhc .


by Paul Cienfuegos

Many people view Arcata as a unique community which has successfully kept
corporate business away, and instead nurtures its cottage industries. It is
true that Arcata's local economy is healthier than many cities its size. It
is true that a majority of Arcata City Council members are affiliated with
the Green Party. Yet corporate culture still shapes our community's very
thought-forms and language, and stifles our community in ways that most of
us don't even notice. Here are just a few examples:

* Arcata Little League Baseball teams have names like "Louisiana Pacific
Flakeboard" and "Re/Max Realty". Why? Is it perhaps that we have allowed
corporations to pay such a tiny percentage of the tax base that they have
accumulated vast profits which are used to fund organizations they support
and hinder organizations they oppose? Why do we allow this? Did you know
this used to be prohibited in many states?

* Our food coop offers both "organic" and "conventional" produce.
"Conventional" is a corporate word. Why do we use it? Imagine if the coop
instead offered both "safe and nutritious" produce and "poisoned" produce.
If we reclaimed our language, would our buying patterns change?

* A number of corporations doing business in Arcata have long histories of
violating environmental and labor law. We don't allow people with long
histories of committing violent crimes to live among us. Why are
corporations treated any differently?

* Arcata's city council holds millions of local tax dollars in reserve to
be used in case of a city emergency. The City is prohibited from setting up
programs with the money that would benefit the whole community. For
example, it can't use the money to offer low-interest loans to residents who
want to start cottage industries, or to residents who want to build
comfortable low-income housing. Why? Because corporations control
investment policy, and thus the law forbids the City to offer lower
interest rates on loans than do the banks. Corpora-tions maintain this
control because, as "corporate persons", they have more property rights
than do local residents. Who's in charge in Arcata - local residents or

Imagine if corporations were no longer welcomed at tables where important
decisions were made. No longer would Maxxam Corporation be invited to write
forestry law. No longer would Monsanto Corporation be invited to define
"food". No longer would General Electric Corporation (which owns NBC) be
invited to create television programs on We The People's airwaves. No
longer would General Motors Corporation be invited to define transportation
options. Imagine if this process began with communities across the country
(like Arcata) organizing city-wide discussions on the proper role of
corporations in a democratic society. Imagine!

These are just a few of the more than 50 giant corporations which do
business in Arcata:
Bank of America, Walt Disney (ABC-TV), Exxon, Louisiana-Pacific,
McDonald's, PG&E, Radio Shack, Rite Aid, Round Table Pizza, Safeway,
Pepsico (Taco Bell), Unocal-76, Wells Fargo, etc.

Do they pay all of their employees a living wage?
Do they poison the air or the water?
Do they drive local businesses into bankruptcy?
Do they sell products which harm human health?

Imagine if We The People learned the necessary skills to govern ourselves
in order that we might some day soon be able to act with authority and
ensure that our corporate creations fulfilled basic societal standards.
Wouldn't it be well worth the effort? Imagine!

Paul Cienfuegos has been active as a grassroots community organizer since
1977. He has worked on many diverse issues including ancient forest
protection, Native sovereignty, nuclear disarmament, and ecological
restoration. Paul is the founding director of Democracy Unlimited of
Humboldt County, based in Arcata, CA. )


(full text of Measure F:)

The People of the city of Arcata do ordain as follows:

WHEREAS, The U.S. 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

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.