Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

AlterNet--"Banning Corporate Personhood: How Communities Are Taking the Law Back from Big Companies"

In an article by Sabrina Artel, republished on AlterNet, Ben Price of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund explains how communities can fight corporate power with a new legal weapon: Home Rule.

The audio link below is a stellar presentation by Mr. Price, who's addressing the pros and cons of Home Rule in NY, and how it may allow for better oversight in the process of natural gas drilling aka fracing or fracking. However, his points on Corporate Personhood, and the need for more local control in issues that profoundly impact communities, is universal and compelling information for everyone to consider.

He's on the right path, but there's another component that we believe should be incorporated for Home Rule to function effectively--strong citizen involvement.


We agree with Mr. Price in theory, but if corporations and their lobbyists can influence legislation on a state and federal level, they'll also find ways to influence easily persuadable and sometimes corruptible local governments, particularly the ones that are strapped for funds and jobs.
The two biggest disadvantages of Home Rule are:
---The ability of a municipality to increase revenue through taxes and bond issuance
---The ability to exert local control over decision making with limited or no oversight and the absence of certain procedural limitations
Both of these situations can lead to financial disaster for a community if the decision makers are not intellectually equipped to understand the ramifications of their decisions. It's not commonplace for most municipalities, especially smaller ones, to count among their local government members individuals who have a strong economic and financial background. In fact, most local governmental bodies in Alabama are made up of average citizens who's education level does not exceed high school.

In communities where there are officials with a higher education degree, the problem persists of a lack of economic and financial expertise, in conjunction with the ability to look down the road and envision potential long-range consequences. These communities frequently place the fate of their development plans into the hands of county officials. The agenda of a county government differs from local government and they'll always operate in the best interest of county revenue potential first and foremost, without fair consideration for local community impacts such as:
---Environmental impacts on the quality of life, including air and water quality
---Potential long-term impact on the alteration of the surrounding lands and how it will affect future generations
---The shifting of the community political power base to corporatism instead of populism
---Opening the door to non-community based special interests to write and direct local zoning laws and regulations
Readers of our site can recall numerous stories we've posted that serve as compelling examples of how the theory of Home Rule can be abused by a less than transparent local governmental body. Alabama as a whole is replete with instances of local governmental bad decision making, violations of the Open Meeting Act, adopting zoning laws that are against the wishes of the community as a whole, and a general tin-ear stance when it comes to listening to the will of the people.

Far too often decisions are made by less than one percent of the local community's collective population, yet the impact of those decisions are felt by all. Large industrial and invasive projects should never be approved without full community involvement from start to finish. Citizens need to be able to fully evaluate the impacts of potential projects with unbiased information sources and not be bombarded with the propaganda of PR representatives who are only in it for profit.

Local officials encourage this kind of bad behavior and misinformation campaigns because they know they don't have to let the the process be fair. Alabama's Open Meeting Laws are weak and full of loopholes which further enable secrecy about discussions between officials and potential businesses looking to set up shop in the local area.

More often than not, the community is kept in the dark until it's too late to mount effective opposition to a project they do not want. The more controversial a project is the higher the level of secrecy of any precursory information about the plan.

We think a better solution would be to allow citizens to vote on zoning ordinances and proposed projects in their communities in conjunction with Home Rule. By applying stronger citizen involvement in the process of local decision making, the local government has to answer to a deeper layer of the community's wants and desires, and it removes the inclination of local officials to run rough-shod over their citizens' voices.

There are states that have adopted citizen involvement (through voting) in zoning ordinance changes and implementation. We'd like to see Alabama become more responsive to the value of populist government and allow her people to have more of a voice in their communities.

Currently, after years of stripping away citizen power, many Alabamians have simply given up fighting City Hall and Montgomery. They've become dejected and beaten down after years of being ignored by the decision makers at state and local levels and have lost their will to fight. There's been a massive slide in the balance scale of who has the most rights and the loudest voice from the people to corporations.

Corporate America and the political machine intended this result. They've taken this method to the national level and gained Personhood status thanks to the Supreme Court. Mr Price says "as individuals we don't get exemptions from the law that our neighbors (meaning corporations) do." He's right in that assessment, but we don't believe Home Rule is the solution in absence of populist governmental bodies.

Much like corporate America, local government for the most part, will not police itself and tends to operate under the assumption that election to office means they no longer have to listen to their constituents. A fifedom of sorts is created and it becomes a push pull between the interests of a few versus the interests of many--democracy is thwarted and in its place a dictatorship arises.

Home Rule is a worthy debate and idea. Let's go the extra mile and add real teeth to the discussion by giving citizens a stronger voice in what happens to their communities through voting on what they want their community to become--a vibrant and thriving place to call home or a sacrifice zone.

Taking back the law from big business is only half of the problem. Reinstating citizen power and giving the people a mighty voice in the process is the key to a successful and lasting sustainable solution.

So Say We The Opinion Board Of The Vincent Alabama Confidential
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  1. Home Rule is an excuse to control everything in a county by the centralized power in the county seat. I can think of one prime example of where it has not worked to the advantage of communities: Shelby County, Alabama and the Ayatollahs known as the County Commission.
    They've ruined Alabaster and Calera with all the noxious industry and mining. Who's next?

  2. Amen to that.
    Shelby County is a great place to live if you don't mind living under a Gestapo government or are blissfully unaware of how things really work in the county.
    They have EPA violations out the whazoo but do they care?
    Um No. Profits bring us more profits.

  3. I like this riddle, or rather truth, from one of your links on Corporate Personhood:

    Who are the monsters?

    We start with a riddle:

    It's a person, but it does not know compassion, beauty, or love, and cannot feel pain or loss
    It can live forever
    It can exist in multiple places at once
    It can cut off its own parts and add new parts
    It poisons our minds to make us think we need what it produces
    It can legally kill us and not go to jail
    It consumes vast amounts of Earth's resources and excretes them as toxic waste, pollution, and trash
    It exists for a single purpose and carries out that purpose at the expense of all else

    Who Am I?

    A Corporation

  4. thomhartmann.com


    Section 1. Name. The name of this Ordinance shall be the "Corporate Privilege Elimination and Democracy Protection Ordinance."

    Section 2. Authority. This Ordinance is adopted and enacted pursuant to the authority granted to the City/Town by all relevant state and federal laws, including, but not limited to, the following:

    The general authority granted by the Constitution of Alabama and the County and Municipal Corporations Code to make and adopt all such ordinances, bylaws, rules, and regulations as may be deemed expedient or necessary for the proper management, care, and control of the City/Town and its finances and the maintenance of the health, safety, peace, good government, and welfare of the City/Town.

    The Constitution of Alabama of 1901, Article I, § 35, which provides that the sole object and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property.

    The Code of Alabama, Section 11-47-117, which gives cities and towns the power to prevent injury or annoyances from anything dangerous or offensive or unwholesome.

    The Code of Alabama, Section 11-47-130, which gives cities and towns the power to maintain the health and cleanliness of the city or town within its limits and within the police jurisdiction thereof.

    Section 3. General Purpose. The general purpose of this Ordinance is to recognize that:

    (1) A corporation is a legal fiction that is created by the express permission of the people of this City/Town as citizens of this State;

    (2) Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution by Supreme Court justices to include corporations in the term "persons" has long wrought havoc with our democratic process by endowing corporations with constitutional privileges originally intended solely to protect the citizens of the United States;

    (3) This judicial bestowal of civil and political rights upon corporations interferes with the administration of laws within this City/Town and usurps basic human and constitutional rights exercised by citizens of this City/Town;

    (4) The judicial designation of corporations as "persons" grants corporations the power to sue municipal governments for adopting laws that violate the claimed constitutional rights of corporations;

    (5) The judicial designation of corporations as "persons" requires that municipal governments recognize the corporation as a legitimate participant in public hearings, zoning hearing board appeals, and other governmental matters before the municipality;

    (6) The judicial designation of corporations as "persons" grants corporations unfettered access to local elections and First Amendment rights that enable corporations to control public debate on and discussion about important issues;

    (7) By virtue of the wealth possessed by corporations, buttressed by these protections of law, corporations enjoy constitutional privileges to an extent beyond the reach of most citizens;

    (8) When the Alabama legislature knowingly authorizes corporations to do business in this State under the current framework of legal protections, the legislature enables corporations to wield their constitutional privileges to interfere with democratic governance within this City/Town;

    (9) Democracy means government by the people. Only citizens of this City/Town should be able to participate in the democratic process in the City/Town and enjoy a republican form of government;


  5. (10) Interference by corporations in the democratic process usurps the rights of citizens to participate in the democratic process in the City/Town and enjoy a republican form of government;

    (11) The ability of citizens of this City/Town to establish rules to protect the health, safety, and welfare of City/Town residents has been diminished by the exercise of constitutional privileges by corporations.

    Section 4. Specific Purpose. The specific purpose of this Ordinance is to eliminate the purported constitutional rights of corporations in order to remedy the harms that corporations cause to the citizens of the City/Town by exercise of such rights.

    Section 5. Statement of Law. Corporations shall not be considered to be "persons" protected by the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the State of Alabama within the City/Town of __________.

    Section 6. Severability. The provisions of this Ordinance are severable. If any section, clause, sentence, part, or provision of the Ordinance shall be held illegal, invalid, or unconstitutional by any court of competent jurisdiction, such decision of the court shall not affect, impair, or invalidate any of the remaining sections, clauses, sentences, parts, or provisions of this Ordinance. It is hereby declared to be the intent of the City/Town that this Ordinance would have been adopted if such illegal, invalid, or unconstitutional section, clause, sentence, part, or provision had not been included herein.

    Section 7. Effective Date. This Ordinance shall be effective immediately upon passage or as soon thereafter as permitted by law.

  6. Annette in AlabamaJuly 26, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    The arrogance of the rubber stamp from the corporation(s) to the government and vice versa makes me sick. By now, most of us are aware the corrupt manner in which this works.

    The mechanics of the scheme is set in this state. The powers that be allow it, all in the name of revenue, no matter what the cost to the people.

    Thanks Max, another great post.

  7. Until they fix the local governmental processes to be more in tune with their citizens I say NO to Home Rule!


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