Tuesday March 5th. will be a double-header for citizens fighting big box retailers. In Mountain View and Calexico, California, citizens groups have been organizing to stave off a tremendous outflow of corporate money by Home Depot and Wal-Mart. In Mountain View, we recounted the history of how Home Depot pushed itself onto the ballot (see Newsflash 1/5/02). After more than three years of throwing their weight around, Home Depot is now throwing its money around. In addition to sending a video to thousands of voters in Mountain View, Home Depot has spent a Mountain of Money to try and buy Mountain View. They’ve done this before in places like Encinitas, CA, Toledo, OH, and other communities. In Calexico, Wal-Mart put itself on the ballot to try and overturn a city ordinance that they don’t like. According to one local sprawl-buster: “Calexico, California will be voting on Measure B. A YES vote will make stores like a Wal Mart, follow an ordinance that the city council approved back in June 2001,whereby any store in excess of 150,000 square feet can only dedicate 7.5% of its floor space to non-taxable items, such as groceries. Wal Mart and its followers did not like this ordinance and have challenged the council and put it to the voters in Calexico.” The United Food and Commercial Workers has been helping citizens try to counteract the influence of corporate money in Calexico.
We will publish results from these two important elections on Newsflash. These two communities illustrate once again the corrupting influence over the democratic process through the use of corporate money. Because there is no campaign finance limit on corporations for ballot questions, these companies can spend an obscene amount of money on voters, while the citizen’s group is having bake sales and car washes to scrape together an ad. In places like Glendora and Huntington Beach, California, voters have shown that large infusions of corporate money can crowd out the voice of individual citizens. State legislatures need to pass a law limiting campaign contributions from corporations in ballot questions. Short of that, there is no such thing as a level playing field when it comes to initiative petitions or ballot questions. And even though citizens can, and do, win, as in my own hometown of Greenfield, MA or in Eureka, CA, Belfast, ME, etc, its always over the hurdles created by corporate money. For other examples of big box ballot controversies, search this database with the word “ballot”.