Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Prepared Remarks Presented to Arcata City Council 7-21-04
When I first started working on the No Confidence resolution, I asked Councilmember Meserve for input and support. He was not sold on the idea but he encouraged me to reach out to the Veterans For Peace and the Redwood Peace and Justice Center and to get back to him. The Vets have endorsed the resolution and the Peace and Justice Center has donated meeting space and assigned volunteers to leafleting and signature gathering. Both organizations also contributed greatly to shaping the language that evolved over the various versions of the resolution.
Councilmember Conner recently paid me an interesting compliment, saying I had generated more media attention for a concept than anyone else she could recall. Thank you. I know this has had a tangible impact too. For example, Marilyn Machi, wife of our esteemed Councilmember, heard my first interview on KMUD. Her reaction was to encourage Michael to see me speak at the meeting I was promoting for the purpose of increased public participation. As I recall, it was my interest in building consensus that interested them both.
When Michael subsequently approached me privately, he encouraged me to address some less obviously aligned groups and agreed to make some introductions. One meeting, with members of the Executive Committee of the Arcata Chamber of Commerce, resulted in a significant revision to the No Confidence resolution. Michael’s constituents recommended adding the specific goals of instant runoff voting, proportional representation and public campaign financing.
I regret that no others of Councilman Machi’s referrals were willing to meet with me. Still, this one meeting alone was likely the most integral bridge yet built. It connects the goals of the No Confidence resolution with Councilmember Conner’s alternative, the Building Confidence resolution. As the No Confidence resolution developed further, always as a result of community collaboration, we reached a point where both Councilmember Meserve and Mayor Ornelas expressed willingness to support it.
So far in this story, I’ve done everything that everyone has asked, built support among virtually everyone willing to consider the ideas being promoted, and inspired absolutely no opposition. I remind you, our contention is that the electoral system and the media have become so untrustworthy that there is no BASIS for confidence in the legitimacy of US federal elections.
Do we want to build confidence? Of course. This is implicit in all of the goals we identify and the methods by which we are pursuing them. If the No Confidence resolution needs to add the phrase “building confidence” to become explicit, that is a small accommodation easily achieved.
Would this address the Council’s stated concern about negativity? Well first let’s consider whether this concern is justified or applicable, given that we are pursuing the same positive goals you are. The word “No” in No Confidence was singled out yet we accept that word in our No Tolerance policies towards rape, discrimination, and drunk driving. Shouldn’t we have a No Tolerance policy for fraudulent elections? This is what we are striving for as the first step in a broader strategy. It is the approach itself we need to preserve and I wonder if you would be more comfortable expressing zero BASIS for confidence or presenting a Zero Tolerance policy for election fraud?
It is inexplicable that you have completely dismissed this aspect of our reform movement. There either is or there is not a BASIS for confidence. Rather than address the question, where nobody has yet argued in the affirmative for the existence of a BASIS, it would appear that you are rejecting the idea of a No Tolerance policy for fraudulent elections.
I know this is not your intent. But it will be the result of passing the Building Confidence resolution. In a sense, where the No Confidence Movement declares “we will not allow ourselves to be lied to anymore,” we seem to be hearing the response, “oh yes you will.” Our position allows us to fairly lay claim to the mantle of “voter advocate,” without ever calling for a boycott. The bottom line is this: there are parallel plans that share goals. The No Confidence resolution creates the action necessary to deliver results whereas the Building Confidence resolution pays lip service to a mere subset of our ideas.
The No Confidence resolution addresses the denial of the Consent of the Governed. This aspect of our Movement has also been dismissed by your alternative. Perhaps this was previously unintentional. At this point, however, I am trying to present your reflection in a mirror. This reveals a conscious choice between a plan for real change and words that identify the problems and the goals without providing the means to bridge the two. It pains me to say this, but with all due respect, the Building Confidence resolution is another false alternative that perpetuates the myth of democracy in America.
That is one way that people could look back on tonight though I don’t think it is in anyone’s interest. This night could also be regarded as an historic occasion. For this to happen, it would mean: honoring rather than ignoring three months of community collaboration; addressing the no-brainer question of whether there is or is not a BASIS for confidence; and joining our stance against allowing ourselves to be lied to.
I appreciate that you have to consider the ramifications beyond tonight. I hear that you feel it is safer to support the Building Confidence rather than No Confidence resolution. This may be the case, if you fear backlash simply for having taken a bold step. Personally, I think the greater concern should be for passing up an opportunity to initiate a plan that actually stands a chance of addressing the all but certain eventuality of another uncertain election outcome.
I urge and even beg you to revisit and pass the No Confidence resolution as the best possible way to achieve the goals set out in the Building Confidence resolution.