HOT SPRINGS – This little eastern Sanders County community is now on record too as saying corporations are not human beings.
The town council Tuesday night unanimously passed a resolution stating just that.
The resolution was modeled after a referendum overwhelmingly passed by Missoula voters in November, and the 4-0 vote by Hot Springs councilors made Susan Hagen proud of her small community.
“I do appreciate that they work hard, and have a lot on their plates with taking care of city services and infrastructure,” Hagen said. “Nonetheless, I think they can take some time to consider larger issues. It is hard to do things that are a little different.”
Hagen headed a small group – a “pretty loose coalition” as she describes it – associated with High Country Peace and Justice, and Occupy Hot Springs, who first approached the council with the resolution in December.
They weren’t allowed on the agenda of the council’s monthly meeting then, as Hagen remembers, but were placed on the January agenda.
“They told us we needed to show there were more people concerned,” she says, “and so we went out and gathered signatures.”
They collected signatures from about 10 percent of the town’s population of 550, and although not all turned out to be registered voters, Hagen guesses the 30 or so that were was probably close to 10 percent of registered voters as well.
Hagen says it is important for Montanans, and their local and state governments, to act in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United ruling that overturned a federal prohibition on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions.
It’s even more vital, she says, now that the nation’s high court has also temporarily halted enforcement of Montana’s century-old ban on corporations making donations to political campaigns through the Corrupt Practices Act of 1912.
Hagen says resolutions like the ones Hot Springs and Missoula passed “help educate people that big corporations often don’t pay any taxes, yet they have enormous influence in Congress through their lobbying.”
“It also,” she adds, “sets a good example that small towns can look at issues larger than themselves, and join the fight and let their voices be heard.”
Hagen says she founded High Country Peace and Justice several years ago to help oppose a coal-burning plant in Thompson Falls. She says it also spent 1 1/2 years ushering a resolution through the Hot Springs town council saying the city promoted businesses that were environmentally sound, and opposed those that polluted.
“We also got a resolution passed against the Patriot Act,” Hagen says.
Occupy Hot Springs didn’t actually occupy anything, she says, but 10 to 15 people did meet once a week at Circle Square Park. It was there that discussions led them to take the anti-corporate personhood resolution to the council.
Five months after they first proposed it, Hagen says councilman Robert Dobrovolny moved that it be adopted, and councilman Paul Stetler seconded the motion.
Leslee Smith and Lisa Talcott joined them in voting for it.
A similar ballot referendum in Missoula passed with 75 percent of the vote.