The Charter Project of Mendocino County is a coalition of people striving to increase local sovereignty with a home rule charter. We want Mendocino to join the 14 other California counties that have established home rule charters under Article XI of the California Constitution.
The greatest advantage to a home rule charter is that provisions of the charter have the same force and effect as state law [Art XI, §3(a)]. That means that whatever we write into the charter, once approved by the voters, will be like state law, but applicable only to our county.
We are all quite proud of Measure H, the 2004 measure, which banned GMO agriculture in Mendocino County. Mendocino was the first county in the Western Hemisphere to ban GMO crops. Measure H had a domino effect in which many other counties in the USA, and provinces and states around the world all followed suit and banned GMO agriculture. In response, ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) pressured states to prohibit counties from banning GMO agriculture.
“ALEC's response to cities and counties acting as laboratories of democracy has traditionally been to crush it through ‘state preemption laws’ that prohibit local governments from raising the minimum wage, regulating GMO's or building municipal broadband.”
Considering that Measure H is but a measure from a general law county, it could be overturned if the State of California followed ALEC's lead and prohibited counties from prohibiting GMO crops. If the new charter stated that Mendocino agriculture must be GMO free, it would have the same force and effect as state law and could not be overturned by the State.
Becoming a charter county is a three-step process. After the correct number of signatures has been collected and validated, there will be two charter measures on the June 2016 ballot for the electorate to vote on. The first is: “Shall a charter commission be elected to propose a Mendocino County charter?” The second will be a list of (at least) 15 people who are running for charter commissioner. If a majority vote “yes” on the first question, then the 15 people with the most votes will be elected to the charter commission. They will draft a charter for the county. Once completed, the charter will then go on the ballot for the people to approve the proposed charter. Once approved by the voters and adopted by the Secretary of State, it then becomes equivalent to state law.
Other provisions that could be included in a home rule charter include protections for the water, air, soil and scenic beauty within the county. Instant Runoff Voting (aka Ranked Choice Voting) in which we could vote for our favorite candidate instead of the lesser of 2 evils. If your #1 choice doesn’t win, then your vote would go to your #2 choice. San Francisco uses IRV, which saves money on runoff elections. We could include anti-corruption laws that prohibit donors outside the County from contributing to local candidates. Also, several of our local measures can be reiterated in the charter, strengthening their impact.
A county charter will also strengthen the case to establish a county public bank and remove our public funds from Bank of America, a felon that is too big to fail, and has derivatives exposures on the world market 28X their total assets. Another worldwide economic downturn is inevitable, and the casino derivatives market is unregulated and has super-priority status over every other debt. Therefore, when the derivatives bubble bursts, our public funds will not be safe in BoA. The sooner we find another safe location for our county’s public funds, the better. The Democratic Central Committee of Mendocino County and the CADems have both endorsed a Mendocino County public bank. Hopefully, when established, it will be a democratically operated benefit corporation called the Public Bank of Mendocino County.
Sign a petition now to get the charter question on the ballot and vote YES on the charter question in June 2016!