Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Voices of Franklin: Graydon Smith on the People's Rights Amendment

The proposed agenda for the Town Council meeting May 16 was changed to remove the resolution referenced. There was discussion on the item but that was all.

You can find the agenda here

Links to the People's Right website

and the discussion summary here

Graydon was one of two citizens to step forward to speak on this matter. He graciously shared the copy of his comments with me.

Mr. Chairman, Councilors, thank you for allowing me to address you about the proposed Resolution 12-33: "Expressing the Sense of the Franklin Town Council in Support of the People's Rights Amendment".
My name is Graydon Smith, I reside in Franklin Massachusetts. I currently serve on the Franklin Long Range Finance Committee and serve as the Secretary of the Franklin Republican Town Committee. The following statement is my own.

First, I would like to address the proposed Constitutional amendment that the Council is considering endorsing. I find it ironic that this is labeled the "People's Rights Amendment" as this amendment does nothing to secure the rights of people. Our rights, enshrined in the Bill of Rights all have one thing in common. They all place restrictions on the authority of government from infringing on the rights of individuals. This proposed amendment does nothing to restrict the power of government, but instead, is a grant of unlimited authority to regulate speech if the speakers are incorporated.

The proponents of this amendment, including Congressman McGovern, argue that the Supreme Court erred in striking down campaign finance restrictions on political speech by corporations; They claim that the Supreme Court granted first amendment rights to corporations. I disagree. What the Supreme Court affirmed was that we as individuals to not forfeit our rights when we act or speak as a group.

I would ask the proponents of this Constitutional amendment, at what point exactly, do we as individuals give up our rights when we join a group? Are we going to allow the collective rights of members of a group to be trampled if the basis of the group happens to be a profit motivation?

The exercise of our right to free speech is is amplified when we as individuals come together in groups to support a cause. This amendment would undermine that exercise of our individual rights of speech and association. Under this amendment, speech sponsored by corporations could be regulated on the basis of "corporate speech we like" vs "corporate speech we dislike". There is no protection for dissenting voices. Additionally, under this amendment, the government would be free to regulate and criminalize any and all corporate speech. Nothing in this amendment states that any regulations would be limited to restrictions on participating in the political debates of the day. 
Finally, Franklin has a tradition of non-partisanship in its local elections and government. I myself have supported members of the Council from both sides of the political spectrum, and have been a public advocate in defense of the Town Council during recent controversies when I felt the Council acted in the best interests of Franklin. I consider this to be a highly partisan issue that has no direct bearing on any operational issues facing the town of Franklin. As such, I see no benefit to the Council nor the Town of Franklin to make an endorsement of this amendment. As such, I am asking the Council to not adopt this resolution. I respectfully ask that any and all votes regarding Resolution 12-33 be done by roll call.

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