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Hartford City Council Casts Symbolic Vote Against ‘Buckley v. Citizens United’

By Molly Callahan, Staff Writer 

HARTFORD—Residents packed City Hall on Monday to show support for a reversal of a recent Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to pump unlimited cash into election campaigns.

In a unanimous decision Monday night, the City Council voted to support a resolution to overturn the Supreme Court decision of Buckley v. Citizens United. The victory animated the standing-room-only crowd of more than 60 people, some of whom spoke during the public hearing.

The Supreme Court decision allows corporations unlimited spending in national and local elections, essentially establishing them as individuals under the umbrella of the First Amendment.

Many who spoke were concerned about the effects a decision could have on the electoral process.

“Corporations are not inherently hateful, but they are focused on making profit. They do what they must to meet that end, so we as citizens should do what we must to do protect this republic,” said Hartford resident, Sarah Hambrick.

Phillip Holt, another Hartford resident who spoke during the public opinion portion of the meeting, called on the Council to support any steps toward reversing the Supreme Court decision, “to return the power to the people.”

The approval was not as clear-cut among Council members, however. Kenneth Kennedy, Jr. (D), argued that supporting such an action was beyond the scope of the Council charter. Council Chairman Shawn Wooden (D), abstained from the vote for the same reason.

“It would be more appropriate for the State Legislature to take it up,” explained David MacDonald (D), in agreement.

But both councilmen Kennedy and MacDonald voted in favor of the Council’s support of the actions because of the threat to the electoral process they felt the decision brought about.

“I can make an exception for this because of the danger it poses to Democracy,” Kennedy said before voting in approval.

Another big issue at Monday night’s meeting was a request to the City to continue to fund the Minority Construction Council (MCC).

Executive Director Rufus Wells said that the MCC was looking for the Council to reinstate funding that had waned in the past two years.

“Previously we received money from the Council, but in the past couple years we’ve been relying on member dues and volunteers, and our level of service has suffered,” Wells said.

Over 25 people stood in support of the MCC, which supports and protects minority contracts in Hartford, and many spoke to the council’s myriad benefits to the city.

Marcus Jarvis, member of the MCC, pointed out the importance of keeping contractors and laborers within Hartford when he addressed the Council.

“You, as City Council members, are required to live within city limits; should we not expect the same of our contractors? We almost shoot ourselves in the foot by offering incentives to business owners who then in turn do not hire city employees.”

Jarvis and Wells urged the Council to fund the MCC, in order for it to be able to monitor contracts within the city.

“Right now it’s like being on I-91, with a speed limit of 55, but there are no state troopers around,” Wells said of the MCC’s ability to function without the Council’s financial support.

 

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