City councils, state legislatures, even Congress, approve symbolic, boosterish, cute, honorific and, often, meaningless proclamations and pronouncements just about every day.
It seems odd that, in a state where the Constitution formally proclaims that the legislative power also belongs to the people, anyone would think that the power to approve such statements of support or sentiment doesn't belong to the people as well.
But Salt Lake City's lawyers, bound by precedent, recently put the kibosh on a proposed local ballot question aimed at putting the city on record as favoring a change to the United States Constitution to allow the regulation of corporate activism and political fundraising. That petition was filed by the local chapter of the national group Move to Amend. It is part of a country-wide effort to get such questions before the voters in 90 U.S. cities.
But the city ruled that the question promoted by Move to Amend wasn't eligible for a spot on the ballot because it wasn't really legislation. It didn't ban anything or criminalize anything or tax anything the normal aims of legislation so it doesn't come under the people's right to legislate.
If the court upholds the city's decision, that ruling will itself be another reason why many good people are worried that the nation is not-so-slowly shifting from a government of, by and for the people, toward a plutocracy where more and more power is held in fewer and fewer hands.
The ballot question that Move to Amend wants Salt Lakers, and the electorate in all those other cities, to validate is one that would alter the basic law of the United States to include two specific principles: That only human beings, not corporations, are people endowed with constitutional rights; and that spending money to influence election outcomes is not constitutionally protected speech and thus can be regulated by government at all levels.
The resolution could be approved overwhelmingly in each of the 90 cities, and it would still have to run through the long gantlet of the constitutional amendment process to actually change anything.
The city should have allowed the question to go on the ballot, and dare anyone churlish enough to oppose it to file their own lawsuit. No matter how the Utah court rules, Salt Lake City should change its own rules to allow such measures in the future.