For release 6/22/06
By Robert C. Koehler
Tribune Media Services
In the old monarchies of Europe, the resident populace were known as subjects. Here in the New World, where mankind started over, we’re citizens, a word that pulses with self-governing power.

This is pretty scary, and there’s plenty of pressure on us not to take this role literally. Democracy is dangerous, after all. It’s always a threat to those in power. This is why its expansion over the last 230 years – through abolitionism, trade unionism, women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement – has never come without struggle and controversy. But where democracy is healthy, this is what citizens do: expand the terrain.

Welcome to Humboldt County, Calif., a largely rural county 250 miles north of San Francisco where democracy is healthy indeed, and where, thanks to a citizens’ initiative called Measure T, which passed at the beginning of the month with 55 percent of the vote, local governance has asserted itself in the face of the threat of Big Money disguised as just another neighbor exercising his right to free speech.

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