Alert 681: “Revived” Common Cause Delaware gives award to the least-deserving person in Delaware

Alert 681: "Revived" Common Cause Delaware gives award to the least-deserving person in Delaware

A sad mockery of what Common Cause used to be….is supposed to be

Have an opinion about this:  Jeff Raffel:  302-831-1685 (office), raffel@udel.edu

Few independent Delaware NGOs seem to be functioning well

Can Delaware be an alive, vibrant place with so little courage and so much sucking up?

Delaware is a tough place for organizations wanting to be independent and advocate for anything other than the "Chamber of Commerce" line.

The small population base of Delaware makes it hard for any organization to have enough dues-paying members to support any staff.

Delaware foundations don’t support truly independent voices, and outside funders generally don’t consider Delaware worth bothering with.

Likewise, Delaware’s moneyed classes don’t seem to display much diversity of thought.

A plantation mentality prevails….

So maybe it’s not surprising that the Historical Society of Delaware recently honored Pierre ("Pete") S. du Pont, IV, whose right wing propaganda mill ("National Center for Policy Analysis") has systematically misrepresented US history, while arguing against pollution control, recycling, health care reform, action on global warming, and so on.  Here’s NCPA’s response to a recent mining tragedy in West Virginia:

As the recent coal mining tragedy in West Virginia reinforced, underground coal mining is still a dangerous business, even with substantial safety improvements over the past decades, Burnett continues. The decline in miner deaths in recent years is due, in large part, to the rise of mountain top mining. Yet, the administration’s EPA wants to end the practice.

"By forcing miners to go underground, the administration ignores the fact that every mountain top mine must, by law, be reclaimed and made beautiful again," Burnett said.

Maybe it’s not surprising that the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union gave an award to war and PATRIOT Act supporter Joe Biden (Biden also got one from the Historical Society of Delaware in 2009.)

On April 29, 2010, Common Cause of Delaware is giving an award to John Taylor, longtime former editor of the Editorial Page of Gannett’s News Journal and now an employee of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.  He is Executive Director of a Chamber front organization called the Delaware Public Policy Institute. Common Cause will recognize

"…former Gov. Russ Peterson and former News Journal editorial writer John Taylor for their lifelong commitment to making our state government more open and accountable."

Why would Common Cause recognize Taylor, who has probably done more to smear, silence, and marginalize independent voices than any other person in Delaware?  We asked, but got no meaningful answers.  I rather got the impression that the present Common Cause board has no clue of Taylor’s history and reputation, and is just looking for ways to become respectable by sucking up.

The Delaware Public Policy Institute Taylor heads works to curtail democracy and public participation in Delaware, while increasing the stranglehold of big business.  It used to claim to be an "independent" think tank.  Green Delaware investigated and found that it didn’t even have its own phone number.  An example of Taylor and his "think tank" at work:

In the spring of 2009, the governor, the New Castle County Executive and various private entities asked the Delaware Public Policy Institute (DPPI) to consider convening a policy dialogue on New Castle County’s application and permitting process for land use and development. DPPI determined that there was sufficient interest and opportunity in undertaking the effort because:

� With development slowed due to the economy, there was an opportunity to step back and review policies, procedures, and processes;
� There was opportunity for improving the system, with the support of diverse constituencies; and,
� While there may be a range of views on the overall Unified Development Code (UDC), environmental and natural resource protection, and growth management, the intent of this dialogue would not be to address these substantive issues or change existing policies, but rather to address the application and permitting processes for efficiency, timeliness, and economic competitiveness.
DPPI contracted with the Consensus Building Institute (CBI) to undertake an assessment of +the issues, to develop a process plan for holding the dialogue, and to facilitate the dialogue,

In other words, cook up a plan to reduce public participation in the approval of development projects.  (The "Consensus Building Institute" is the same shop used years ago by then-Governor Tom Carper to weaken the Delaware Coastal Zone Act.) 
There was no real public participation:  The 26 "Dialog Participants" included two elderly tokens from the Civic League for New Castle County–Dan Bockover and Frances West.  (The Civic League, sadly, is another moribund org.)

Taylor’s personal focus seems to be increasing corporate control of the public schools.

(In Alert #65, April 22, 2000 (Earth Day) we wrote about Taylor:

(The "Stooge" [News Journal] belonged DuPont before it’s sale to Gannett. It flacks for banks, the chemical industry, and the big retailers who advertise in it, while blacking out and defaming independent voices. John Taylor, Editorial page editor for 18+ years, may have done more harm to the quality of intellectual life in Delaware than any other single person. Taylor and his colleagues write about Green Delaware, without naming us, as "stone age people," "people who think like was better in the 18th century," "luddites," "the environmental fringe," "people who have no idea how government works," and so on. Taylor likes industry-lead groups like the Delaware Sierra Club for their "willingness to compromise.")

In Alert 418 we wrote:

A few months ago John Taylor, head of the Stooge Editorial Board, called us and then misrepresented our views in another dishonest editorial promoting incineration. (We suppose the very idea that the people ever prevailed over the polluters galls Taylor, whose wife Maria is DNREC’s chief propagandist.)

Another time, Taylor said to me: "If you print that you’ll be sorry" (After speaking carelessly about the News Journal’s role in a development-promotion scam cooked up between then-Governor Tom Carper and the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.)

The fall of Common Cause of Delaware

A sad story underlies this.  Common Cause, with Bob Stewart as President and staffed by John Flaherty and Maryanne McGonigle, did a lot of good in Delaware. 

A collaboration between Common Cause, Delaware Audubon, then headed by Matt Del Pizzo, and Green Delaware won the battle to keep the Delaware City Refinery from dumping it’s air pollutants into the Delaware River.  We worked together on a lot of issues.  Common Cause had become a significant force in Delaware.

But things changed.  Bob Stewart died and his successors didn’t have the same steadiness.  Common Cause got involved in an incinerator-promotion scheme that ended its relationship with Green Delaware.  There was apparently a backlash against Common Cause’s much-needed investigation of Delaware’s Family Court.  McGonigle died.  Squabbling and infighting began, the organization fell apart and the residue was shut down by the national Common Cause organization. (Which continued to collect dues in Delaware but no longer supported any work in Delaware.)

Now, Common Cause Delaware is being revived, sort of. 

Common Cause describes itself:

"Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard in the political process."

Nothing could be a greater mockery of "the core values of American democracy" than to give an award to John Taylor.

Nobody, of course, can easily object to an award to former Governor Russ Peterson, likely Delaware’s most distinguished citizen.  But Peterson is in his 90s and has received innumerable awards.  He doesn’t need any more.  Wouldn’t it make sense for Common Cause to recognize some young, up-and-coming, boat-rocking activist?

Common Cause, for a while, played a very valuable role in Delaware.  We’d like to see that happen again.  So far, it’s not looking good.

The present Board of Common Cause of Delaware is listed as:

Prof. Jeffrey A. Raffel, President (Raffel is a senior professor in the University of Delaware School of Urban Affairs and the Department of Political Science and International Relations.)
Robert Hicks, Treasurer
Bob Barker, Secretary
Board Members: Rich Abel, Becky Abel, Steve Amick, Chuck Durante, Robert Hicks, Jan Konesey, Judy Mellen, Lynn Wilson.

Have an opinion about what Common Cause should be doing?  Contact  Jeff Raffell:  302-831-1685 (office), raffel@udel.edu

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