Delaware City, whatever it’s other charms, has been, pathetically, a “company town.” The Company being whatever is the current owner of the Delaware City Refinery. The Refinery has had perhaps a half-dozen owners since opening in 1957, none seeming nastier or more aggressive that the present PBF Energy.
The air in Delaware City has long been filthy and toxic, as the Delaware City Refinery has been one of the dirtiest in the world. The refinery had been closed and was scheduled for demolition, but a deal was engineered by Governor “Bad Jack” Markell to reopen the refinery under weakened regulations. There was no public input.
In recent years a Delaware City Environmental Coalition was somewhat active, but it’s not clear that it continues to function. The current link is to a bullshit site, but in past years some real information was developed, such as “Study shows big difference in air quality after re-start of Delaware City Refinery.”
Censoring criticism of the refinery seems to be a Delaware City tradition.
I recall a hearing held some years ago at the old Delaware City firehouse. The people running the building tried to chase out protesters and stole some of their signs. The refinery funds the fire company.
On June 4, 2013, a DNREC public hearing on refinery air pollution was such a farce that many if not most people weren’t allowed to talk at all. Read the transcript here. Years ago, when DNREC public hearings meant something, the hearing would have been continued as many nights as necessary to allow everyone to speak. We saw some indications that Delaware City Manager Dick Cathcart had been involved in pressuring the DNREC to limit the hearing.
Now we come to Delaware City Day. In 2013 people, some connected to Delaware Audubon, and some to the Green Party, put floats in the parade, boats in the water, and airplanes overhead towing banners, drawing attention to the polluting and fish-killing done by the Refinery.
An Audubon leader noted at the time “The Parade Float and Banner were big hits among supporters and those who oppose our efforts, but clearly brought some much needed attention to the issues.”
But this is not how Delaware City officials saw it, and they set about to censor criticism of he refinery at future Delaware City Days. Take a look at the current “DELAWARE CITY DAY PARADE APPLICATION FORM.” A few tidbits:
“The Delaware City Day Committee has the right to accept or reject any Participant Application and to approve all units including themes, music, signs, costumes and/or other paraphernalia …”
“Participants are expected to represent positive community values consistent with the event theme and purpose.”
In other words, It’s OK for the refinery to pollute the community, to kill millions of the fish in the river … but not OK for anybody to complain about it during Delaware City Day.
The News (“Stooge”) Journal did a story on this: “Controversy overshadows Delaware City Day.”
“Rueful city officials have slapped a ban on some political speech at Saturday’s 34th annual Delaware City Day, claiming protesters hijacked the city’s parade, skies and a few activities last year to target PBF Energy’s nearby refinery.”
“If you want to protest, go up to the refinery. Don’t come to our battery park, where there are kids and family members going to enjoy themselves,” [Delaware City City Manager Dick] Cathcart said.
Delaware City Day was funded with a $33,000 “grant-in-aid” from the Delaware General Assembly. (See Senate bill 266.) Cathcart is a former state Representative.
A little personal story: In 1988 I was arrested–with Lea Tammi–on the 4th of July at a “Liberty Day” celebration, in Newark, DE,–by DNREC cops–for handing our flyers. (Flyers saying the principles of the Declaration of Independence ought to be recognized as applying in Nicaragua–where a terrorist campaign against Nicaraguan independence was then being carried out by the USA.) The organizers said it was a “family fun” event at which political speech was not allowed. The whole episode was systematically blacked out by the statewide corporate media–in which I include, of course, most so-called “public” radio and TV. A very admirable lady, Alice Vernier, responded by arranging for a “free speech zone” to be part of the event in subsequent years, and for a few years it was. But the concept of “free speech in a cage” just does not resonate.
The point was the same: Delaware government sponsors “family fun” events at which nothing is to be learned about the problems and challenges we face. Truth-telling not allowed. Smile and eat cotton candy.
These might be seen as examples of the smallness and meanness often found in Delaware. They are. But freedom of speech everywhere is only maintained by self-respecting people pushing repression back in small and large ways.
To their credit, Audubon members were back in Delaware City in 2014:
YOU can let Mr. Cathcart, and the Mayor and Council of Delaware City, how how you feel about this. Here they are, standing in front of the US flag. Here are their emails:
Mayor, Stanley E. Green, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice Mayor, Paul H. Johnson, Sr., email@example.com
Councilwoman Beth Konkus, firstname.lastname@example.org
John P. Buchheit, III, email@example.com
Councilwoman Megan C. Titus, firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilman Bob Malinowski, email@example.com
City Manager Richard C. Cathcart, firstname.lastname@example.org
And you can let your state Senator and Representative know how you feel about grants-in-aid for censorship. (The bill passed unanimously. Something for everybody, I suppose.)
Or, you can just be quiet and suck it up. That is still up to you.