What’s really happening with Delaware?

I’ve been trying to write this for weeks.  It’s hard–too personal and my stomach knots up thinking about these things.  So I will try a different approach and include more that is personal.

Would it surprise you to know that people in Minnesota live, on average, 2.7 years longer than people in Delaware?  Why might this be?

Green Delaware has been active since the mid-1990s.  This is a twenty-year run and not bad for a small, very non-profit organization.  I am proud of the many things we have accomplished.  Our successes represent a lot of commitment and a lot of obstinacy.

Here is a profile including some of Green Delaware’s work.

But of course Delaware IS a plantation and there is always a lot of hostility towards anyone or any thing questioning “The Delaware Way” of servility to special interests and closed-door decision-making.  New Castle County is an even-worse subset of all that is bad about Delaware.  A plantation within a plantation. (About 57 percent of Delawareans live in New Castle County.)

See this about harassment at Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s inauguration.

The level of harassment finally reached a point that I, Muller, could not live in Delaware any more.  The emotional and financial strain just became too much.  I felt physically and emotionally unsafe.  Life should be something to be enjoyed, not just endured.  And, I must admit, not being in Delaware any more feels, probably, like not being in jail any more.  In general, Delaware is a place that capable progressive people tend to leave.

This does NOT mean that Green Delaware is shutting down.  It just means Muller is not as physically present in Delaware.

In general, we are bombarded with “agenda-setting” reports and presentations from the likes of the Caesar Rodney Institute, the “Delaware Public Policy Institute,” The Delaware Bar Association, various Chambers of Commerce, and other big-money, anti-people interests.  The “mainstream media,” including so-called “public” media, commonly reports this stuff as if it were objective and credible.  On the other side, the pro-human, pro nature side, we have less, though in Delaware good work is being done by the Delaware Coalition for Open Government, the American Civil Liberties Union (more recently), Common Cause (noticeably come to life again under Claire Snyder-Hall), Delaware Audubon, the Inland Bays Foundation, and others.

Life is very difficult for truly independent organizations in Delaware, because the small population base does not yield many dues-paying members, and Delaware foundations rarely support independent advocacy. So most orgs are in a cycle of ups and downs.  In general, “Big Green” orgs and their state affiliates are much closer to big corporate polluters than to any sort of grassroots activism.  Thus, it makes a perverted sort of sense that the “Delaware Nature Society”–Delaware affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation and de-facto DuPont subsidiary– would give an award to Jack Markell.

Ad Hoc organizations like Newark Residents Against the Power Plant, and the people fighting expansion of the poultry industry in Sussex County, can be effective.  It is easier for most people to focus on a specific threat or issue than broader policy problems.  Problems aren’t likely to be fixed unless and until they are recognized.

I came to Delaware with my family at the age of ten in 1960.  From the mid-1980s, for about ten years, I was involved as a consultant (mostly writing, I’m not an engineer by profession) to the engineering department of DuPont, the big chemical company now rapidly dissolving.

Of course, DuPont has a long history as one of the worlds worst environmental offenders, but there are other sides to DuPont.  Chemical engineering is an intellectually demanding profession and DuPont recruited and brought to Delaware many talented people.

I gained my initial grasp of environmental issues largely from smart people in the Chemical Engineering Section of the Engineering Service Division of DuPont’s Engineering Department.  (I don’t know if these organizations still exist.) The corporate culture of DuPont tolerated–at least if one was not in management–considerable freedom of thought and action when off-duty.  Thus, for example, Ted Keller could run his Citizens’ Coalition for Tax Reform, advocating for more taxes on corporations, while working for DuPont.

DuPont encouraged employees to be involved in state and local politics, and allowed them to take time off from work for it.   Many corporations do this, of course, and their motives are not altruistic–they want political clout.  Some of the DuPont-employed legislators were shills for DuPont, but some were not, and were excellent legislators.  I recall being warned by a DuPonter that the Delaware Nature Society took orders from DuPont management.

In those days–contraction began in the 70s/80s–DuPont was by far the largest private employer in the area–with over twenty thousand employees in Delaware, and thousands more in South Jersey, and with manufacturing facilities from Claymont to Seaford.  The other side of the coin:

The air in New Castle County was so dirty that one could not see clear shadows in sunlight, and it wasn’t healthy to leave windows open at night.  When winds were out of the East, a foul and toxic stench from Chambers Works pervaded New Castle County.

I recall traveling through the Chesapeake and Delaware canal in a sailboat; All of the boats westbound from the Delaware had a ring of filth around their hulls.  No longer.  But neither the Delaware River nor Cheasapeake Bay are thriving.

The behavior of DuPont in connection with “C-8” chemicals has been so dishonorable that that whatever remaining reputation the company has is rapidly evaporating along with the company itself.

Manufacturing peaked in Delaware in the 1970s.  DuPont is mostly gone.  The GM and Chrysler auto assembly plants are gone.  Phoenix Steel in Claymont is gone.  The Delaware City Refinery was gone, then evilly brought back to life in a scam lead by Gov. Jack Markell.  MBNA has come and gone.  The future of Big Pharma in Delaware is unclear.  Big Chicken remains in lower Delaware but faces increasing public opposition.

As I’ve written various times, Delaware is the lowest-lying US state, with a mean elevation above seal level of 60 feet.  The next lowest are Florida and Louisiana at 100 feet.  All official forecasts of sea level rise are likely to be underestimates.  Much of the state is likely to be under water, or at least subject to regular inundation, within a few decades.  Already low lying islands are disappearing in various parts of the world.

James Hansen, perhaps the best-known climate scientist said, on April 30th to an audience of investors: “… the ocean is warming, ice sheets are melting, and sea level is beginning to rise. We are now close to a point of handing young people a situation that will be out of control, with ice sheet disintegration and multi-meter sea level rise during the lifetime of today’s young people, which would mean loss of coastal cities and economic devastation. Sea level rise would be irreversible on any time scale of interest to humanity.”

Delaware should logically be a leader in advocating for action to limit climate change.  But how does one reconcile that with Delaware’s chosen roll as a safe harbor for misbehaving special interests?

In life expectancy, the US ranks 26th out of the 34 OEDC (developed) countries.  Delaware life expectancy is 32 out of 51.  (Minnesota is number 2 at 81.1 years, Delawareans at 78.4 average 2.7 fewer years of life.)  Wilmington is “Murder City.”

Delaware’s political system is in crisis.

For 2015 the Center for Public Integrity gave Delaware an F, and a score of 48 among the fifty states.  this is down from a C – grade in 2012.  The Center noted:

“Lawmakers and the political and corporate elite often brag about the Delaware Way of solving problems in a nonpartisan, collaborative way. That same Delaware Way, however, also tends to maintain a status quo because power is concentrated in the hands of a core group of politicians who sometimes stay in office for decades, and business executives in banking, development and other major industries. …commoners have long complained that they get shut out of the legislative process or are given lip service and ignored.”

Every year the US Chamber of Commerce publishes a report saying Delaware’s courts are the best in the nation.  And they probably are if you are a corporation wanting to abuse your customers, stockholders, and employees.  But what if you are a Delaware resident being treated unjustly?

Delaware law allows for secret, private, civil proceedings in the Court of Chancery, a scam aggressively defended by the Governor, Attorney General, and Delaware’s bar.  Thanks  to David Finder and the Delaware Coalition for Open Government,  these disgraceful proceedings were shut down.  From  Reuters:

“Delaware enacted the system, believed to be the only arbitration program in the nation in which sitting judges act as private arbitrators, to bring more legal business to the state. But U.S. District Judge Mary McLaughlin in Philadelphia put a stop to the arbitrations, ruling on Aug. 30 that the proceedings were essentially civil trials and that conducting them behind closed doors violated the First Amendment guarantee of public access to government proceedings.”

At the other end of the court system, the integrity of the Justice of the Peace Court system was destroyed;; it was converted into a mere sentencing service, by New Castle County.

Delaware’s “Family Court” abuses the most vulnerable litigants in the state.

Delaware’s regulatory agencies are famously subservient to the interests they are supposed to be regulating, and getting worse.

The Delaware General Assembly, at the behest of Governor Jack Markell, passed a law calling for all regulations to be reviewed regularly, NOT for adequacy to meet Delaware’s needs, but to give regulated interests a chance to weaken them.  As far as I can see there was no objection from Delaware’s “environmental community.”  This action was instigated by Executive Order 36 of Gov. Jack Markell:

“WHEREAS, to reduce impediments to economic growth and improve the efficiency of state government, it is appropriate for State agencies to conduct a periodic, focused and targeted review of areas in which existing regulations may be reduced or streamlined ….” June 14, 2012.

The Delaware Coastal Zone Act is under systematic attack by the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce–which pretty much runs the Delaware General Assembly–and others.  We would not be surprised to see legislation rolled out to gut it, on or before June 30th.

In another Executive Order, Markell claims

“… the Markell administration has eliminated more than 1,000 state positions between FY 2009 and FY 2016, reduced overall head count by more than 600 employees, reduced energy costs, enacted state employee health and pension reform …”

The basis of all this seems to be an assumption that public employees are leeches, or drones, no matter what they are doing, while private sector work is inherently good, even if the work is making land mines.

Del. Gov. Jack Markell and the General Assembly have joyfully used the collapse of DuPont, and the (supposed) desire to retain some fragments of the company in Delaware, as an excuse for further reductions in business taxes, further shifting the costs of government on to the (human) people.

The integrity of Delaware elections has been questioned.  Delaware uses a type of electronic voting machine, the Danaher/Shouptronic/Guardian Voting Systems ELECTronic1242, reportedly used in only 12 counties in the US.  The setup is purely electronic with no backup paper ballots or receipts.  See this link for more information.

If you have not done so, please read

Poverty in Delaware: the hole that digs itself–Part 1: meeting Stella

by Steve Newton.

(Reposted in full by Green Delaware here.)  This is as eloquent a statement as I have seen about how Delaware abuses it’s less fortunate residents.

Education?  What’s that?

One of the most active controversies, or family of controversies, in Delaware is over “education” and the future of the public schools.  for the most part, controversies over “education” aren’t about education at all, really, but about buildings, unions, the appropriate business model for schools, and so on. Of course all this stuff matters, and especially teachers should not lose professional standing and economic security.  But to me the central issues seem to be what is taught (curricula) and whether or not critical thinking is emphasized.

In any case, there does seem to be a case to be made that Gov Markell, aligned with various business interests, is seeking to privatize the public school system.  We aren’t experts in this area.  The most interesting Delaware “education” blog we know of is Kevin Ohlandt’s Exceptional Delaware.

Social conditions in Delaware have historically been bad and remain so.

Levels of criminal violence and of incarceration are high (440 per 100,000 people, Canada is 106), public health is poor.  Infant mortality is 6th highest in the US.  The percentage of children in poverty has increased from 15 to 20 percent over the last five years, an increase of one percent per year.  Wilmington is “Murder Town.”

In our last email I wrote:

“It’s no secret that Delaware abuses its human resources (people), its natural resources (land, water, animals….), and its cultural resources (what people have created).  It can well be argued that the state is disintegrating culturally, economically, and ecologically.”   We invited  you to read Steve Newton’s post:

On the face of things the future of Delaware is grim.  Does it have to be?

If Delaware adopted the policies in place in the social democracies of Northern Europe, conditions would improve dramatically.  Why, instead, do we have a governor who works relentlessly to advance inequality and injustice?   A General Assembly with only a  couple of “progressive ” members?  Are re too poorly educated, too deprived of information, to make sound political decisions?

Coming next:  An example of how Delaware abuses it’d cultural resources, and how taking on a historic property opened me to the harassment that drove me out of Delaware.

The first editions of this were published five years ago:

Evil in a small place–harassment and selective prosecution by New Castle County

Evil in a small place (#2) ….future of Green Delaware


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