Green Delaware sent out quite a few emails during the last weeks of the Delaware General Assembly, so we’ve tried to be quiet for a while…..
First, Wednesday and Thursday (July 19th and 20th) are both official Code Orange bad air days. Since both ozone and particle levels will be high, along with temperature and humidity, Green Delaware would call these Code Red days and urge caution. These are unhealthy conditions and can be expected to recur throughout the summer. The Mid-Atlantic Medium Range Air Quality Discussion says high ozone levels may persist Friday through Sunday. With the Trump administration working to shut down environmental regulatory programs, the long-term outlook for air quality improvements is not so good.
Independence Day and the Delaware General Assembly
Independence Day, otherwise known as the 4th of July, comes just after the end of Delaware’s legislative season. There’s irony in this. First, we get another lesson, if one were needed, in how thoroughly Delaware’s government is controlled by special interests, and how small a role justice and democracy play. Then we get a chance to think about the Declaration of Independence, a revolutionary document that’s served as the intellectual justification for independence movements around the world. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ….”
When the Vietnamese declared their independence from the French, they used the words of the Declaration almost verbatim. The United States of America responded by shipping arms and ammunition to the French, and a decades long, epic bloodbath resulted. In fact, “counterinsurgency”–opposing independence movements–has been one of the chief activities of the US government for a very long time.
Indeed Thomas Jefferson, often described as the lead author of the Declaration, dishonored himself and his country, as President, by hateful opposition to the successful black slave revolt in Haiti. This was not something that Virginia slaveowners like Jefferson wanted to see emulated. From the beginning, Indian Tribes, Californios, Mexicans, Canadians Central Americans …. had reason to fear the growing Empire.
These days, with the Federal government largely under the control of Trump, perhaps the most powerful symbol of evil to occupy the White House since Andrew Jackson, people all over the world are looking at the US with a combination of fear and scorn. Has America, as a republic, truly fallen, or is this just a horrible episode? Nobody really knows…..
Many US residents, if presented with the central words of the Declaration as a petition to sign, reject it as a dangerous, subversive document. See this for some examples.
So Green Delaware’s first suggestion, one we’ve made for a long time, is to actually READ the Declaration of Independence. Read it and think about it. Think hard.
Back to Delaware
Delaware was one of the 13 original independence-declaring colonies, but not by much. Delaware was legally part of Pennsylvania until just before the Revolution. Separation Day is celebrated around June 15.
Before and during the Civil War, Delaware was a “border” state like Maryland and Kentucky. Loyalties were divided. Federal troops occupied the state on Election Day during the War. The 1863 Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to Delaware, which was in fact the last state where slavery was “legal.”
Today, Delaware is focused on being a safe harbor for corporate misconduct, competing with the Cayman Islands and similar ripoff jurisdictions. State officials openly boast of their business-friendly, human-hostile court system as a tool for attracting businesses to incorporate in Delaware. So nobody should be surprised that citizens are generally regarded as unwelcome interlopers in Legislative Hall. The real owners are the Chemical Industry Council, the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, the Petroleum Council, the Bankers, The Bar Association, New Castle County, Sussex County, the insurance industry, and so on. (One thing I have learned over the years is that local governments are often worse abusers of the environment, and of residents, that the more commonly demonized polluting corporations.)
A very nice lady who worked there once said to me “Everything you say is true, why don’t they listen to you?” (I thought for a minute and said “I t’s because what I say is true that they don’t’listen to me.”)
The first time I recall encountering “Evil Pete” Schwartzkopf, now Speaker of the House, he said something like “Don’t sent me more information, everything you say is wrong.” In many ways Evil Pete is a worthy successor to former Representative Evil Joe DiPinto.
It’s all in one’s point of view…..
In this environment it’s a wonder that the public interest every wins out. But Delaware has thousands of good people who do care about the place and want to see it governed better than it is.
A win and a damaging loss
Green Delaware agitated primarily about two bills in the just-ended session:
HB 190 was a successful bill to gut the Delaware Coastal Zone Act. In spite of hard work by a lot of people, this chamber of Commerce bill passed. Most of the public testimony was against it, but the House and Senate votes were for it. The honor role of senators and representatives voting against HB 190: Senators Gary Simpson and Bruce Ennis. Representatives Paul Baumbach, Andria Bennett, Kimberly Williams, John Kowalko, Valerie Longhurst, Sean Lynn, and John Mitchell. Only nine out of sixty-two! This was a major loss.
SB 80/SS 1was a ripoff bill designed to further pad already-inflated Delmarva Power (Xcelon) electric and gas bills. In an earlier piece we noted “the plan is to take millions of dollars out of ratepayer’s pockets and put those dollars into the pockets of Exelon, the largest “regulated” utility in the US, with 2016 revenues of over $30 billion. The additional annual take could be over $10 million.”
This bill did not make it through the process. Lead sponsor Harris McDowell, “the Senator from Delmarva Power” told us it was withdrawn at the request of parties unspecified. Since this was only the first session of the 149th General Assembly, it could reappear in January. A bright spot here was the strong opposition of the “Public Advocate,” Drew Slater. It’s been a long time since Delaware had a Public Advocate worthy of the name. A dark spot was the up-front endorsement of SB 80 by both the Chair and Executive Director of the (so-called) Delaware Public Service Commission. this ought to be a loud, clear signal that the “Public Service Commission” is actually the “Utility Service Commission” and needs drastic reform. Don’t hold your breath.
Other major actions of the General Assembly included unjust changes in state taxes and spending, designed to favor the wealthy and big business, failure to call off the war on marijuana, and bills making it easier for county and local governments to harass residents. Did anything really positive happen? Not that I know of. A bright spot, as usual, was Rep. John Kowalko, a true public servant who tells it like it is.
“CleanBay Renewables” dead, or just delayed?
This is a scheme for anaerobic digestion of poultry litter and burning of the resulting “biogas” for electricity generation. It’s been controversial in Sussex County for a while. The proposed site is on Route 9 East of Grorgetown. At its July 13 meeting, the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial of the applications. The applications were withdrawn on July 18th before being taken up by the Sussex County Council. Green Delaware hasn’t seen a detailed process description, but our experience with other anaerobic digestion schemes suggests it’s not likely to be a good idea.
For more detail and background on these issues see greendel.org