Thursday, March 1, 2018

This Is What Democracy Looks Like - Breen LandUseCode Community Meeting

After a short intro with a big digression, here's the follow up to my previous post, which looked at the connections between "SaveLaPlata" and the Koch octopus.  Here's a report on a very informative local meeting and example of genuine democracy in action.

I appreciate this concerns but one obscure county, still change the names and the contrived local "issue" - and this is playing out throughout the USA in the run up to the Nov. election.  
By Jonathan Easley - 01/27/18 - The

Why am I sharing this?  Guess, I still dream of a genuine grassroots uprising, and yes perhaps even networking with some people of passion, ethics and being part of it. (citizenschallenge at gmail.)    
How to change the momentum towards constructive outcomes?  It'll only happen if YOU engage.  Learn about the issues.  Go to meetings, listen and learn, and if you have something thoughtful, meaningful to add - DAMIT, SPEAK UP !  YOU CAN DO IT !

It don't come natural for most of us.  I've found it to be sort of like dancing, I might look a little foolish to others, but hey they look a bit silly too.  What matters is that you share that thought, make it part of the conversation, you'll be amazed at how a couple well timed, careful sentences can change the direction of the dialogue, constructively.   

Listen to others, but, demand honesty, truthfully present your opponents position, make statements you can support with objective facts and references, so others can learn for themselves.  Be willing to recognize your own misunderstandings, the facts we receive don't always hold up, or get updated.  But that's what intellectual honestly is all about, facing our own mistakes and learning from them.

If all they have in response is myths, misunderstanding and lies born of an insecurity and ego-driven faith that they have somehow managed a direct line to God Almighty which licenses them to ignore our physical realities - Well, expose that fiction with compassion, but firmness.  

God belongs to and in our hearts and souls, the physical world belongs to physical realities.  It's as simple as that.  Remind people of what the Bible teaches us in Isaiah, God is beyond our human understanding, and Jesus's Passion is about something quite different than the gates of heaven, it's about living and growing through your own struggles and overcoming failures with your own demons.  Jesus is a guide for living not for the afterlife! 
(But that's another essay, I digress too much already - still, I tell you, the religious dogma self-certitude that's rapidly drifting into totalitarian attitudes can't be confronted without bring up the Faith in God thing.  Guess, that's not true, we can continue ignoring and continue losing the battle for the hearts and minds of regular god fearing people who seem to make up the vast majority of our neighbors.)
That went into a surprising direction.  Funny how the words simply flow sometimes.  Don't think I'm going to delete these, like I often do, this is my learning project - and it's starting to get close to enunciating what I believe needs explicit recognition.  Enough of that for now.  Here's the main course:

Breen LandUseCode Community Meeting - This Is What Democracy Looks Like ! 

The following column was written for the March issue of the FourCornersFreePress out of Cortez.  I usually try to wait until the column comes out before posting what I've written, but in light of a curious anonymous letter going around, I think Gail will understand me putting it up now.

This is an example of democracy in action, as opposed to anonymous letters meant to intimidate, which are nothing less than totalitarian tactics !

Children of the Intellectual Enlightenment, liberals, progressives, seekers of objective facts and rational learning based on constructive debates, believers in our pluralistic society and our democratic way of government, please look around and take note. We are in deep trouble.

For decades while we’ve been distracted with our own concerns, the Koch brothers and friends have been busy spreading their tentacles ever deeper into USA’s election process and they are getting poised for a hostile take over bid this election season.

They are consolidating their forces and targeting liberal bastions for take down. Once targeted their strategy is to find a local issue that raises blood pressures. Then they feed anxious people their Libertarian Siren Song which is heavily dosed with contrived hostility and misinformation.

Here in Durango we have an example unfolding that I want to look at. First the set up. The Koch front group, Americans for Prosperity, opened a recruitment office, some would call it a brainwashing center, since they don’t listen. Like over the top evangelicals brimming with self-certainty, they tell you what to think, accept it or become a bad guy.

Then another outfit calling itself “" pops up. Followed by yet another, this one calling itself the LaPlata Liberty Coalition which set up a blog and Facebook page boasting the wonderfully vague libertarian mission statement: “A Coalition of ‘We The People’ Working to Protect and Preserve the Historical and Constitutional Rights of the Citizens of La Plata County.”

What’s that even mean? Historically we had the Right to cruise local roads drinking beer and it wouldn’t bother anyone, but decades sneak by, landscapes that used to be wild and free, are full of homes and septic tanks and traffic and kids and all that jazz.

“Save” La Plata County dot com. Let that one soak in for a moment. 

All things considered, “save” sounds a bit hysterical, doesn’t it? When I look at the outside world, seems to me we here are amongst the luckiest people alive. 

While they deny being connected to the Koch network, a closer look at their blog and braintrusts, puts the lie to that denial. It’s too convoluted to explain in this short column, but you can find the documented details at my February 18th article.

What is La Plata needing saving from? The march of time and population growth? An overdue update to our County’s Land Use Code? What’s the gripe? Okay, it seems all sides agree, the Land Use Code’s first draft, released without proper vetting, was an abject disaster. 

The consensus is that all three County Commissioners share blame and they have been duly raked over the coals for it by the public outcry. 

SaveLaPlataCounty’s fix is to start a hostile Recall petition against the guilty commissioners. Oh, but wait, they only went after one of them, not all three, Gwen Lachelt. I wonder why? Oh yes, Gwen, that squeaky wheel, constantly bitching about protecting public health and making oil companies responsible for their messes. 

Save LaPlata tells us she’s the cancer that must be cut out - it doesn’t matter that the other two commissioners are just as culpable, or that she was re-elected with a comfortable margin, nor that she has committed no misconduct. Koch and pals want to cleanse our political system of such misfits, she must go.

Interestingly, while “Save LaPlata” was busy running around creating misunderstanding and ill feelings, on La Plata County’s ‘dryside’ the remnants of our local land code planning group, made up of local landowners, approached the problem quite differently. 

Four members who’s terms had actually expired, but never been replaced, decided to take ownership of the problem. They put together a community meeting at the Breen Grange to explain the Land Use Code problems or more specifically explain the complex process and what went wrong along with a suggestion to get the process back on track. 

Around a hundred locals gathered to listen, share and learn. Thanks to Jenny Burbey, the ex-chairperson for the Fort Lewis Mesa Planning Group and a wonderfully competent speaker, the meeting was amazing. She explained things succinctly and fielded edgy questions with aplomb. She kept it informative, positive, and moving forward.

For a study in human nature there was the one talkative gent disparaging commissioners for sequestering themselves in town and having no interest in what happens out here in the county. Ironically, having it pointed out that all three commissioners were sitting in the audience listening to us, didn’t seem to make much difference in his attitude. Begs the question, what’s the guy upset with, our commissioners or a phantom of his own making?

An interesting development was that, as the problems and process was explained and the layers pealed away, it became clear that it wasn’t only the Commissioner’s fault. Surprise, surprise, turns out there is plenty of blame for everyone. The Planning Department, as well as the firm doing the background research and compiling the draft. Compounding the problem was a decade slipping away with its continuity issues, new staff, forgotten knowledge, bureaucratic constraints, all this conspired to produce a preliminary draft no one likes.

But most fascinating was that it turns out there was another, and possibly the biggest baddest culprit in this fiasco. Our own citizen apathy. Fact is, that for the past decade we’ve had local planning groups set up, made up of landowners. They were tasked with compiling our expectations and guiding the overall county planning process. That never happened. No surprise, it’s a hideously thorny issue with boring meetings scheduled and no one showing up, and so on and so forth, the domino effect and the issue fell off everyone’s radar screen.

We set the tempo: ignore the issue. Why be surprised if our elected officials and the bureaucracy slipped into lethargy and dropped the ball? The beauty of the Breen meeting, besides Jenny clearly explaining the issues and problems, was that we got the message.

A reinvigorated community started taking names and making commitments, they set the next Planning Group meeting, along with compiling a mailing list to keep the rest of us informed, even took donations for expenses and pretty much everyone pitched in. The '' is back in business and people are speaking with each other and all it took was a three hour meeting of our community talking with each other.

To me that’s what democracy looks like and it requires some good faith between neighbors, and we’d all be better off if the Koch Klan just kept out of our business, but it’s too late for that. Democracy, use it or lose it! 

After submitting this column, I had to kick myself for totally forgetting to mention the wonderful country potluck dinner.  There for all to enjoy.  So we even had a chance to break bread together, eating together and talking with each other, now that's a good all-American time.

Ironically I came across this a couple hours after posting:

“Pastor Pruitt” for his attempts to legislate fundamentalist morality in Oklahoma.

I had no idea, but the pieces sure do fall into place on why this man is so unhinged. 

Pruitt: Bible says ‘harvest the natural resources’
BY TIMOTHY CAMA - 02/22/18

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt said his desire to use the Earth’s resources like oil and coal is grounded in the Bible.

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network published Thursday: “The biblical world view with respect to these issues is that we have a responsibility to manage and cultivate, harvest the natural resources that we've been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind,” he told CBN’s David Brody.

The ‘environmental left’ tells us that, though we have natural resources like natural gas and oil and coal, and though we can feed the world, we should keep those things in the ground, put up fences and be about prohibition,” he said. “That’s wrongheaded and I think it's counter to what we should be about.

“I spent a couple years just earnestly praying, asking the question that I don't think we ask enough: ‘God, what do you want to do with me?’” he told CBN. ...

So this petty mortal greedy jealous human (like so many others) actually fancies he's got a direct line to God Almighty, creator of time and space, life and love?  Rather than asking God how to behave as a human, he's interested in God for controlling the world and making profits.

What do we do with that?  Simply roll over?


1mikerisk said...

As a foreigner, I look with horror on what is happening in the US.

As an atheist, I look with amusement at how the Bible is being manipulated.

There is a critical mis-translation in Ch1, Genesis. We are not given "dominion over" the Earth, we are given "custody of." Think Pruitt knows this?

citizenschallenge said...

Ch1, Genesis. We are not given "dominion over" the Earth, we are given "custody of Earth."

What an excellent point. Thank you!