Did anyone notice the extraordinary number of people who ran for Lafayette City Council last year? Fifteen. Most weren’t career politicians. They were just regular citizens concerned about what is at stake in our town and that there wasn’t enough diversity of thinking in leadership. They had attended council meetings, were involved in different areas of the community, and were in a position to know things I certainly didn’t know about.
In fact, the more I became involved in this election, the more educated I became on the issues. I kept thinking how people would want to know what they knew but there really wasn’t a platform for disseminating knowledge in our community. I’d check into Next Door and Facebook groups during the local election and was shocked at the amount of misinformation being spread under the guise of things that sounded good. Catchphrases and blanket statements against growth and development that didn’t touch on the complexity of the issues facing our town. Our town is land-locked and if we don’t manage growth properly, we will become over-developed, but we DO have to foster the growth of businesses wisely to keep our town alive and to pay our services like ambulances and fire. That takes very careful planning. But anytime someone tried to talk sense about that they were shut down as pro-growth by the same few posters, their positions often grossly mischaracterized.
During the election, there was a strong consensus amongst citizens against fracking and the sentiment is only growing. Case in point, the recent public council meeting about whether to hire a lawyer to fight fracking. This was the mood of the crowd before the Mayor came to the podium.
Beyond the worry of our citizens, the hostility between the Mayor and anti-fracking groups at the council meeting was palpable. Why? The council’s official stance on fracking is, “We think that working together to regulate oil and gas operations will be the best hand to play.” They are currently looking at places to build wells and ‘regulate’ them. Click here to see the council documents for yourself. This seems like a betrayal to many, however, we must consider that oil and gas currently own towns across the country. Why? If a town fights back to strictly regulate wells or ban them entirely, they face the very real threat of being bankrupted by oil and gas lawsuits. Meanwhile, families are worried about water being contaminated and leaks into the environment.
What is the science behind the dangers of fracking behind the hype and what is going on in the local wells in our area? Can fracking be safely regulated and if so, how? I am not confident that the council explored this question due to a conflict of interest. Our mayor is affiliated with the Environmental Defense Fund through one of their projects – Moms Clean Air Force – and is often quoted by EDF in their blogs. in their blogs. The Environmental Defense Fund is supported by some of the major corporations in the US and encourages free market environmentalism where the prosperity of the big companies is encouraged while ‘stewarding’ the environment (often with regulations such as those achieved by Moms Clean Air Force). The council member who has made a stand against fracking, Merrily Maza is definitely in the minority.
As you can see in excerpts from the meeting, currently the two forces of the Mayor and the anti-fracking movement are at odds, leading to non-constructive dialogue.
Perhaps some of the concerned citizens and council members will join us in this town think-tank and we can have constructive dialogue? If we put ourselves in the Mayor’s shoes and consider that she needs to keep our town afloat financially, we might not be so quick to judge. What is the safety record of existing wells in our area, anyway? Concerns of citizens are valid, given leaks and noise pollution. Are there other things neither the anti-fracking organizations nor the Mayor has considered having become entrenched in their positions? Perhaps we can ensure the town’s safety with other evidence and avenues not yet explored?
Just so you know, I am a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, but for the first time in my life, I voted for a Republican in the local election. Why? He cared about our town and had brilliant ideas and contributions to make. Yet, in the local paper, it was suggested in a number of editorials that he was part of a Republican conspiracy to get a foothold on the local council. Ridiculous. My point is, we all care about our town and country, Mayor and anti-frackers included. But while we are polarized and drawn into the angry noise, we miss the forest for the trees and meanwhile our town and people suffer. Instead of sound bites and the noisiest poster disseminating information, let’s share facts and learn from each other. Instead of criticizing and fearing each other based on political affiliations, skin color or sexual orientation, let’s get to know each other and learn from each other and come up with solutions together.
It’s for that reason that WE THE PEOPLE Journal was created, so people have a place to go to where they can safely talk and share what they know about their town in an environment that strictly fosters discourse and open dialogue, fact-checking, and troubleshooting for the sake of finding the smartest solution, regardless of its contributors party affiliation or philosophy on life. If this resonates with you, please do join us.