Obstructionist politics at work

Delay of a local vote on fracking is a deterioration of our civil rights

The author, a retiree and native of San Francisco, is a Chico resident.

The Butte County Board of Supervisors meeting of July 29 allowed me to bear witness to the deterioration of our civil rights through obstructionist politics. I watched and listened to the obviously coached “distractionists” and high-paid technicians of the law dissect and redirect the wishes and concerns of an initiative drafted by and for the people.

I speak of the injustice bestowed upon the people’s initiative to ban hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking”—in Butte County created by a grassroots organization, Frack Free Butte County (FFBC), wishing to protect the health, safety and welfare of fellow citizens and the environment.

Attempts were made to keep this initiative from being heard at the July 29 meeting, necessitating a court order that the people’s voice be heard. Although 4 out of 5 county supervisors voted to craft an ordinance banning fracking back in April, it seemed clear that the decision that this initiative would not be on the November ballot had been made before the item ever reached the day’s agenda.

Numerous FFBC spokespeople presented volumes of recorded facts and scientific data revealing the dangers of fracking prior to and during the meeting. However, a 30-day further study period was enacted to deliver the initiative’s swan song—the result of a 4-to-1 vote against putting it on the November general election ballot (only Supervisor Maureen Kirk voted to let the people’s voices be heard).

The county’s legal counsel, Bruce Alpert, led the task of redirecting the issue from the dangers of fracking to “troublesome” concerns about “possible” litigation over how the initiative was drafted. Those fears of litigation were reiterated by several speakers along with the familiar catch phrases of “property rights” and “job creation” along with the open designation, by Supervisor Doug Teeter, of the Wild Goose Storage facility status as being too big to fail, as this ban could limit their use of the injection well located there. (Note: The FFBC’s Dave Garcia never said fracking was occurring there.)

All these distractions were used to spin and defeat the real issue of banning fracking for the health, safety and welfare of the people until it can be proven to be safe. A grave injustice has occurred to the rights of the people to have their voices heard and to be fairly represented and included in the process. Come election time, those who failed to represent their constituents will be remembered.