The frightening state of Delaware

I’ve written several times about bring hounded out of Delaware by harassment from New Castle County.  You can read  some of these at    (Note: the site is down due to failures at the hosting company.  We are trying to get this fixed. is working but is missing a lot of content.)

Why I set myself up #4..making a farce of historic preservation
How I set myself up to be driven out of Delaware #3
How I set myself up to be driven out of Delaware .[#1]
Evil in a small place (#2) �.future of Green Delaware

But, I don’t want to complain too much as there are many good reasons not to live in Delaware.  Some points of a sad history:   Last state to practice slavery.  Last state to whip (flog) prisoners.  Highest cancer death rate of any state (various years).  And so on.  Over 1600 people were publicly whipped between 1900 and  1942. 66.2 percent were negroes, 65.8 percent were either unskilled laborers or farm hands. For those four decades, African Americans comprised 16 percent of the state’s population.   Delaware refused to ratify the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, outlawing slavery, until 1901, but legal slavery ended in December of 1865.  I wonder, though, looking at the horrific record of whipping, if a form of de-facto slavery did not persist in Delaware.  High rates of incarceration, infant mortality, and other indicators of bad social conditions.

In the last few years Delaware politicians have largely gutted the Delaware Coastal Zone Act (1971), surely the most significant environmental law ever passed in Delaware.  This has lead directly to residents being exposed to dangerous pollutants such as ethylene oxide.

Women were not allowed to vote in Delaware until August 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment was ratified by a sufficient number of states.  Delaware itself did not ratify the Amendment until 1923.

In spite of this, some people in Delaware have always fought for social and economic justice, and for a cleaner environment.  Green Delaware has had the support of many exceptional people.  Strong people are activists in Delaware now.  Of course, the past is the past, and now is now.

Check out Man and Nature in Delaware  An environmental history of the First State, 1631 -2000, by William Henry Williams, 2008.  Williams ends with “Continuing to follow an unsustainable path places the future health and quality of life of Delaware’s citizens at considerable risk.”  (Williams died in 2997.   No update.  Green Delaware does not endorse all Williams’ views.)

Passing of Bill Boyer

Professor William W. Boyer died on February 26, 2020, at age 96, at his home in Newark.

Bill came to the University of Delaware at about the same time I was a freshman there, in 1969.  He was hired to chair the Department of Political Science, which was in chaos at the time.  Faculty were being fired for opposing the Vietnam War.  It is not easy to recall how different, yet the same as now, was the U of D.  Women were locked into their dorms at 10:00 PM.  One member of the Board of Trustees had been there since the 1890s.  Students were asserting themselves, and while many faculty were sympathetic, the old white men who ran the place were hostile and terrified.

Bill was a respectful, calming influence in those times.  He settled in Newark and became an important scholar of Delaware and other places including Korea and the US Virgin Islands.  His books included “Governing Delaware: Policy Problems in the First State ” (2000).” and “Delaware Politics and Government” (2009)  A synopsis of the latter ends with “The state has an individualistic political order in which public participation is indirect and citizen activism is limited.”   At the time of his death he was working on more books about Delaware.

Bill was a model professor and a fine human being.  For me he stands above the crowd of too many brownnosers and bullshitters that tend to accumulate in a place like the University of Delaware.  He will be missed.

There is a nice obit here, including:

“Throughout his long life, Bill fought for justice and equity, which over the years included speaking out against the Vietnam War, organizing a lecture series that featured Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, writing two books about the damage of colonialism in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and co-chairing a UD faculty committee which proposed divestment from South Africa as an apartheid state.”

Scheme to build an anaerobic digester for chicken wastes in Seaford, Sussex County.   

Food and Water Watch, along with other orgs, has been working on this.  The matter was before the Sussex County Council and Green Delaware sent a note: Dear members of the Sussex County Council

Michael H. Vincent – Council President

John L. Rieley – Council Vice President

Cynthia Green

Mark Schaeffer

Douglas B. Huds

Regarding:  “Conditional Use No. 2258 filed on behalf of Bioenergy Development Group, LLC”

We urge you not to approve a conditional use permit for this proposed facility. For decades we have seen Delaware used as a dump for wastes originating elsewhere.  Very often, facilities and processes have not performed as predicted by the promoters.  Unfortunately, state environmental regulators cannot be counted on for sound guidance.  Delaware lacks an “environmental review” program and permits are not processed until after land use approval is established. It is long past time that Delaware gave priority to the health and quality of life of Delaware residents. This proposed project has not been demonstrated elsewhere in the proposed form and scale.  Therefore, it must be regarded as experimental, with claimed but essentially unknown health and environmental consequences.  Again, it is long past time that priority was given to the health and quality of life of Delawareans. Please, “Just Say NO.”
Respectfully submitted.

Alan Muller Green Delaware

To understand why it is so difficult for citizens to stop bad projects, consider this:  In Delaware environmental regulators will not process permits for air or water pollution until “land use approval,” usually by a county or city/town., is documented.  But hard information on discharges, material balances, and so on are usually only developed later, during DNREC/EPA permitting (and sometimes not than). 

So, hypothetically, the promoters of this chicken waste project go to the Sussex County Planning Commission, and then the County Council, and get their approval without much real investigation.  Then, they take that approval to the DNREC, which says, in effect:  “you meet our (very loose) requirements so here is your permit.”  Very often, project promoters and local officials say something like “don’t worry about environmental problems, you’ll be able to talk to DNREC about that.”  Then, when they get to the DNREC stage, they are told in effect:  “you are raising land use issues, and you should have taken that up with the County…..”

The people opposing this digester project are experienced and have legal resources so their chance of stopping it seemed likely better than average.   But the outcome so far is that the Sussex County Council has not only approved the project but is sponsoring bonds to pay for it.

Bad Air

Air pollution is something of a Delaware specialty,although Delaware regulators have made efforts, somewhat successful, to abate local pollution sources.  With climate change is coming drought,  and forest fires in Canada, California, and the US Northwest that discharge huge amounts of particulate matter (smoke).  This smoke can and does reach Delaware.  Air pollution alerts are to be expected.

Back to New Castle County

Chris Coons, now a senator, and Joe Biden, now President, both got their political starts in the corrupt politics of New Castle County.  How much influence that had on their futures is hard to say.

 in many ways the most powerful and damaging entities in Delaware are the county governments, whose control over “land use” decisions, taxation, and the General Assembly gives them a chokehold over Delawareans.

In many ways the most powerful and damaging entities in Delaware are the county governments, whose control over “land use” decisions, taxation, and the General Assembly gives them a chokehold over Delawareans.

(Unlike many states, Delaware does not have a standard form for county government, and each of Delaware’s three counties has a different setup.  The most harmful is that of New Castle County, which has long been the epicenter of political corruption in Delaware.  (Don’t take my word for it, do a search and see what comes up!)

Every legislative session New Castle County has a team of lobbyists at work.  It appears from the website of the Public Integrity Commission that lobbyists working for the County also work for the Homebuilders Association, State Chamber of Commerce, Comcast, Chemical Industry Council, Delaware City Refining Company, and etc.  Counties in Delaware have relatively few responsibilities; they don’t for instance, maintain roads or run public health programs.  So what are these lobbyists doing?  One favorite thing is putting into law more provisions for harassing and humiliating citizens.  We have no data to prove it, but I suspect New Castle County is becoming ever more arrogant and bullying under County Executive Matt Meyer.  Back to the days of Gordon/Freeberry?

What I do know is that NCC is demanding from me (Muller) thousands and thousands of dollars in fees and penalites, and putting up our house for a Sherrifs’ Sale.

Pandemic not over by a long shot.

Cases are increasing pretty much everywhere.  Delaware is now in the category of “escalating transmission.”  There is urgent need to mandate vaccination, and infection control measures such as masking.  If half measures continue it is not unlikely that a Covid variant will get loose that present vaccines don’t protect against.  I found this article interesting, suggesting that simple fear of needles is behind much vaccine resistance.  Also: One of the best sources of Pandemic information is Marie Schwab Miller on facebook.


Alan Muller

Earth Day Rant 2021

Well, it’s Earth Day, April 22nd, and Earth Week, and so on.  This is the 51st Earth Day since April 22, 1970.  What does it mean, aside from extra doses of press releases and fundraising emails, and self-congratulatory rhetoric from our worst polluters?

A year ago, a flagrantly criminal President, trump, was hacking and slashing at regulatory agencies.  The worst attacks on the integrity of government since Reagan were in full flood.  Trump is gone, and some repair is under way under Biden.  How long repairs will take,and how complete they will be, remains to be seen.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and many other agencies never fully recovered from Reaganism.  But, things are looking up at the moment.

Environmental Justice (“EJ”) may finally be taking hold in a meaningful way.  I say “may” with reason.  When EJ became a matter of law in the 1980s, EPA created a bogus EJ industry of people and  orgs paid to gin up fancy-ass rhetoric that sounded nice but left poor and minority communities as helpless and polluted as ever.  But, more people are finally making the connection between poverty, political disempowerment, pollution, and disease.  “Climate Justice” is a thing.  Historically lilly-white “enviro” orgs are jumping on the EJ bandwagon and belching out emails.  Whether results will be delivered in suffering communities remains to be seen, but there are grounds for some hope.

The literature on the health effects of air and water pollution continues to grow and solidify.  It’s indisputable that “compliance” with the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act (etc) isn’t good enough.  Much more aggressive efforts to give people clean and clean water would pay huge social and health benefits.  The question is:  how do we get there, politically.

The Elephant in the Room, of course, is climate change.  The two states I follow most closely make interesting comparisons.  Delaware is by far the lowest-lying state, with a mean elevation of 60 feet.  (Florida and Louisiana are next at 100 feet.)  Minnesota’s mean elevation is 1200 feet.  Both states are experiencing accelerating disruption, but it’s likely that much of Delaware will be under water within a generation or two.  Minnesota will survive,and perhaps receive many climate refugees.  Neither state has taken much meaningful action to abate global warming, nor seems likely to.

Both states are experiencing meltdowns in the quality and integrity of environmental regulation.  Thus, as the need for effective environmental regulation grows, the ability to actually deliver it declines.  “Regulatory Capture” (by special interests) is where we are at.

For some details please see  “Earth Day “Broken Promises”: How Special Interests Capture MN Government,” from Paula Maccabee and Don Arnosti.

Scorecard for Tim Walz, the Governor of Minnesota:

While the details apply to Minnesota, the overall pattern is equally or more applicable to Delaware.  We aren’t coping with the challenges before us.

By all means protect yourself from the Covid-19 pandemic. Shortages of vaccines seem to be over. Get vaccinated! Delaware is a high Covid state.

Alan Muller
Green Delaware


Vote for Jessica Scarane in the Sept 15th Democratic Primary

(This letter, slightly edited, ran in the Delaware State News on September 12, 2020.)

Roughly half of eligible Delawareans vote.  What about the other half that doesn’t bother to vote?  My sense is that many people don’t feel they have much of a stake in the outcome.  They assume, correctly, that most Delaware officials, regardless of party, will be loyal servants of big business.  They believe that even the most obvious needs, such as universal access to health care, won’t be seriously on the agenda regardless of who wins.  Few politicians better personify this “Delaware Way” approach than Senator Chris Coons. 

But now Coons has a for-real primary election opponent in Jessica Scarane.  Scarane impresses me as real progressive who “gets it” and means what she says.  In a recent post she said:  “Every single day, I talk to Delawareans who are drowning in student loan debt, can’t afford to see a doctor, and are working 2-3 jobs just to keep a roof over their heads. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can guarantee every single person health care, housing, clean air and water, and living wages. As Senator, I’ll fight for Medicare for All, housing as a right, a Green New Deal, student loan forgiveness, and a living wage of at least $15/hour tied to cost of living.” See a lot more at Scarane is, of course, up against a big-money Coons campaign and the national “Corporate Democratic” establishment.

Scarane would make a difference in the Senate.  She deserves the vote of every open-minded registered Democrat. 

Polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on September 15th.  (Only registered Democrats can vote in this primary).

Alan Muller
Green Delaware

Note: The results: Coons 73%, Scarane 27%. Coons’ Republican opponent in the general election was the crank Lauren Witzke, “conservative activist and proponent of the QAnon conspiracy theory.” Coons beat Witzke 59% to 38%. Coons and Carper subsequently were one of a few “Democrats” to vote agains a $15/hour minimum wage bill.

How I set myself up #4…..making a farce of historic preservation


Delaware is always a tough place for any sort of public interest advocacy not funded and controlled by big-money interests.  This can be said equally of environmental concerns or social justice concerns, and there are good reasons why people of an activist bent tend to leave the state for friendlier turf.  There simply is not a support system for independent advocacy.  (Most of Green Delaware’s financial support has come from the Environmental Endowment for New Jersey.)  Likewise, there is little support for independent voices in the Delaware General Assembly or otherwise.  This has consequences:  Here is an example of something Green Delaware no longer has the ability fight as we once would have:

Delaware has a visionary law intended to keep polluting industry out of the “Coastal Zone.”  But enforcement of the Coastal Zone Act has collapsed entirely under former governor Jack Markell and present governor John Carney.  Thus, in 2015 Delaware officials issued Croda (the company) a Coastal Zone permit to make ethylene oxide at Atlas Point in the Coastal Zone, near the Delaware Memorial Bridge.  Reportedly they also gave Croda 2.9 million dollars to encourage the company to build the facility.  Ethylene oxide is toxic and explosive, and is also a powerful human carcinogen.  The manufacturing process for it is also very dangerous.  It’s exactly the sort of activity intended to be kept out of the Coastal Zone by the original 1970 Act. 

On Nov. 25, 2018, only a few months after the process started up, a reported 2700 pounds of ethylene oxide and related chemicals leaked suddenly.  The Delaware Memorial Bridge was closed for hours.  Only by good fortune, there was no explosion.  Croda was fined by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for lack of proper inspection, failure to train workers adequately, and other failures contributing to the leak.  Warning sirens were installed.   Delaware officials issued misleading statements ignoring or downplaying the cancer risk and injury to workers.  Less than one year later, Delaware officials gave Croda permission to re-open with few changes.

Green Delaware would have fought this every step of the way,  Whether we would have been able to stop the project is unknown, but we would have tried and made our concerns known to the public at large.  The reality is that Delaware no longer has an effective system of environmental control.   And, of course, with trump in office federal agencies aren’t applying any pressure.

Health and the Covid-19 pandemic

The picture varies in different parts of the country and the world, but the pandemic isn’t over and is expanding in many places.  The death rate per 100,000 attributed to Covid-19 in different US states varies from 1 in Hawaii to 160 in New York State, but the tatistics are not necessarily uniform and reliable.  For what it’s worth, as of June 22nd the rates for Delaware and surrounding states are DE: 45, PA: 50, MD:51, DC: 76, and NJ: 146.  Given Delaware’s overall poor record in public health these numbers are a bit surprising.  They are about double the death rate in Minnesota.

A good brief summary of the national situation and scientific developments is put out daily by retired professor Marie Schwab Miller.  Recommended.

The basic message is to stay away from other people as much as possible and wear a mask.

Sadly, many Republican officeholders, aided by right-wing propaganda shops like the Caesar Rodney Institute, are encouraging people NOT to take precautions, and this will lead to thousands of additional and unnecessary deaths.

Making a mockery of historic preservation

It’s worth considering why the opposition to preserving our cultural heritage is as strong as the opposition to preserving our environment.  In many cases it may just be a matter of interference with developers’ profits.  It may often be that resources are lacking.  But a factor I was unaware of when I got involved with the house in Port Penn is that “historic preservation” is a rich person’s hobby, not only because it is expensive but because it seems to appeal to people with right-wing political opinions.  I do suspect that many if not most “preservation” supporters would vote for trump, give an award to “Pete” DuPont, and so on.  They would naturally tend to hate Green Delaware.  Wish I’d known in advance.

Consider “Preservation Delaware.”  This org has devoted itself primarily to a Dupont (spelling varies) family mansion, Gibraltar, which it owns and has sought public funds for repair of.  The property is in a dilapidated condition, but strangely enough PD is not harassed by citations for code violations.  When we were beginning work on the house in Port Penn, PD circulated word that it would not assist us due to disapproval of Green Delaware’s advocacy work.  The original staff person at PD, Dee Durham, is now a member of the New Castle County Council.

Organizations that have NOT supported us include Preservation Delaware, the Port Penn Area Historical Society, The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs (which includes the “State Historic Preservation Office”) DelawareWild Lands ( Itself involved in the demolition of historic properties), the University of Delaware Center for Historic Architecture and Design (which received a grant to “document” my house but failed to establish when it was built and by whom), the New Castle County “preservation planner,” and others.  None have ever asked what they might do to help us make the project a success.  Many seem to actively want us to fail.  (Partial exception for Dan Griffith, before he retired as director of the Div. of Historical and Cultural Affairs. he seemed like a decent guy, and somewhat helpful.)

But the biggest rat in the woodpile is always New Castle County.  Everybody seems afraid of the County., even the General Assembly. Upcoming when my stomach can handle it.

Primer:  Evil in a small place–harassment and selective prosecution by New Castle County (Ten years ago.)

Recent previous writings:

How I sent myself up to be driven out of Delaware #1

How I set myself up, #2

How I set mself up to be driven out, #3

By all means protect yourself from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Alan Muller

Commentary: Journalism is a dangerous profession

[As published in the Delaware State News.]

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 1,370 journalists were killed between 1992 and 2020. Many hundreds more were beaten or imprisoned.

It is the duty of reporters to go where authorities do not want them to be and where there is danger and disorder. It is their duty to ask questions and report facts that powerful people would sometimes prefer not to answer or have reported. Sometimes, their management backs them up, sometimes not.

Many of us probably want to believe that this doesn’t happen in the United States. But nationwide protests beginning with the police murder of a citizen in Minneapolis have revealed a widespread pattern of attacks on reporters and support staff. (Just do a search for “attacks on reporters.”)

Many of these appear to be targeted attacks, reflecting “law enforcement” hostility toward the media. reports, “As of Monday morning, there had been at least 90 police attacks against U.S. journalists covering the protests.”

On May 29, a CNN reporter in Minneapolis was arrested on camera although his behavior and professionalism appeared impeccable. Later, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz apologized repeatedly and with seeming sincerity.

However, attacks on reporters have continued in Minnesota and elsewhere. Has Gov. Walz issued any directives to the various police and National Guard forces under his control to respect the constitutional rights of reporters to report? Is he insincere in his statements? Or are the police forces out of effective control of civil authority?

It is, of course, no secret that Trump repeatedly attacks journalists individually and the profession of journalism as a whole. Reporting he doesn’t like is “fake news.” He says the media are the “enemy of the people.” At his press conferences, he shouts and rants in response to embarrassing questions. He incites hate and violence among his followers. And, shamefully, Trump seems to have a significant following among law enforcement personnel.

Certainly, the head of the Minneapolis police union is a big Trumper. So, part of the problem is Trump’s incitement, but this can’t be the whole story.

Reporters, if they do their work well, hold up mirrors for us to see ourselves as we really are. The racism, injustice and inhumanity prevailing in the United States is not pleasant to see. It feels as if the forces of darkness are trying to break the mirrors.

There is an image online of a bleeding reporter, Linda Tirado, shot in the eye with a rubber bullet in Minneapolis. It’s horrifying but we need to look at it and think.

Alan Muller is executive director of Green Delaware, a community-based organization working on environment, public health, and democracy/open government issues.

Update:  Since this was written Andre Lamar, a reporter for the Dover Post, has been arrested in Delaware under similar circumstances, as reported in Town Square Delaware.  Gov. John Carney later tweeted: “Reporters have a fundamental right to cover the demonstrations we’re seeing in Delaware and across our country. They should not be arrested for doing their jobs. That’s not acceptable.” But, as in Minnesota, the question remains of whether Carney will take measures to prevent this from happening again.

Police in Minnesota have been slashing the tires of reporters’ cars, as reported in Mother Jones and the Minneapolis Star-tribune.


How I set myself up to be driven out of Delaware #3

Give priority to you physical and mental health

  Note:  With the shutdown of the yahoogroups links and the (hopefully temporary) disappearance of, quite a few links to past documents are no longer working.  We are trying to get this fixed.

I previously wrote about “historic preservation” in the context of cultural resources vs natural resources.  My own thinking, essentially is that cultural resources (old houses and such are in this category) are valuable to connect us with out past and help us understand who and what we are.  The aren’t, however, as important to protect as natural resource such as clean air and water.

See “How I set myself up to be driven out of Delaware #2

Note that some of what I write here is universal, such as the health hazards in old buildings.  Other may be unique to the strange realities of Delaware.

Give priority to your health

Before going on, I want to be clear that nobody in their right mind should take on the personal stewardship of an historic property, if only because of the health hazards.  My own venture into this exposed me to lead, arsenic, mercury, asbestos, silica dust, soot, and things like 8 foot deep deposits of bat droppings.  Electrical hazards are common in old houses.  These hazards can be managed by professionals, but usually at a cost that isn’t realistic for a homeowner unless he or she is a one percenter.  I have little doubt that my health has been impacted.

There are very few protections.  I recall a call from an unhappy outreach worker at the Delaware Division of Public Health.  She wanted to do a presentation on safe management of lead hazards at a meeting of “Preservation Delaware” and was being made unwelcome.  I don’t recall how that turned out.

Especially, children should not live in old housing if it can possibly be avoided.  The younger we are, the more vulnerable we are to environmental hazards such as lead.  There is no safe level of lead and any amount impairs intelligence.  Anyone can see that our society needs all the intellect it can muster.

So, if you are tempted by an older property, unless you really know what you are about and have extensive resources, and don’t have kids, run, don’t walk, away.

A little background

I took on the “Stewart House” in Port Penn, Delaware, for a mix of reasons that seemed reasonable at the time.  The location was somewhat intermediate between Wilmington and Dover.  The “sweat equity” would be a form of savings account, and help me balance my life between desk work and physical activity.  I failed to anticipate many things, and it turned into an nightmare.

The house itself was likely the worst-looking property one could imagine.  Surrounded by rotting Victorian additions, a large rotting barn in the yard, the previous inhabitants had buried their trash and garbage in the yard….  No maintenance had been done for many years.   It was, to put it mildly, a mess.  It was, however, a  house with some significant history.  It was probably built in the middle 1700s.  (A group at the University of Delaware received a grant to “document” the house, but failed to establish when and by whom it was built.)  There is a story of a cannonball in one of the chimneys from a bombardment of the village by the British Royal Navy during the War of 1812. (I’ve never found it.)  The walls are solid brick, 15-18 inches thick–hundreds of thousands of bricks, possibly made on site.   One can look at the saw marks on wooden beams and see that some were sawn out by hand, some by a reciprocating sawmill (18th-19th century technology) and some with circular saw blades (late 19th-20th century technology. 

It was interesting to research some history and to think about the lives of people who had lived there.  Why, for instance, were the ceilings in the (presumably) servants quarters over the kitchen so low that a modern person couldn’t stand up straight?   There were remains of a gas lighting system using acetylene generated in a pit in the backyard.  There was no usable plumbing or electrical system, but there was a collapsing outhouse in the woods behind.

Initially, progress was good.  The rotting structures were removed and the house began to look more like it’s original form.  archeological digs were carried out–at my invitation–by staff of  the department of Natural Resource and Environmental Control.  Community people were generally welcoming and supportive.  We were on track to a successful project.  But I hadn’t reckoned on New Castle County, Delaware.

One of the peculiarities of Delaware is that there are no townships.  For most people, unless they live in a city or town, the first level of government is the county, which has “land use” authority, which includes “code enforcement.”  The counties exist primarily to service developers and are not very responsive to individual and neighborhood concerns.  Many see them as corrupt.  Port Penn, although it has existed as a community for several hundred years, is “unincorporated,” having no government of it’s own.

It had never occurred to me that, not having bothered the previous inhabitants of the house as it collapsed around them, that New Castle County would hound me for fixing it up.  But that’s how it went.

Background on “code enforcement:”  There exists a “property maintenance code.”  There also exists a long tradition of using “code enforcement” powers to harass activists.  Every property has code violations.  In a property with 250 years or so of deferred maintenance there are many.  So the County cited me for having cracked caulk in window sash.  For visitors parting on the grass.  For dozens of things, over and over again.    Fines reached thousands of dollars.

Why:  As spokesperson for Green Delaware I had often criticized New Castle County for servility to developers and failure to protect natural resources.  I ought to have realized–how dumb can I get?–that having an old house in new Castle County would leave me open to retaliation.

Item:  The “County Executive” of New Castle County was Tom Gordon, former Chief of County Police.  Gordon was indicted by the United States Attorney, as  was  his chief administrative officer, also a former chief of county police.  From Wikipedia: “Gordon was charged with corruption, racketeering, and mail fraud in May 2004. He and Sherry Freeberry were indicted by a grand jury for, among other things, ordering county employees to work on private political campaigns while on duty.”   After beating many but not all of the charges, Gordon was  re-elected County Executive.  Maybe this ought to tell you all you really need to know.  (Gordon has also claimed a close association with the Joe Biden “crime bills” that lead to mass incarceration & etc.)

Item:  Delaware has an archaic court system where relatively minor crimes–lots of traffic cases–are handled in “Justice of the Peace Courts,” or “Magistrate Courts.”  In these, the “judges” are usually not lawyers, and no records of the proceedings are kept.  The safety valve in this system is that people can have their cases transferred to real courts, and can have their cases reheard.  However, New Castle County code violation cases can’t be transferred and effectively can’t be appealed.  But it gets worse:  New Castle County complained to the state legislature that the Justice of the Peace courts were too lenient, not always doing to offenders exactly what county prosecutors wanted.  An investigating committee was set up, and the political pressure created a situation where the Justices of the Peace simply convicted and sentenced according to County demands.  Aside from the personal sense of harassment and helplessness, it was sickening to see old people and poor people fined in this way.  How did this help them maintain their properties?  More upcoming on the slimy relationship between county and state.

I’m going to stop here except to note–details later–that New Castle County now apparently simply demands “civil fines” from offenders, not taking them to court at all.  Maybe this is because the County can simply pocket the fines?

Gordon’s successor, Chris Coons (now a senator) was no better.  See

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


Alert 626: Justice in Delaware: fined $3,751 for �property maintenance code� violations.


I though I had a pretty thick skin.  Advocating for environmental protection and open government in Delaware is no light duty.  I could deal with the General Assembly, the Capital Police, etc.  But  I  couldn’t deal with harassment in and about my own home.  Thuggish “inspectors” pounding on my door….  Every mail delivery bringing more demands and threats.  Abusive courts.  Emotionally and financially I could not handle it.  Maybe I should be stronger?  And life is supposed to be enjoyed, not just endured.  So I am very pleased to be in Minnesota, imperfect as that state also is.

So just imagine the trauma of being a person of color, never safe or secure.  Having to worry that every time your kid left the house, police might kill him.

I wish I had a reasonable path out of the uncompleted Stewart House project in Delaware.  I would happily promise never, ever, to set foot  in Delaware again.

Of course, none of this means that ordinary New Castle County employees are personally evil.  It’s “the system” that’s evil.

And again, give priority to your health, physical and mental.

More coming.

Alan Muller

How I set myself up to be driven out of Delaware ….[#1]

I’ve been trying to write about this for a while and always tend to stop.  Is it important to others?   I don’t really know.  And I surely should have known better than to try what I tried.

But somehow it seems important to write about Delaware as it really is. 

Spending most of my time in Minnesota the last few years has given me, I think, a better sense of proportion.  It’s helped me to notice things previously taken for granted.  

Consider, for example, that most states are divided up into towns or townships.  This is the first level of government most people encounter, and it’s likely to be small and informal enough that people can influence it, or at least be heard.  Delaware is not this way.  Unless you live in a city or town, the first level of government is the county, which is likely to be controlled by developers and almost beyond the influence of ordinary residents.   (In New Castle County, one may encounter “civic associations” representing neighborhoods, and “umbrella” groups, representing clusters of neighborhoods, but these have no official standing and in any even are generally controlled by the county.)

At the state level, Delaware has no real provisions for initiative (people-initiated legislation), referendum (votes on issues as opposed to candidates), and recall (kicking officeholders out of before their terms are up).  Add to this that Delaware may be the only state in which the legislature can amend the constitution without a popular vote.

So it is likely that Delawareans have less opportunity to participate meaningfully in government than in most other states.  A “ Company State,” as Ralph Nader called it in 1973.

Other toxic aspects of government, such as control of the legislature by big money lobbyists, are probably similar to what one finds in any US state capital.  But even here we have a special problem–Delaware earns its living, so to speak, as a safe harbor for business misconduct, competing with the likes of the Cayman Islands, etc.  Every year Delaware spawns thousands of artificial “citizens” (corporations, limited partnerships, etc) but accepts no responsibility for their subsequent conduct.  It is by intent that these artificial citizens have far more rights than human citizens. “The proliferation of these kinds of shell corporations out of places like Delaware is contributing significantly to the increase in wealth inequality where wealthy individuals and multinationals can exponentially increase their wealth by hiding it in these low tax or no tax jurisdictions,” says Clark Gascoigne, Interim Director at the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition. “At the same time we see regular citizens in the U.S. and the rest of the world dealing with stagnant, or even declining wages while still having to shoulder more and more of the tax burden.” If an employer in Ohio wants to move its production to Mexico, and cheat its workers of earned pensions and medical benefits, it can declare bankruptcy in Delaware, where a (federal) bankruptcy judge will probably be happy to screw over the workers and customers are requested, while authorizing huge golden parachutes for managers and investors.  (Efforts to require companies to file for bankruptcy where they operate, so workers and creditors would have a better chance, have met with raving opposition by the likes of Biden and Carper.)

Still, thing have shifted a bit.  The US Chamber of Commerce used to proclaim every year that Delaware’s courts were it’s favorite.  Basically, the criteria was how impossible it was to sue businesses successfully.  But in 2017 The Evil Chamber ranked South Dakota first, Minnesota 4th, and Delaware 11th.  Does this mean Delaware’s courts are actually improving?   Or that others are getting worse?

I once heard the Chief Justice of Delaware give a speech.  He claimed repeatedly that Delaware’s courts are tools for “economic development.”  When he was done, the whole audience stood up and clapped.  No one threw up.  But note that there is a very different attitude towards servicing corporations and growing the income of lawyers, by building up the Court of Chancery and the Supreme Court, and providing justice to ordinary citizens. 

In Minnesota and most other states, if you go to court over a traffic ticket or whatever, you go to a District Court; a “court of record” with a professional judge.  In Delaware you are likely to appear before a “Justice of the Peace” or Magistrate, who may or may not be a lawyer.  Where no record of what was said is kept, and where abuses may be common.  (You may or may not have the option of  transferring your case to a real court.)  Defenders of this antique system tend to claim that Delaware “can’t afford” real courts for human citizens.

More comments on counties.  Most states are divided into them.  The US has more than 3000.  Minnesota has 87.  Texas has 354.  Delaware has 3.  Forms of county government vary, though a board of commissioners or a county council is typical.  Delaware’s three counties have three distinct forms:  Sussex County is run by a Council, which seems to be the top authority.  Kent County is run by a Levy Court,  which has both legislative and administrative duties.  New Castle County has an elected  County Executive–kind of a dictator in practice–and a County Council that serves mainly to generate scandal.  But note that both Chris Coons and Joe Biden were launched directly into the US Senate from the New Castle County Council.  (From what I’ve seen, Kent County seems the best governed.)

In most places counties have lots of responsibilities.  They have roads to maintain, health services to provide, laws to enforce, schools, jails to operate, wetlands to protect, and so on. 

In Delaware, there is not a foot of county road.  The state is responsible.  Public health programs, to the extent there are any, are run by the state.  There are no county jails (thankfully)  There are no county courts.  Only one of the three counties does law enforcement.  Schools are the responsibility of others. 

What Delaware’s counties do is make “land use” decisions.  Meaning they approve development projects, which generally don’t need state consent.  So they don’t have to consider the costs of what they approve, because they don’t have to build and maintain the roads, schools, other infrastructure.  It’s this disconnect between authority and responsibility that leads to bad decisions.

Two small states, Connecticut and Rhode Island, have had the sense to abolish their counties.

So it should not be surprising that Delaware ranked 48th (F grade) in a 2015 survey of public integrity.

A 2017 ranking put Delaware 4th from the bottom.

Upcoming:  What all this can mean to an individual resident.

Alan Muller

A Letter to the Editor of The [Wilmington, DE] News Journal

I see that Rep. John Kowalko, Amy Roe of the Sierra Club, and Delaware Audubon leaders have all been ridiculed by Harry Themal in a recent column. He called them “Luddites” – a label that’s also been applied to me on these pages – for advocating enforcement of Delaware environmental laws. I’m sure these parties have enough self-confidence to realize there is no higher compliment, no better evidence of moral fiber and good citizenship, than to be smeared on the editorial page of The News Journal.

For an non-environmental example: Consider the late Rep. Al O. Plant, who was ridiculed relentlessly by The News Journal, essentially for the offense of being an uppity black person. It was only many years later, when Plant had mellowed, or sold out, or been incorporated into the “system” – depending on how one wants to see it – that he was mentioned respectfully on the editorial page. Mr. Themal, if I recall correctly, has been ridiculing people better than himself since 1959. Perhaps, even by your standards, enough is enough?

Alan Muller

Green Delaware

Port Penn