Alert 678: Thoughts on environmental work and politics in Delaware….

Markell emulates Reagan?
Changes coming to Green Delaware
Environmental victories as tough as ever, if not more so.
Coons ramps up harassment of Green Delaware


I’ve always thought it was part of Green Delaware’s task to hold up a mirror to Delaware from time to time, in a way that goes beyond the scope of particular environmental controversies.

(Note:  There is a bogus organization misusing our Green Delaware name for other purposes.)

Here are a few from our past:

GreenDel News #42: THE CASE AGAINST DELAWARE. Rogue State

GreenDel Alert 181: The unending scandal of WHYY (Channel 12 and FM

Alert 366: Water polluters celebrate in Wilmington

Alert 573: Delaware: One Big Dump?

Alert 593: The USA–A society deceived?

Alert 609: Delaware polluters celebrate in Governor’s office….

Alert 622: Squeaky wheels get greased, silent citizens get screwed.

Alert 626: Justice in Delaware: fined $3,751 for “property maintenance code” violations.
(This one is here because New Castle County Executive Chris Coons is again ramping up this harassment.  More upcoming on this.)

As I get ready to close out my career of environmental activism in Delaware next year–it’s been over 15 years, probably long enough for any gig–I plan to do a bit more of this sort of writing.

People are loaded with frustration and disappointment these days, and no wonder.  Many good people projected high hopes onto Barak Obama and Jack Markell.  What’s happened?  How can all that hope and optimism have crashed so quickly?


At the Federal level, Obama makes a great speech, and marginal improvements can be seen in various places–it would be hard NOT to improve on Bush.  But the wars continue, the war (“defense”) budget balloons, trillions are handed out to the fattest cats while people continue to lose their jobs and homes, civil liberties are mocked by the Government’s lawyers….  The insurance and drug industries steer health care “reform” ….  Under the guise of helping stop global warming, Obama promotes coal and nuclear….  The House and Senate Republicans, supposedly in the minority, control legislation.

None of this is really surprising–the election of Obama, not by a great margin, didn’t overthrow military/industrial control of the United States.  That’s a lot bigger task than just electing Obama.

But electoral politics is more about emotion than logic.  Is any wonder people are angry?  But they don’t have a constructive outlet for that anger.  Thus, the “Tea Party” movement, etc.

Even the marginal improvements in Federal policy will probably benefit Delaware very little because of the horrible nature of Delaware’s congressional representation.  What, you might say?  “Horrible?” “But I LIKE them ….”  Well maybe you do, but if you are a typical Delawarean you don’t know squat about what interests the “Three Stooges” actually represent, because what you hear is mostly their own regurgitated press releases.  Learn something:  Read their letter promoting the polluting “biomass” burner in Newport.  (We called Castle, Carper, and Kauffman’s staff to ask why they did this letter.  Only Carper’s staff responded and basically said they hadn’t researched the issue before signing the letter.)

Another grim example:  The heads of Environmental Protection Agency regions are political appointees.  Region 3, in Philadelphia, deals with Delaware and could pressure Delaware’s DNREC to carry out its responsibilities.  Some EPA regions have gotten new Regional Administrators with more interest in the environment.  They are reaching out to advocacy groups after the long Bush years of only talking to polluters.  NOT in Region 3.  Region 3 got as Administrator Shawn Garvin, an ex Joe Biden operative who was the Region’s lobbyist during Bush.  Garvin was probably recommended by Senators Kauffman and Carper.

Back to Delaware and Markell:

Jack Markell beat the Democratic Party establishment.  Not a few “progressive” people supported him because of their revulsion for the Delaware Democratic Party.  He egged on the dopey “ Progressive Democrats for Delaware” which endorsed him.  He communicated with a wider range of Delawareans than his party-establishment rival John Carney.  He tapped into peoples’ frustration and desire for change.

Then, from day one of his election, he governed from the right wing, without even lip service to other points of view.  He talks up “smaller” government without explaining why or how this is a good idea.  He wants to reduce the compensation and benefits of state employees.  He talks about maintaining “essential services.”  After promising an open administration he runs a notably secretive one.  When Delaware received a huge gift in the closing of the Delaware City Refinery, he set about to get it reopened.  Was there any public discussion first?  Does he care what environmental interests think?  Hardly.  Does the health of Delawareans matter?  Apparently not.  He’s said to have connived with New Castle County Executive Coons to further cut the public out of land use decisions.  He’s creating new obstacles to access to information, and public hearings will probably get even worse, in the name of “efficiency.”  Maybe worst of all is his disregard, or even endorsement of, the abominable condition of Delaware’s courts.

Markell has been somewhat consistent with his campaign positions in his support for offshore wind power and electric cars.  But that’s not enough.

In retrospect, the Markell campaign was cleverly done and should have been more obvious.  Markell didn’t have the support of the Democrats, for the most part, so he needed the support of Republicans.  For their part, they probably knew they couldn’t beat Carney–they didn’t have a credible candidate, and it was going to be a Democratic year.  So the Republicans beat the Dems with one of their own.

There was never any reason to consider Markell “progressive.”  He’s a product of the University of Delaware, Nextell, Comcast, etc.  He’s never, that I know of, said a word against the various wars and Bush attacks on the Constitution.  When the renegade Joe Lieberman ran for President, Markell supported him–as did Carper.  I knew all this.  What I did hope for is that it would at least be possible to talk to him and his staff.  No way.

The sad thing is that Markell’s going to get away with it.  He’s a smart, observant, systematic, guy.  He knows what “progressive” people and organizations in Delaware are and are not capable of, and knows he doesn’t have to fear any substantial backlash.  They will whine a little and he’ll toss them a bone. (For myself, my poor judgement in having supported Markell is another reason I feel the time has come to make a change.)

Markell understands that the US economy, like Delaware’s economy, is in decline.  Change is happening but we aren’t in control of it.  Jobs are needed.  Industry is needed.  Democracy, dignity, and self-respect are also needed.  Does Markell understand that?  Does he really know the difference between being a Governor and being a corporate manager?

Does all this mean environmental struggles can’t be won?  No!  The Newport “biomass” incinerator went away, for example.  There are legislators and bureaucrats who care. But it will be as much of a struggle as ever, if not more so.

Alan Muller

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