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Legitimate Complaints - Systemic Problems
- To: Multiple recipients of list <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Subject: Legitimate Complaints - Systemic Problems
- From: "Rebecca Leighton Katers" <email@example.com>
- Date: Sun, 27 Jul 1997 21:42:02 +0000
- Comments: Authenticated sender is <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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- Return-receipt-to: "Rebecca Leighton Katers" <email@example.com>
I agree with Mr. Sagady that citizen activists should not waste
time dwelling on their "victimhood," but I don't
agree with the implication that this
victimization is imaginary or insignificant.
This is an important discussion. We
have serious systemic problems in our regulatory
agencies. The agencies aren't living up to their
purpose, due to outside political pressures,
budget cuts, and legislated restrictions. Government
bureaucracies always have some human-nature
inefficiencies, but that doesn't account for all
the problems citizens have when they try to get help.
Mr. Sagady himself described the political risks some staff
took when they tried to do their jobs. This
should not be acceptable.
Also, I know some of the local citizens involved
in the "Dickenson Citizens for Clean Air' group Mr.
Sagady describes. Last I heard, the group
folded as a result of total burn-out of the
citizen leaders. At least one of the key
leaders moved away. It wasn't that their work was done
and they were satisfied --- they just couldn't
take the stress anymore.
This burn-out is too common. We lose good
activists from Green Bay all the time --- they
just get to the point where they have to get out
of town or drop out of the picture because it's too frustrating,
depressing, and overwhelming.
Mr. Sagady describes intensive, long-term citizen
struggles to solve GLARINGLY OBVIOUS problems.
These are problems which shouldn't have continued
more than a week without swift and
decisive agency action. Good citizen leaders
get tied up for years on one or two of these
cases, while dozens of other important environmental
problems go unaddressed because of the overload.
This isn't how it's supposed to be.
Our natural resource and public health agencies
were created to do this job for us. That's why
we pay taxes for these enormous bureaucracies.
Please don't criticize citizens for expressing
outrage that the agencies aren't capable, or
allowed, or encouraged to do their jobs.
Mr. Sagady states, "Many folks on the list seem really intent
on bashing state and federal regulators and complaining about
these agencies. I see this kind of broadscale bashing as
really counterproductive and marginalizing."
It's not counterproductive if it helps list
readers address the underlying cause of the
problem. The problem with unhelpful agencies IS
"broadscale" and systemic. It won't go away by pretending it
It's also distressing to note Mr. Sagady's clear
disrespect and dislike for citizens who have been
victimized by pollution, and doubly victimized by
nasty agency staff people.
Apparently, he dismisses as "complainers" any
citizen who raises concern about unresponsive or
hostile agencies. He assumes those "complainers"
don't do any real work and can't be effective --- an
extreme insult if I ever heard one.
(I "complain" all the time, but work HARD while
I'm doing it. Outrage is what keeps me
motivated. And yes, I am effective.)
Unfortunately, though Mr. Sagady may not intend
it this way, he's using the same arguments
industry PR flacks use to dismiss and
marginalize local citizen activists --- by
claiming we're negative, adversarial,
"bashing," etc. This has to stop.
Yes, it is possible for citizens to educate
themselves and dive into technical proofs of
environmental problems. It is possible for them
to spend thousands of dollars to hire
consultants and lawyers, and to devote all their
free time to pursuing justice. The question is, WHY
SHOULD THEY HAVE TO?
Again, we have a systemic problem in our
government --- the excessive political power of
the wealthy and the corporations.
We can continue to fight our depressing battles
as individual citizen groups at the local level.
We can even win a few. But overall, we've got
to get a handle on the cause of many
of our problems: Imbalance in political power,
and the loss of democracy.
Apparently, Mr. Sagady would dismiss this claim
as the "inflexibility of ideology and dogma," but
where I live, it's reality. I've been active 15 years and I'm
not as naive as I used to be.
Green Bay is bought and paid for by the paper industry.
They run this town (while everybody's distracted watching
moronic football games.) As long as they call the shots,
we'll never have a healthy community.
The new buzzword is "partnerships" with our
former adversaries, with the myth that if we're NICE
we'll get better results.
I've tried the cozy meetings and the "partnerships,"
but when millions of dollars are at stake and a large
impersonal corporation is involved, it's a waste of
my volunteer time. Polluters respond to law
enforcement, public exposure, political pressure,
and strong consumer demand. PERIOD.
It's an unfortunate reality that too many
regulators also respond ONLY to these "negative
tactics." Even the friendly ones expect
citizens to do a lot of the dirty work.
Mr. Sagady claims the new EPA air standards are
an example of good agency staff work. But those
rules are long overdue and severely compromised.
Though the new EPA ozone standards
are somewhat better, I've been told by local DNR
air management staff that because of the
increased number of allowed violations and the increased
8-hour timeframe, the new standards will
make little difference, at least in Wisconsin.
This is just another example of an agency compromised
because of the imbalance of political power,
regardless of whether the individual staff people
were good guys or not. And EPA has NOT
addressed many other serious air toxics issues.
I'm convinced that environmentalists MUST band
together and get seriously involved in elections and
campaign finance reform. We must fix our legal
system. Otherwise, we'll be ground into dust
(and insulted by Mr. Sagady and Mr. McClintock
in the process.)
Rebecca Leighton Katers
Clean Water Action Council of N.E. Wisconsin
2220 Deckner Avenue
Green Bay, WI 54302