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Legitimate Complaints - Systemic Problems

  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 
  doesn't exist.
  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 
  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
  Phone:  414-468-4243
  Fax:  414-468-1234
  E-mail:  cwac@execpc.com