by Jonathan David Farley
(Forward, Always Forward)
Hijacking Democracy in "Cheat 'em" County
She walked right past me and out of the courtroom, tears about to well up in her
eyes. Terri was beautiful, I thought, in the middle of her life with shoulder-length blonde
hair. I felt like reaching out and hugging her, to let her know that I was going to fight for
her. Instead, I decided to write this essay.
I had gone to the Cheatham County Courthouse to attend a public hearing on a
power plant that was in the works. Initially I was indifferent. After all, I don't live there: I
just went to pass out fliers for the Green Party. But what I saw made me angry. I saw
how corporations have hijacked our democracy. While the people in favor of the plant had
well over an hour to make their case, the citizens against the plant had a mere 15 minutes.
The Dominion Corporation has proposed building two power plants in Ashland
City. The advantage to the county? A measly $1 million over the next 15 years. Who's to
say that Dominion couldn't pay Cheatham ten times that? After all, if they were taxed at the
same rate as you and me, they'd be paying at least $4 million a year, forever. The fact that
some of the people making the decisions stand to personally gain hundreds of thousands of
dollars never even came up.
Roughly 9 million gallons of water will be drained from the river each day. What
will be put back in? County Executive Bill Orange, who supports the plant, quips that it
doesn't matter -- the river is already dirty. And an environmental "expert" (a paid Dominion
employee) assured us that, sometimes, the water that's put back in even helps the fish!
What about the air? Ignored was the fact that carcinogens like formaldehyde will
descend like a shroud over one-third of Ashland City. Don't worry, the "expert" said,
about ammonia and other "harmless" invisible chemicals. Wait a minute: just because
something is invisible doesn't mean it's harmless. The Mack truck you didn't see on the
highway was invisible -- until it totaled your car.
In their rush to judgement, the county council failed to discuss how much
Cheatham would lose in terms of property values, emigration, health costs, and quality of
life. (They want to build a park next to the plant. Do you want your kids playing there?)
It never occurred to them that the Dominion Power Plant might become a man-eating
monster, like in Little Shop of Horrors.
What about noise pollution? No problem. The Dominion "expert" said that the
noise generated by the plant would be no louder than a conversation. I didn't hear what
else he said, because people next to me were talking.
We need to stop coddling corporations. Instead of tripping over ourselves to see
who can give the most away to these godless businessmen, local governments across the
region need to work collectively, to force companies that want to move in to pay their fair
share in taxes, and commit to safety standards _beyond_ what the Environmental Protection
In the end, the Cheatham County Council voted for the power plant. Dominion had
lost the vote at the previous meeting, so all they did was schedule a new one. None of the
council members questioned any of Dominion's "facts." No expert from the other side was
allowed to present a different view. Essentially, Terri had lost her home. The Dominion
"expert" grinned like a gargoyle.
Let's wipe that grin off his face. And let's wipe the tears off Terri's. Because it's
not just Cheatham County's problem. The air coughed out of their smokestacks today will
be in our lungs tomorrow.
Let's end corporate welfare -- and take our democracy back.