Click here for Next Section

logo A Country Rag Through the Looking Glass

Consciousness ~ Reality ~ Responsibility ~ Freedom

by Jonathan David Farley

"Palante, Siempre Palante!"

(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.

Dr. Jonathan David Farley is a mathematics professor at Vanderbilt University (Nashville TN), a graduate of Harvard and Oxford.
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.

photo of Dr. Farley 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 Agency requires.

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.

* * * Postscript: Since this article was written, the Dominion Company decided not to build the power plant in Cheatham County. According to The Tennessean, in which Dr. Farley's article was printed as an op/ed, about 200 people protested at the Courthouse prior to that. * * *

"...The [United Nations]report ranks 162 countries based on income, education, life expectancy and health care, awarding Norway the world's highest standard of living. 'This is a recognition that our government combines a good welfare system for all people with a dynamic economy,' Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stolenberg told The Associated Press in a recent interview. 'With a good welfare state, you have people who are willing to take risks they can't take elsewhere,' Stolenberg said. 'You have well- educated people with good health who are more productive and create a more dynamic economy.' Stolenberg's country is followed in the rankings by Australia and Canada, the latter having topped the report six years in a row...." -- UN: Technology Can Help Development by Will Weissert, Associated Press
"Between 4 million and 6 million Americans either failed to cast votes or had their votes invalidated in last year's presidential election because of faulty equipment, mismarked ballots, polling place failures and foul-ups with registration or absentee voting, a study by two leading universities reported yesterday.

"The study recommended that election boards get rid of punch cards and lever machines, curb absentee voting, institute registration reforms and discard any consideration of Internet voting for the foreseeable future. It urged the federal government to help fund equipment upgrades, to create a new agency to set up election technology standards and to conduct research into improved electronic voting systems....

" 'The main conclusion is that there has been precious little study of these issues and precious few resources' applied to resolve them,' said California Institute of Technology President David Baltimore. 'The voting process has previously simply not been taken seriously.'

"The Voting Technology Project report, by the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been eagerly anticipated by both elected officials and other would-be reformers as a nonpartisan and carefully researched scientific study of the mechanics -- and not the politics -- of holding an election...." -- Guy Gugliotta, Study Finds Millions of Votes Lost, Washington Post July 17, 2001

button How did I get here anyway? -- Take me to Appalachia button

main text Jonathan David Farley, graphics A Country Rag August 2001. All rights reserved.
Click here for Next Section
(Appalachian Scenes)