Sunday, January 9, 2011

A poet's thoughts on three minutes of silence at the Sidwell Friends School, and a inauguration day poem

This morning I began my day listening to "On Being," a program hosted by Krista Tippett. Poet Elizabeth Alexander was the guest. Her comments about what politicians say, and what they probably wish they could say, are especially timely. You can find those at about 5:47 in the program.

Alexander said that she was fortunate to attend the Sidwell Friends School in DC. One of the most valuable experiences she had there was the three minutes of silence that began each school day. She describes how she cherished those few minutes at about 11:30 here.

Alexander also reads from the poem she wrote and read at President Obama's inauguration. The entire piece is lovely (read it here), but these words in particular struck me today

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign, 
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Friday, January 7, 2011

This year is off to a bang.

I started the New Year with an incision healing under my left arm and another on my left breast after a lumpectomy. Attorneys representing the grassroots organization I now work for had told us to be prepared to spend all year in court with appeals. I wasn't dreading the new year, but I was afraid there wasn't a lot of fun stuff to look forward to doing.

Yesterday the leader of Cobb EMC, Dwight Brown, got himself served with 31 counts of racketeering, theft, and making false statements (lying). We had waited almost two years after his home and office were searched to see if anything would come out of it. Three other Cobb EMC board member homes were also searched in the spring of 2009, and the Cobb D.A. has said more indictments may be issued.

Guess who signed some of the legal documents for the power plant application? Since Plant Washington and Power4Georgians was unveiled almost three years, the pieces haven't quite fit together. I think a court trial might put the puzzle together for us and those who planned and participated in this scheme.

I end the week knowing that the three years of my life that I have invested in learning more about Plant Washington, educating the public about it, and finding partners across the state and country to support our work, have been well worth it.

Today those partners not only celebrated this huge win for us in our fight, but they cheered when I told them my path report came back with clear lymph nodes and margins.

I still have a lot of work to do this year. Last month I told my county commissioners the longest fight in our country against a proposed coal plant is happening in Early County, GA. I learn from those people every day. They have been in it for 10 years and have no intention of stopping now. I have three years behind me on Plant Washington.With some luck, hard work, and preventive healthcare, I have far more than seven good years in me.                       

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Deal won't be an improvement over Perdue

On January 10 Nathan Deal will be sworn in as Governor to lead a state with significant budget problems and rankings across many markers (education, health, transportation, to name a few) which put our state consistently at the bottom nationally. Perdue leaves us with a $1.2 billion dollar debt, which includes $60 million for three of his pet projects (recently purchased Oaky Woods, the Go Fish project, and expanded facilities at the Georgia fairgrounds).

In Perdue's place we will be saddled with Nathan Deal, who left Congress under a thick blanket of ethics complaints followed by a personal financial mess which was obscured from Republican party leaders and voters.

Deal was never recognized as a leader among Georgia's Congressional delegation. He has made his staff and transition team appointments based on people and lobbyists who have contributed to his campaigns, or in the case of his Chief of Staff, Chris Riley, have also had questions raised about their own ethics. Deal declined the money budgeted by the state for the inauguration, and instead has allow private donations of up to $50K to fund the festivities. When the confetti and streamers are cleaned up, my bet is the people who paid for the parties will be the first phone messages returned when they need something from the Governor's office.  

I am afraid that Georgians are about to learn more than one hard lesson about who we have elected to lead in our state and who will profit from our lawmakers' decisions. We have large challenges ahead for our state, and I have little confidence in our elected leaders for real solutions that will benefit all Georgians.      

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Jac Capp at Georgia EPD offers no support for enforcing new air regulations

This morning Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) included coverage of the new EPA Greenhouse Gas regulations which go into effect tomorrow (EPA regulations set for January 2, 2011.)  They included comments  from Air Division Director Jac Capp (the audio is not currently available and will be posted here if it is available later).

Capp said that meeting the new regulations will require additional costs for energy producers in Georgia. In the second sound bite he said that the EPD is not sufficiently funded to cover enforcement of the regulations. He never mentioned the positive impact that cleaner air will have on citizens' health or our natural resources.

At an EPD question and answer session over a year ago citizens asked how the EPD will monitor the coal ash waste and emissions from Plant Washington. At one point Capp said that they will stay on top of these issues, but he then said that because the EPD is underfunded and understaffed, that the public should call their offices if we see ash blowing in the area. It seems that the public is responsible for monitoring the toxin wastes and emissions in our neighborhoods.
Today's news coverage shows that the Air Protection Branch of the EPD is more concerned about protecting the profits of energy producers in Georgia rather than the health of citizens and our natural resources. We should tell our state legislators that the EPD must enforce these regulations, and the General Assembly should provide funding for the EPD to do this work.

Lastly,  for those plant supporters who keep saying, "the EPD will protect us," it is clear from Capp's statements that we can't count on that, and the pollution naysayers need to know this.

Katherine Helms Cummings
FACE Executive Director