Monday, October 31, 2011

Hate SpewMaster Sponsors and Higher Math

Not being a Neal Boortz fan, and preferring to not be incensed all the time by listening to him or reading what he spews on the internet, I wasn't totally surprised when I read today via Blog for Democracy that Boortz tweeted earlier today: "If you haven't been charged with sexual harassment ... your 'nads haven't dropped yet."

Since it has been a while since I had looked at the Spewmaster's web site, I went there to see which companies have paid links there. In the upper right hand column there is an advertisement FOR A WOMEN'S SELF DEFENSE CLASS! 

I need to puzzle over the math here but I am pretty sure that calculus or any other method won't get the math right on this one: Neal Boortz thinks that unless a male has sexually harassed a women he isn't a man.   Companies like Ackerman Security and Chinese Shailon Center in Atlanta, who are sponsoring the workshop, are in the business of helping protect women from attacks. And yet they spend money to sponsor Boortz. 

I just spoke with a very nice woman at Ackerman who is following up on this and seemed to be just as upset as I am. She said someone would call me back.

In the mean time, if I were an Ackerman customer, I would cancel my contract with them and urge anyone I know, especially women, to do the same. The math just doesn't add up.    

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Every taxpayer in Georgia should be furious with the DNR's latest stunt

Yesterday the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) used $35K of taxpayer dollars to restock the Ogeechee River after a massive 38K+ fish kill late in May. They have identified King Finishing, a private company, as the source for the pollution.

Dead fish in the Ogeechee, May 2011
But it gets even worse-the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) inspected King Finishing and never discovered that they were dumping fire retardant chemicals into the river without a permit, for 5 years! EPD leaders, once they realized they were clearly caught with their pants down, set up a consent agreement (which isn't a fine or penalty, but rather money for a supplemental environmental project) for King Finishing to spend $1M on some unidentified project, which may in fact not even be connected to the damage done at the river.

To add to the insult to all Georgians, but particularly people fishing and swimming in the river, selling supplies to boaters and outdoors sportsmen, and wildlife supporters, King Finishing could have been fined $91M! But if the EPD inspected and failed to find the unpermitted dumping, how can it then turn around and punish the polluter to the full extent possible?

To further indicate just how bad oversight is across state departments, a recent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on factory farms revealed that the Agriculture Department isn't inspecting factory farms in the state and the EPD isn't finding the resulting pollution in rivers, streams, and lakes. Bert Langley with the EPD was quoted in the AJC, "We get very few complaints, which is typically our window into whether there are gross problems occurring,” 

The AJC quoted Justine Thompson, Executive Director of GreenLaw, about the method, or lack thereof, of oversight: “If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? If a farm is not inspected or looked at, does it have a violation?” Thompson said. “They are not inspecting these places. To unequivocally make a proclamation that places they’ve never seen are in compliance is inconceivable.”

Clearly the Emperor has no clothes, and doesn't have the sense to figure out where or how to get some.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why isn't the Department of Public Health speaking up for us?

As has been evidenced this year, citizens can't count on the state's Environmental Protection Division to lead in protecting our natural resources or health from pollution. In the past few days our state Attorney General has filed two briefs opposing rules which will significantly reduce toxins in the air we breath and the water we count on for so many things.

So, I wonder, why isn't the Department of Public Health (DPH) speaking out in favor of tighter pollution regulations and oversight? The DPH web site says,"DPH is the lead department entrusted by the people of the state of Georgia with the ultimate responsibility for the health of the communities and the entire population."

Even their own data reflect high rates of birth defects (mercury is a neurotoxin), cancer, heart and lung disease, and stroke, all of which can result from exposure to dirty air. Can they not figure out that coal plants are pumping TONS of hazardous pollutants into the air each year? Have they not noticed because the policy makers are in Atlanta at 2 Peachtree Street? They don't see the coal stacks from their back yard or wipe coal ash dust from their front porch rocking chairs each day.

Is there ANY state agency in Georgia that is really invested in protecting our health, our air, and our water, from the pollution and health effects that have been documented for decades?      

Just wondering.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A College and a Home

This weekend as the air is chilled with the early taste of fall, students, faculty, and alumni will come together to celebrate the many things that make Guilford College uniquely enduring, and endearing, College and "home."

Many many years ago it was a location for the Underground Railroad. Before the Civil War Guilford was a leader in educating both girls and boys. The College stood firm in support of social, racial, ethnic, religious differences, justice, and equality, many years before the phrase "politically correct" was ever spoken.    

This weekend alums will return to campus and marvel at how young the students look. We will roam the hallways and classrooms of buildings we once planned our days around. We will do a double take when a woman says she lives in a dorm that was all male (mostly) when we were on campus.

For some of us it will have been many years since we were on campus. Others were there in the Spring for class reunions. Some alums back on campus this weekend drive past the College daily on their way to work. A few lucky ones have the privilege of working there. No matter how long it has been since we last were there, Guilford leaves an indelible mark on each student lucky enough to call it "my College."

The values and the principals the College has stood on so firmly were woven into our time there and remain with us daily. There is a kinship among Guilfordians that I have never seen experienced among  alums from other schools. We are forever connected to the College and to each other.

There will be new faces, and familiar faces worn with time. The older buildings will stretch wide to welcome us down their hallways again. We will marvel at how the campus is the same and yet so much better. Perhaps it is all crisper in our eyes now because we know what we took away with us left us connected to one another, and will always bring us back.  


Monday, October 3, 2011

This isn't a Single Game Elimination Contest.

The challenger to the EMC Board Chair didn't win last Saturday, which was surprising to many of us. I think Gene Renfroe ran a top notch campaign (positive, no personal hits on his opponent in the media). Even though he hadn't taken any position on Plant Washington, he was firm on improving relationships with members and treating us with respect. But, the long entrenched Chair (37 years is too long for anyone to serve on a board, but that is a reform issue for another day) got people to the EMC voting booths who probably will never go to another meeting again. So, we all learned a lot and we will let that inform and shape the work to be done.

Two things struck me about the Board and the CEO, Frank Askew. And right here and now I need to say what I have always told people, and I mean it: Frank Askew is a nice guy. He is as personable and friendly as anyone could ask for as far as a CEO who represents the co-op's members. And I don't begrudge him being paid well. His job comes with great responsibilities and he should be compensated for his education, experience, and time.

As the dust began to settle on Saturday, about 40 people stayed for the Q&A session with the Board of Directors, AND some of them actually asked pointed questions and pushed back on some of the answers we were given. Several people spoke up about the decision to build Plant Washington, the water and pollution issues that will result, the expense to members and taxpayers, and Board governance.

When I asked about open meetings, bylaw changes, and other governance and transparency issues, I made it clear that I was asking the Board, not Askew, as the Board currently sets those policies (the Board can amend the bylaws at will except pertaining to elections, yet another issue for another day. See page 43 in the bylaws). And the look on their faces? Well, they've never sat before the members to answer questions, and they just sat in silence.

Then they kind of fell over each other saying that it isn't hard to come to a meeting, and they are fine with members being there, and maybe we really didn't have to have a specific topic or reason to "be on the agenda" as members kept pointing out from their seats. Maybe they need to read their own policy, #116 again.

Will the Board really open the doors to members? Probably not right now. As we left the meeting my representative, Billy Helton, who stood up for this much needed Q&A session, told me if I want to come to the October Board meeting I should. I will. And others should too.

Members understand that things such as personnel issues must be handled in executive session. The members expect the linemen and office staff who work for us to be treated fairly and respectfully, paid a competitive salary, and be required to work safely. These people are our friends, our family, our neighbors. We know who keeps the lights on, repairs our dish washer, and notices when something doesn't look "right" if they come by our homes often.

I learned a lot Saturday, and sure, I wish it had all gone my way. If Plant Washington went away tomorrow would I still be interested in better co-op governance and operations? Yes, there is plenty of work to do. I left the meeting with the strong voices of like-minded people cheering me on.