How Big Oil Controls Local Governments

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Big Oil depicted: Walter Simon

Whom Do You Serve? Thoughts on Local Government and Dirty Industries –

By Brad Nolen

MOBILE, Ala. – We the people of Mobile have long been organized to safeguard and promote the flourishing of our fair community. And part and parcel to this organization we’ve put together was the hiring of a city councils, commissioners, mayors, etc.

Now, it should go without saying that the purpose of councils, commissions and public office in general is to represent the varied interests of the citizens, and hopefully through consensus- seeking achieve some semblance of collective wisdom; and then, if we’re really lucky to apply said wisdom in charting our course toward a Mobile our great grandchildren will be proud to inherit.

Yet, when it came to finding a voice to protect our drinking water from Big Oil, we heard nothing substantive from our local leaders, even though we marched on their doorsteps in boots that are still wet with BP oil.

And now, when Big Coal comes into our lovely town in need of a place to store dusty mounds of coal coke, where do they want to set up shop? Nowhere other than the banks of our river, and the shores of our bay! Why, on the very doorsteps of our city!

And Big Coal knows very well how to handle our local council “representatives.” And it can easily tickle the business-friendly ribs of appointed commissioners to get its way. Like the oil that will soon to flow through our water source, the piles of blue creek coal look like a done deal.

And why is that? It’s because the organization we’ve assembled, the one we’ve inherited from our elders, OUR councils, and OUR commissions, they no longer serve Mobile citizens. Instead they serve their own careers, and they negotiate the sale of our river banks and the shores of our bay to the highest bidder, and without regard to our concerns. In their hands, drinking water, clean air, and the future of our beautiful city be damned.

The habit of local career-politicians failing to truly serve the citizens that hired them has become so commonplace as to look like business-as-usual. It remains to be seen if the new, man-of-the- people Mayor will side with the outraged and concerned citizens, or shrug his shoulders in a business-friendly kind of way.
So we lost the food-security of our Gulf to Big Oil, and then we lost any “say so” in our water security … again, to Big Oil.

And now it looks as though we’ll likely be betrayed to Big Coal. It all sort of takes the guesswork out of predicting the future of the oil tank farms coming before them later this year. Though we may have the structure of representative governance, it is clear that, represent us, they do not.

In light of the Gulf Oil Spill and the spill in Aliceville, one has to ask of the current batch of career representatives, commissioners and council members alike, if they will take personal responsibility for any oil leaks, oil spills, coal dust, tank farm leaks that arise from their disregard of our concerns, their dis-service to the citizens of Mobile.

There are a lot of businesses (small!) and clean industries that it makes sense to encourage and promote. Then, there are industries with all too familiar track records of destruction.

And sadly, it would seem, there are the painfully familiar failures of city councils, commissioners, judges, mayors….

For how long will the health of our community be determined by those who fail to represent the people who live here? And for how long will they be encouraged in their dis-service by citizens that don’t hold them accountable?

In our recent vote for change, did we trade abject cronyism for a more business-friendly version of cronyism? So far, it looks like more of the same.

And in the end, it is us and our fair city, and our rivers, our Bay, our Gulf that are served by our local “representatives” … time and time again we and our city are served up on a silver platter to whatever Johnny-come-lately, dirty industry that promises to pay as much taxes as a coffee shop.

If the current batch of hired hands lacks the vision to see a clean and healthy future for Mobile … if they lack the ability to hear their constituents and neighbors, then maybe we can find some folks amongst us who are more deserving of our trust.

So, is Mobile for sale?

Yes, it would seem so, for now … maybe.

It all depends on us.

Call your local politicians, visit a City Council or Planning and Zoning meeting, and above all remind them who hired them and pays their salaries.

Call to oppose oil pipelines through your water source, call to oppose tank farms and piles of coal on your shores, and while you have your local representatives’ attention, ask them, whom do they serve?


Downtown Mobile view from site for new coal terminal: Walter Simon

© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

  1 comment for “How Big Oil Controls Local Governments

    March 29, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    It seems as though local politicians follow the lead of the Montgomery crowd without asking any questions. After all the Montgomery crowd lives in Montgomery, not Mobile.

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