Friday, October 25, 2013

Legislators And Lobbyists First

Having witnessed yesterday's public hearing on the sand mining bill, I fail to see why lawmakers are allowed to get away with calling them public hearings. The last thing they do is hear the public.

Legislators talked first. And they talked and talked and talked, as if rehearsing for some future filibuster. Then it was the industry lobbyists' turn. And they droned on and on interminably, while citizens who had traveled for hours to attend the hearing were made to sit and wait.

I talked to people who woke up as early as 4 or 4:30 to drive into town to catch a bus and ride for three hours or more to arrive in time for the start of the hearing at 9:30. They had stories to tell. They wanted to share their concerns and fears about the effects of sand mining on their own health as well as its impact on the natural landscape and their property values. They wanted to have their say about traffic congestion and damage to their local roads. They are understandably unsettled by companies blasting with dynamite in their homeland. They are understandably outraged by a state power grab that strips them and their local communities of any ability to control their own fate and gives sand miners a green light to pretty much do as they please.

They waited for hours, forced to listen to the legislators and lobbyists. Some of them never heard their names called. It was never their turn to speak. They had to get back on the bus for the long ride home without testifying. They submitted written comments to the committee, something they could have done from home without getting up at 4 in the morning to make the trip to Madison.

The politicians and lobbyists who scratch backs and make deals in the Capitol most every day seemed utterly oblivious to how rudely and disrespectfully these citizens were being treated. By any measure of human decency, no one could be blamed for concluding that mining committee chairman Tom Tiffany was denied instruction in the basic social graces as a child. But this hearing was no different than any other held these days. Offensive as it was, this was standard operating procedure.

Watching such a disgraceful spectacle makes you angry enough to chew up nails and spit 'em out like bullets. One can only hope that all the people who traveled so far only to be treated so shabbily will find ways to exact proper revenge on these godforsaken politicians.


Anonymous said...

This is the standard operating procedure for Republican legislators. They ignore even their own constituents, especially if you hold an opposing view. My Senator [aide] has lied to me twice and now refuses to respond because a reporter confronted him with it. Special interest donor dollars garner their attention...not people. It is no longer government ...of,for and by the PEOPLE.

Anonymous said...

Any Politician who has already made up their mind, or who has a vested interest in a project does the same. to be fair, it is not just Republicans, although they excel at it.
I could direct your attention to a video (but I won't cuz I'm on it) of a meeting rudely and very partially (like - opposite of "impartially") presided over by someone endorsed by "progressive groups" with cohorts who are Democrat party darlings letting Developers talk off-agenda, over-time-limits, spewing unchallenged and obvious lies, after having gotten school-girl crush style introductions, whilst opponents and other citizens got cut off and consistently grumpy tones. And it's hardly the first time, or the first town I've seen this happen in. There's a circle-the-wagons thing that any power group can easily fall into. No ideology is immune. Official platforms and positions on paper don't really amount to much. Character matters, and it's in really short supply. Once people get a modicum of power too many of them turn into caricatures.
I did not intend to make this next point, but it fits in- this is also why it's really important for candidates to go thru a REAL public process. To hold a series of smaller offices before a big one, to have a lot of public contact over a long period of time, many opportunities to reveal themselves interacting with real people in a daily situation. And NOT just be picked in backroom deals and then served up. Guys like Tom Tifffany - an incredibly unpleasant man - get elected in spite of real world rigors and democratic processes. It's bad enough already. We do not need for people to become accustomed to processes of Anointing more suitable for church hierarchy, or houses of royalty. That is not why we are all here.
In America, I mean.

Anonymous said...

This is standard operating procedure for politicians of both parties who are wizened, tired of listening to their constituents, or feel immune to public pressure. The answer: vote them out of office!