The thing that disturbs me the most about this methanol/LNG mess is not the methanol or LNG per se. Rather it’s that these issues bring home the hard, cold fact that while we were sleeping, there’s been a coup. Our city’s been taken over by hostile forces. Tacoma and the United States are both well on their way to becoming oligarchies.
When people talk about the country becoming an oligarchy on the national level, it’s hard to grasp. We still have our homes and jobs, the same programs are on TV. We’re going on a vacation to Yellowstone next year. Cousin Steve just got married and the wedding was fantastic! On and on. In almost every ordinary way, things are the same now as they were 5-10 years ago.
As applied to the United States, the term oligarchy is an abstract; it’s intangible. Because of the overt normalcy, it’s really hard to come to terms with. “Yeah, America is an oligarchy, you say? Hey did you catch last night’s Mariners game?”
It’s mostly subtle, incremental changes that have slowly taken place. The widening income disparity gap. The decline of the middle class. The preeminence of corporate rights. But then of course the changes have speeded up somewhat and become more out front since the Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision.
Looking forward, the TPP would be the oligarch’s capstone achievement. The final nail in the coffin of the US Constitution.
Even so, it’s still really hard to identify personally with the US as an oligarchy because the changes are mostly below the surface, at least for common citizens. Abstract concepts are a bitch to get your arms around sometimes.
Then there’s Tacoma.
On the local level when our very own corporate oligarchs absolutely bitch-slap 17,000 registered Tacoma voters, it’s easier to understand the implications of an oligarchy. It’s easier to understand how life in the larger US oligarchy will soon work.
This assault on democracy has been building for a while. And the methanol and LNG plants are not the only examples. This is a definite pattern we have going.
There may have been others, but the first good example of our “owners” exerting their “divine rights” was with the issue of the lease of Click Network to Wave Broadband.
As you may recall, TPU CEO Bill Gaines and Mayor Strickland tried to ramrod the lease deal through the council, but found unexpected opposition. And even though the city charter clearly states that the voters have to approve any sale or lease, Gaines and the Mayor tossed that provision off lightly. There was quite a fight back and forth on the issue of Click but nothing substantive was ever decided. The issue was eventually passed off to a committee, to “study.”
Presently, the Click Engagement Committee is meeting secretly (sound familiar?) to decide the fate of Click. I firmly expect them to come back with a recommendation to lease Click to Wave – just as Gaines originally intended.
Their overall strategy with Click seems to have been mostly that they’ve tried to wear down and outlast the opposition. And it’s working. Have you heard any discussions of Click lately? When they believe the time is ripe, they’ll announce the lease. And it will be without any vote of the electors, in clear violation of the city charter, and directly against the will of the people.
I’m guessing the city and port will follow more or less the same path with the methanol plant now that they’ve had the initiatives tossed out. That’s got to be the reason they sued STW. They’ll wait a decent amount of time, letting things simmer down, then our lovely Mayor will make a surprise announcement, on how she’s so very, very happy that NWIW has reconsidered, thanks to the “more stable” regulatory climate, and they’re now back on track to build the world’s largest methanol plant in Tacoma! Yea team!
I think the local corporate elite has avoided direct confrontations with citizens prior to this simply because they know it’s unwise to wield their power overtly – at least until they consolidate their strength under the TPP. The tack they took on Click is much less openly adversarial. This recent change in general strategy with the lawsuit suggests that the methanol plant is much, much more important to them.
Thus, the $64 million question is what are we, the citizens going to do about this?
If we lay back and let Click be sold and let the methanol and LNG plants be built, we’re done. Because that will only embolden the oligarchs. We really truly will become serfs.
My belief is that on the local level, we may have a chance to recapture our democracy. But we need to take strong, effective and decisive action.
What do you think we should do?