At the US Army Corps of Engineers

Just as I did ten days before, on Tuesday morning I got out the bike, wrapped the Green Party banner to the rack above the rear wheel with a bungee cord, and went on down to a Stop the Coal Trains demonstration here in Portland.

This one was in the downtown area, in front of the office building housing the US Army Corps of Engineers, and it featured our most populist of elected City Council commissioners, Amanda Fritz.  I got there  a quarter of an hour before the starting time, and already found about 100 people, many of them the same ones I’d met at the Lombard Bridge.  This demonstration, however, was quite different.

Amanda Fritz wasn’t at the Lombard Bridge (Jefferson Smith, candidate for mayor, was; Woody Broadnax, Green Party candidate for Congress, was); here, in front of the downtown offices of the USArmy Corps of Engineers, she was the central figure.  Amanda opened and closed the speakers list; Amanda introduced each speaker in turn; Amanda stayed for questions afterwards.

Mieux tard que jamais, then: better late than never.  But an issue did arise that left something of an off taste in the political mouth, to metaphorically stretch a bit.  You see, the demonstration was taking place in the first place, and the speakers, each of them elected city commissioners (and one doctor, who told us mercury really, really is bad for us), urged the same action on us, to ask the US Army Corps of Engineers to do a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement.

It seems we are organizing demonstrations to ask institutions to do what their job is.  That’s strange; right at the start we eschew assuming agency, the power to act ourselves.  Not only that; when a member of the group asked Amanda Fritz, “Why don’t we just set up our own Public Utility District?” — as many Oregon cities did in the 1930s, as would solve all of these corporate swindles in one blow — she answered, “I can only do one thing at a time.”

Well, yes.  I realize Ms Fritz is running for office at the moment, and wants not to offend any potential voters.  But that is not a straight answer to the question.  Why isn’t the one thing we decide to do, to go to the root?  Why is it — the one thing we can do at a time — restricted to pleading with others, please to do what they’re supposed to do without any pleading, seeing as how it’s their job?

Richard Ellmyer, one of the most involved organizers of the No Coal Train movement, had some sharp words for Amanda the following day:

[After months of procrastination, commissioner Fritz, who has a full time staff person working on this, still doesn’t have a draft. Medieval scribes taking time off for pilgrimages could have produced an illuminated NO Coal draft manuscript in less time than Fritz is taking.]

Mary Nolan has been a no show and invisible on the profits versus pollution environmental civil coal war in Portland issue. Mary Nolan is PRO COAL. So, if you were Amanda Fritz, who is competing with Nolan for a $120,000 city council job, and you had a friendly audience and lots of press why wouldn’t you mention that your opponent, Mary Nolan, is PRO Coal?

The question also arises: How and why is commissioner Fritz “leading” the long, dragged out process of a Portland NO Coal resolution? This is the most important issue on Portland’s public agenda. Why aren’t ALL the commissioners and the mayor making a big public fuss about this issue EVERY DAY?

. . . .

Stay tuned for more on Portland’s long awaited NO Coal resolution. It’s going to be a lot messier than you’d expect.

I don’t know what to expect, to be honest.  I can say that, historically, radicals, who want to go to the root of the problem, have been consciously co-opted by liberals, who want to keep things the same, as much as possible.  It looks like that’s what’s happening here.

About M. Meo

Worked as translator, museum technician, truck lumper, lecture demonstrator, teacher (of English as a Second Language, science, math). Married for 25 years, 2 boys aged 18 & 16 (both on the Grant cross-country team). A couple of scholarly publications in the history of science. Two years in federal penitentiary, 1970/71, for refusing the draft.
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