By E. J. Sieyes
Compared to last year, this election season has been relatively quiet. Campaign rhetoric has been tame and a recent campaign ad, “restore trust and integrity in your government – vote Democratic”, brought howls of laughter when aired in public. The only Green candidate on the local ballot was a machine Democrat. We need a more broadly-based and intensive outreach effort to field more real Green candidates. Grass roots democracy fails if our message doesn’t find a home.
By far the ballot issue receiving the most media attention has been Proposition One, the upstate casino question. Despite a heavily financed “Pro-One” campaign many feel we have not been told the whole story. And, as noted on network news last night, it’s really a moot point since no matter what the outcome, no matter what the electorate decides, the state administration has already decided to expand casino gambling. The governor promises substantial but unspecified casino revenues will go to local government and our schools, just like they did for lottery revenue, and we all saw what happened there.
But for many of us, there are two more important questions, Propositions Four and Five, each dealing with a land-swap in Adirondack State Park. Prop Four is to settle a long-standing ownership dispute with private land owners, while Prop Five would exchange land to enable NYCO Minerals to mine inside the preserve, both on land specified in the state constitution to remain forever free of development. The real question is one of implementation – both would involve giving the state money to purchase replacement land to attach to the preserve. In Prop Five, NYCO would also be required to restore the mined land, though not necessarily returning it to its original pristine condition. Prop Five would set a precedent, eventually allowing any company to swap land to mine inside the preserve. The risk of despoiling the land is serious, regardless of claims of required restoration – a company would merely need to set up an autonomous for-profit subsidiary that they could bankrupt on completion of mining, leaving the land exploited and devastated. Other important questions are whether the state, once in possession of these fees would actually purchase replacement land or use the money for other purposes, and if replacement land is purchased, who guarantees that the transactions are at a fair and customary price and free of political favor? As we have seen too many times in our recent past, New York reality is that Money + Politics = Corruption.
This election is just another example of why we need grass roots democracy, and a government that requires the environment to be treated with respect and integrity.