Monday, August 28, 2006

A Done Deal? Not yet...

By Kamyar Enshayan

A “Done Deal” vs. Democracy

On May 11th, a meeting was held in Waterloo regarding the proposed coal burning power plant. It was staged by the company and was attended by more than 500 people, most of whom had serious concerns about such a plant.

In the TV news account of that meeting, the news staff explained what happened at the meeting and that many questions remained unanswered. At the very end of the story, in a slip of the tongue, he said, “But it is pretty much a done deal.”

Several people wrote in and reminded that it was not a done deal at all. In fact, the company had not even filed for any permit application yet! Since then, people have asked me, “But, really, don’t you think it is a done deal?”

I would say, yes, if we lived in Afghanistan, North Korea, or China where everything is decided for you. But we are here. And here, we say we value democracy and fair decision processes that are open to citizen participation.

As it turns out, whether here or in Iran, powerful entities with greed do not like democracy, they do not want a messy participatory process that involves citizens. They do not want it in the news. They want it behind closed doors, their way. Clean and swift. There is a deeply-held, ancient anti-democratic instinct at work here.

Yes, the representatives from the absentee company that wants to build a coal burning power plant in Black Hawk county have already met with the City of Waterloo and Black Hawk County officials behind closed doors. But have the County officials and or Waterloo City officials met with the public at the early stages to explain what they are working on, why they seemed so sold on the idea, and to encourage citizen participation? Sadly, the answer is no.

For most large projects, whether a dirty coal power plant in Black Hawk County, a monster dam in China, yet another un-needed gigantic mall in Ames, or another highway through a community, a major strategy is to make it appear that it is a “done deal.” That way, citizens who otherwise would be motivated to participate will feel discouraged early on and give up getting involved altogether.

There is nothing that’s a “done deal.” None. Even the very democratic processes we seem to hold so dear as the foundation of our country can be undone and are being undone on a daily basis, nationally and locally. Most people think that democracy is something we did or got sometime ago, like July 4, 1776. Something that we secured back then and can enjoy forever. False.

As it turns out, democracy is a highly perishable thing. It needs to be nurtured very carefully. Democracy is not something we have, but something we make and remake daily. There is no way around it. As soon you relax, the entities who profit from weakening it will be at it.

Ultimately, the only lasting solution is citizens who are informed and engaged. It is up to us to root out these “done deals” and to demand open decision processes. The future of our neighborhoods, towns and the nation will depend it.

Kamyar Enshayan can be reached at


At 7:35 PM, Blogger DJ Shiva. said...

You are SO right. Nothing is a done deal, as long as communities stand up for themselves. We here in Indiana have been fighting a destructive highway project that was called a "done deal" 15 years ago. Today, it is still not built, and the opposition is larger and more vocal than ever before.

Have you gotten in touch with ICAN (Iowa Citizen Action Network)? They might be able to help with some organizing/canvassing stuff...or at least give some advice.

Anyhow, I will be passing the info about your fight on to my co-workers at the Hoosier Environmental Council. We will be paying attention to what goes on in your struggle.

Oh...also, I used to work for Citizen's Action Coalition here in Indiana, and they had some big fights against merchant power plants when I worked there. They may have some good strategies that could help. :)

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Milwblatzman said...

Based on a recent article in the Waterloo paper, it seems that LS Power would be paying ALL the cost of water lines and sewer lines to the facility so the City of Waterloo will likey be able to avoid going to a public vote to permit tax dollars / GO Bonds for the project. The City of Waterloo will surely offer other significant incentives, including free land and raillines for the site. They also expect Blackhawk County to pay for the needed road improvements needed for construction of the facility and for daily waste removal trips past the new casino to the local landfill.

I might also note that the local Black Hawk County landfill charges a very high disposal rate and then gives an annual rebate (or as most call it a "kick back") to the local user cities each year. The cities inturn use that money for special projects or to supplement their General Fund without having to raise property taxes.

If the landfill operation was an OIL Company operation people would be complaining that their rates must be changed, but since the cities get the money and taxpayers do not

I've seen several graphics of the proposed facility, but they never show the massive coal pile necessary to operate the plant.

I believe that for wanting the facility soley to access another revenue stream for the City to spend poorly and as quickly as possible is just wrong due to the effect on local property taxes to cover the GO Bonds and the well known environmental risks. It might be a little different if the the power generated was critically needed here locally, but it is not. One primary reason to build here is the minimal level of environmental regulations that would apply as compared to a much larger city.

Let the citizens vote on the proposal !


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