Hydro proposal vote: The voters have spoken

Dear Editor:

After Castle Creek hydro was defeated on Tuesday, reporters called opponents and asked, “What do you think City Council will do now?” And, “What effect do you think City Council’s actions will have on the next municipal election?”

We have no crystal ball. Predictions are a formula for misleading ourselves and looking foolish. So we deal with facts. Here are some:

• The 2007 vote was about a bond issue, not the entire project.

• There was a much greater turnout of voters on Tuesday to vote on the overall project (3,978 votes cast) than there was in 2007 for the bond issue vote (812 total votes cast).

• More votes were cast against the project in 2012 (2,044) than the total votes cast for or against the 2007 bond issue (812).

• A majority of votes cast in 2012 (51.4 percent) was against the project’s continuing.

• The 2012 vote came after a wealth of information from the city and the project opponents between 2007 and 2012. Each side accused the other of misrepresentations.

• A lot of money was spent on each side. Opponents had to spend their own money. Proponents spent some of their own money and some of the city’s money in the form of “information” disseminated by the city over five years.

• City Council refused a suggestion to present a simple question to the voters, but rather dressed it up with vague references to reducing coal consumption and unspecified stream monitoring. (It is speculation that this was expected to make the measure so attractive as to insure its passage.)

• Some members of City Council, despite the above, have characterized the 2007 low turnout bond issue results as a “mandate” to do the project.

• Even before the election, one member of City Council informed the press that he would support moving ahead with the project regardless of the outcome of the vote. (Presumably this was meant to be irrespective of the margin of passage or failure.)

We hope City Council will not focus on the past, decrying the election result and blaming the outcome on factors other than the obvious – the voters have rejected the project. We hope City Council will not try to find excuses to ignore or dismiss the election results. Had the measure passed, no doubt we would have wondered whether it was because of the loaded ballot language, the years of propaganda by the city, or a backlash against who opposed the project. No doubt we would have wondered what we had done or failed to do that led to defeat.

We hope that we would have kept those thoughts to ourselves and not have made excuses for the outcome, or written it off to an electorate less enlightened than we. None of that matters now. The election is over.

It is time to turn our collective attention as a city to other ways to achieve the remaining goals of the Canary Initiative without posing serious environmental risks, i.e., without replacing one environmental problem with another. As City Council meets for the first time following the defeat of 2C, we hope it will look forward to environmentally friendly ways to complete the Canary Initiative (e.g., micro hydro, solar, wind, conservation), ways the electorate can enthusiastically support. We hope city will be more sensitive to the concerns of citizens about the city’s processes. We gladly will support the city in such efforts.

As City Council ponders the future, we proffer two additional facts:

• The citizens have spoken.

• This is supposed to be a democracy.

Maurice Emmer