“If a man is proud of his wealth, he should not be praised until it is known how he employs it…” Wise words from Socrates, and apropos considering the money trail in the campaign for County Executive. Much has been made about outside interests by both sides in this race for Executive. We’ve heard from groups and individuals outside of our County regarding a variety of issues—Friends, family, and otherwise kindred souls have expressed support from afar. That is as it should be. But by far most of what we’re hearing from outside is coming from very specific interests, namely, the fossil fuel industry (Phillips 66 & Marathon Oil) and their most supportive (or symbiotic? co-dependent? sycophantic?)— patrons, Tony Larson and Kathy Kershner.
Tens of thousands have been spent in this campaign by oil industry players in order to convince voters that “liberal” and “progressive” interests are somehow advocating $18 a gallon gasoline, the shuttering of refineries and the elimination of good jobs. I’ve spent much time trying to pin this down, to get at the facts. When I press Larson-Kershner for specifics, the answer is either silence, or a repeat of the complaint that progressive “outside interests” are stampeding, (like a ‘caravan’?) marching forth to impoverish citizens and relegate us to yurts heated with solar panels, leaving us transport only by rowboat. Alas, I asked for specific language, perhaps an amendment—any language proposed by Satpal or anyone else that would “Shutter a refinery.” Crickets. Such a proposal, in fact such language does not exist. Indeed, Kathy Kershner, a Republican candidate for County Council called her disagreement with her opponents “War.”
“War”? Is that what we want as a community? Do we seek politicians who see themselves as being ‘at war‘ with their opposition? Still, such ‘wars’ are becoming commonplace, and are the ‘go-to’ strategy for the moneyed interests, for the giant companies, and for their government patrons, Larson-Kershner. Meanwhile the average citizen watches, bewildered by it all, for he/she has no ‘war chest’ from which to draw, and if the patrons of industry, i.e., Larson-Kershner are elected, the average citizen is resigned to a reality in which money is speech, and by logical extension big-money has a voice able to drown-out all others. The Larson-Kershner-Phillips66-Marathon folks will not be satisfied until they have ‘won’ their war, until they control all levers of government, including the manner by which that government is elected.
This is not new. Socrates’ most famous student, Plato, as if reacting to the Larson-Kershner campaign, 2500 years ago described the tendency of civilized society to deteriorate when resources are hoarded. He observed in his own beloved Athens that ownership had become paramount, money came to be valued over virtue, “…And the leaders seek to alter the law to give away and accommodate the materialistic lust of its citizens…As a result of this appreciation for money, the governors work the constitution to restrict political power to the rich only….”
Both sides of the race have received assistance in the form of money from outside of the County, that’s not at issue nor is it singularly controversial. There are however key, stark differences between Larson-Kershner and Satpal Sidhu, and that difference lays squarely in ‘how’ the outside money is employed, wildly differing views as to who we are as a community, and back to where this letter began.
When the Larson-Kershner contingent is asked about the tens of thousands of dollars in oil industry money employed against their opponents, they say nothing, or just as often they change the subject. I know this because I’ve tried it. In fact the ‘what aboutism’ and complaints about fairness from Larson-Kershner seems a lesson well-learned from their leaders in Washington D.C. —“If the facts aren’t on your side, argue the process, if that doesn’t work, then misrepresent, obfuscate, vilify, destroy.”
Satpal Sidhu’s candidacy offers citizens a real chance to alter the paradigm for governing in a way that shifts power toward the average citizen, to those who are not wealthy, to those who do not own an oil refinery. There has rarely been a more qualified candidate to lead our community than Satpal. He is a small business owner and educator, and has served as a professional in both the renewable and the fossil fuel industries. His combined industry expertise and his public service both in and out of government are unsurpassed by any candidate in this race. His nuanced understanding of the intersection of industry and government, or more precisely, the impact of industry on the lives of average citizens, positions him well to be an effective leader on day-one.
When asked whether he believes that oil should be $500 a barrel, Satpal responded in clear terms and with characteristic humility, “No, and I never thought that the price of oil should shoot up to $500 per barrel tomorrow. We cannot increase the cost of transportation for the working class. My full remarks from two years ago reflect that I was talking about the big picture and my belief that the best use of oil is not burning it. We are already moving away from that, but this transition will take time.” Satpal concluded with an undeniable proposition—“[The county executive] can do many things that impact our local communities, but influencing the oil market is not one of them….”
There is profound irony in the Larson-Kershner hypocrisy. Their false-populism, oddly embraced and funded by trans-national oil companies, is a slight-of-hand, and evokes images of an earlier era, an era of Robberbarrons and ‘the company store.’ Proof you say? Satpal said it best, “The main sponsor(s) of these ads would be perfectly happy if oil hit $500 a barrel, but what worries them is a county executive that asks tough questions.”
You gotta ask yourself: Am I better off, is my government better than it was?—And if not, will the ‘war’ described by by Kathy Kershner, and funded by Phillips66 & Marathon Oil improve my prospects?
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