Brea residents have sought to be heard and to have their recommendations about fracking and other environmental issues considered for over a year. Until just recently little progress has been made and Council’s engagement with the public has been limited to a couple of meetings with a handful of grassroots advocates.
Here’s quick bit of history to put this into perspective.
At the study session on July 15, 2014, Council member Simonoff asked for the Linn Energy presentation to be pulled from the agenda because equal time had not been extended to the resident’s group to put their counterpoint and concerns on the table. Mayor Murdock dismissed Simonoff’s request.
Addressing Council during the general session, Brea resident Jennifer Hefner pointed out, “Mayor Murdock, admitting he knows little about fracking, decided to use this meeting to let Linn Energy representatives offer the oil and gas industry’s spin on the growing debate over health, safety, environmental and possible seismic risks.”
Shortly after, in an attempt on the part of several cities including Brea to assuage public concerns, a symposium was held at CSUF on the process and effects of fracking. By all accounts the symposium was dominated by pro oil and gas interests and little more was learned about the potential risks to public health and safety.
Seven months and a lot of lobbying later, on February 17, 2015 a group of concerned residents were finally given equal time to share the product of almost a year’s deep research on the subject of local fracking and the concern’s they have as a result of their findings. You can watch the presentation here: Fracking Presentation.
The conclusion was simple and reasonable.
All that was asked was for Council to consider creating an Environmental Advisory Board of citizens whose education, professional experience and interests in environmental issues would expand the city’s ability to address such issues in a more robust way than is currently possible. And without the burden on the General Fund typical of the many consultant firms feeding at the Brea trough.
The request asked Council to hold a public session, like they did for the downtown parking structure and tiered water rates, so the public could wade in and make their interests and opinions known.
A couple of months ago Mayor Simonoff asked staff to prepare a report on best practices for committees such as this and the report, fifty pages, was shared with members of Council last week. It is clear that many cities have implemented some form of citizen support or oversight. The question isn’t, “Should Brea create an Environmental Advisory Board?” The question is, “Why didn’t Brea do this decades ago?”
I don’t care what you think.
What you think is as meaningful to the discussion and equally important to hear as any other opinion including… mine. In that case, maybe even more so. If your opinion is 180° out from mine… so what! It’s your opinion and I think you’re obligated to share it.
If all sides are not heard the majority cannot rule. Special interests will continue to have free rein… or is it reign?
What I do care about is motivating you to share your thoughts and opinions, preferably in the setting of a public forum, but via email to your favorite council member is good too.
Just don’t sit back and say nothing. If you’re hesitant to speak publically, then write! Encourage Council to make transparency and public engagement more than just another campaign promise.
As Yoda so eloquently said, “There is no try, only do!”
If the hair on the back of your neck stood up when you read I don’t care what you think… then you probably have strong thoughts on this and we need to hear them! It’s time to move away from special interest lobbying, progressing to public engagement.
The reason we need to come full circle on this can be summed up in this brief statement. Where there is risk, there needs to be choice. If you have no voice in the process, you have no choice in the matter.