05 October 2006

David Chambers

As I indicated, the CitizenAlliance brought David Chambers of the Center for Science and Public Participation to Nome and he held a public forum last night.

I reported on the event but wanted to make two notes here, of a more editorial nature.

The first is that I was pleased with how the event turned out. I had anticipated that it could easily turn into a complaining session in an echo chamber but Chambers was a very good question-answerer. He told people what he thought, pointed out where they might have misperceptions, and clearly defined the debate in terms people could understand. The importance of that can not be underestimated.

Second, I am simultaneously deeply impressed and moderately disappointed with the CitizenAlliance. On the one hand, they have taken an issue that was a fait accompli a few months ago and succeeded in raising some very real obstacles to it. (Yes, it can easily be argued these obstacles could - and would more effectively - have been raised some months ago.) Many of them are well-spoken, come across as deeply genuine, and are passionate advocates for their cause. That is hard not to respect.

My disappointment is that the CitizenAlliance has missed at least one obvious step to trumpet their cause. The recent municipal elections in Nome were a comparatively weak affair compared to what I had expected they would be in early September. I was convinced that we would have what I called a "cyanide election." I was excited to cover races for common council that would turn on the great issue of the day in Nome. And yet not a single candidate could be found from the CitizenAlliance (despite their passion, genuineness, and well-spokenness) to stand for office, though these same people had - rightly - pointed out a few weeks earlier at a common council meeting that the current crop of council members had failed to stay informed on the issue and really didn't know what was going on. And even though a candidate did express an anti-cyanide position, no one rallied around him and he finished a woeful third place.

From a news angle, I am looking forward to continuing to cover this issue because it is interesting and generates a lot of news. But from a personal angle, my respect and concern is tempered by a tinge of disappointment at what might have been.

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