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This Week In Boulder The Damned

Municipalization, Fracking, and Nablus......

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, June 05, 2013.

Here in Boulder the Damned, every supposed local issue is fueled and smeared with larger and older ones, some of which were carelessly thought won long ago. The City Council has scheduled a special session to chat about whether Boulder ought to be a sister city with Nablus, a town in Palestine. Essentially, this is a contest between conservative Commentary readers who fear for Israel, and the Rocky Mt. Peace and Justice Center, our left wing equivalent. Not far beneath is the unremarked anti-Semitism of American populists who, together with outright leftists, form Palestinian support groups in opposition to the Israel Right or Wrong crowd. It's an old and unlovely feud under new management and the cover of the Sister City Program. It's a big deal to the very few people who care at all.

As well, Boulder is flirting with municipalization of its power grid, turning over to municipal control our electricity as we have our water and other utilities like police and fire. Xcel Energy is in coronary arrest at the thought, not salved by Lafayette announcing their interest in such. There are two issues: can government run electric utilities and reduce the Carbon Footprint of the city and maintain comparable rates and maintenance. Boulder elected to investigate a while back, but Xcel is trying, by importing ringers to pose as Boulder citizens, to convolute the issue so that municipalization will fail at birth. They spent about a million fighting the lost vote, and it is feared they'll really pile on now.

This blends easily into national issues, starting with the wildly unpopular Citizens United case that allows so much corporate and anonymous influence in our elections. Local conservatives want to use this to refight the last several lost local elections. Those in favor of municipalization, like Council member Malcolm Cowles, resenting the huge funds Xcel Energy will spend, suggested that before corporate money is allocated and spent in action or issue committees and other entities, there would have to have a stockholder vote of approval as the city had to get approval of its voters. Now, Xcel dubiously says Boulder has to forge a Charter amendment that would hugely delay municipalization by years.

The stockbroker vote requirement is a valid idea - more so than a City Charter Amendment - but the legal issues are dense, none scarier than the column headed Unintended Consequences. The Council declined to move on it at this time, primarily because if passed in a rush it could have no impact on the upcoming election cycle. It also bodes expense and confusion for the third big summer issue: whether to allow oil companies to pursue fracking in Boulder, which the city delayed for a year. That was viewed in light of the problems neighbor Longmont has. Longmont has banned fracking, at least for a bit, and is now enjoying being sued by the state and drilling companies.

City Councilman Ken Wilson, the most critical of municipalization, correctly pointed out the legal jeopardy but then offered this: “You can say all you want about big companies, but they have made this country what it is.”

When I hear things like that, along with standard Republican accusations that the Democrats and the Left live in a hallucinatory ball of Hollywood engendered nonsense, I want to scream. It is, in fact, far more true that the conservatives are more susceptible to Hollywood fable and happy endings and historical myth and nonsense. But I get his point.

The Left, in damning corrupt and near treasonous corporations who thought little of risking national solvency for personal and excessive profit, simply devolved to just damn 'corporations' in general, because it's easier to chant and provides a handy tool to rile the ranks. Because too many corporations have a history of ignoring public health and wealth, whether Monsanto or Exxon-Mobile or Enron, they make it easier for this canard to stick and bleed. Citizens United was the crowning damnation, where the public now allows itself to think a corporation has all the rights of a person. If so, great: corporations have to sign up for the Selective Service for a future Draft. Fun. Love to see the Koch Brothers in uniform.

In fact, whether railroads or grid power or agriculture, the big companies Wilson referenced get full credit for things the federal government allowed, prepped, and often paid for. I don't know why America has such trouble admitting capitalism and socialism work well together, but they do, and I'd feel happier if those in government acknowledged it. This would allow local issues to be settled for local good at local speed in elections primarily run on local money. That has to be a good thing.