By Suzy Coffee

After witnessing the Shasta County supervisors in action Sept. 21, doubling as the Air Pollution Control Board, I had a profound realization of how corporations have infested American government, from the federal level right down to the local.

Despite hours of heated public commentary urging a vote to the contrary, county officials approved a report that in effect, allows Knauf Insulation to significantly increase its harmful nitrogen of oxide emissions.

Following the public comment it took Russ Mull, director of resource management, about 10 minutes to repudiate public testimony and objection. Immediately following Mull’s comments, Irwin “It’s a done deal” Fust, without one word of debate, called for the report’s approval. The unanimous consent from Molly Wilson, Glenn Hawes and Trish Clarke was instantaneous.

I was astonished. It was as if the supervisors hadn’t been there at all, listening to the public outcry. As if they hadn’t heard the heart-rending, firsthand testimonies and personal horror stories about Knauf Insulation from a room full of frustrated and deeply concerned local citizens — like the man who moved from Los Angeles to Shasta Lake to escape pollution and preserve his health for his retirement years. Today, Knauf is his next-door neighbor. Now he breathes with the aid of an oxygen tank, sicker than he has ever been. There was the young adolescent girl who had leukemia as a child and didn’t want the increased pollution to further harm her. The supervisors must have slept right through the repeated testimony of teachers who said they were watching their students getting sicker, before their very eyes. The county officials must have missed entirely the petitions from the farmers, ranchers, park service people, parents, grandparents, professionals, blue collar workers, retirees, sportsmen and nature lovers; the whole wide range of citizens who all but got down on their knees and begged for a vote of nonapproval for higher toxic emissions.

Watching the stonewall of supervisors sit there and coolly disregard the public comment, I looked around the room at the longtime Knauf opponents, the group of dedicated activists who for years, on their own time and dime, have worked and continue to work ceaselessly to protect our air, environment, our children and elderly; who have labored to safeguard the whole north state’s quality of life, from the abuses of Knauf Insulation.

It struck me that these dedicated people are the real public servants. We could all literally breathe a lot easier if these people were sitting in the supervisors’ seats, because they truly and consistently serve the public, not the corporate interest. Citizens can thank them for their service by joining in and becoming a force of resistance against a corporation that is compelled to serve the narrow interest of its shareholders, not the general public. One glance at Knauf’s history as a local corporate neighbor bears this out.

Fortunately, through the democratic process, citizens can reverse the stranglehold corporations have on American government today. However, although democracy is about freedom, it is not free. It requires individual effort and participation. Citizens can demand representative government by electing officials who will put the welfare of the public above the need and greed of the corporations.

Locally it is critical to act now, because Knauf’s army of lawyers is practiced at manipulating laws and regulations to economically benefit its corporate client. Who knows what Knauf will be pushing for a year from now?

Suzy Coffee lives in Manton.


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