Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Humanly Reasonable

Public Comments to the Denton City Council, August 4, 2015

Our air and water.
Our health and safety.
Our Denton.

This simple slogan was at the heart of our campaign to ban fracking in Denton. Our priorities were—and remain—to make Denton a healthy and sustainable city for all of our residents to live and grow. In other words, we declared that we want Denton to be a place guided by HUMANLY reasonable standards. The majority of Denton voters agreed last November that fracking within the city limits is incompatible with this goal.

When HB40 nullified our ban and told us that we had to make decisions based on what is commercially reasonable, they stole from us our best means of protecting the health and safety of all people in Denton. 

In effect this leaves our Gas Well Ordinance as the last line of defense of
Our air and water.
Our health and safety.
Our Denton.

This is in fact what is at stake here tonight: nothing less than the question if Denton will insist upon being humanly reasonable, or merely commercially so. 

I believe that what you on the City Council are here to do is represent and serve the people of Denton, and to do everything in your power to protect the wellbeing of ALL of Denton’s residents, not only the interests of industry or developers or property owners. I’m concerned, however, that the current proposal leaves the people of Denton in a worse position than we were in in 2013.

I join the chorus of other Denton residents calling for no reduction in setbacks from 2013 levels, not even in industrial zones. The City Council owes it to us, your constituents who voted overwhelmingly to ban fracking, to protect as much of the city as possible under HB40. Our 1200 foot setbacks are still less than Dallas and Flower Mound’s 1500 foot setbacks, which had a record of being commercially reasonable, even before that term set the new standard. I also want to reiterate the call for reverse setbacks to not be lower than production site setbacks. How can something that is unsafe at less than 1200 feet suddenly be safe at a distance of 250 feet, just because a developer wants to build there? Again, we must be guided by the principle of what is humanly reasonable, not just what is commercially possible. 

Along these lines, I also ask that the Notice of Activities section of the current proposal be improved so that all residents, and not just surface property owners, be notified prior to Operators filing applications for approval of a Gas Well Development Site Plan. 52.3% of all occupied housing units in Denton are renter occupied. Notifying property owners is not sufficient to inform and protect ALL Denton residents. 

And finally, I echo calls for simple and effective means to monitor the impact “commercially reasonable” fracking has on the air, water, health, and safety of Denton residents:
  • Baseline air and water testing paid for by industry, pre- and post-fracking,
  • A ban on open surface pits within city limits, and 
  • Air quality monitors for our communities; we must be able to confirm that Operators are conducting business within existing state and federal laws.
These are all simple but powerful amendments the City Council can make to the proposed Ordinance to ensure that Denton is a reasonable place for humans, not just commercial interests.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

#DefendtheBan: Comments presented to the Denton City Council 6/16/15

I am here to urge the City Council to respond to TXOGA's filing for a summary judgment in their lawsuit by filing a motion to dismiss. I know this is not popular advice; many people believe this avenue may open our ban up to being ruled unconstitutional by a judge. This is a risk many people are unwilling to take. I, however, want to use my short time today to talk about why we NEED to take the risk.

In the book Success Without Victory: Lost Legal Battles and the Long Road to Justice in America, civil rights lawyer Jules Lobel admits that in a utilitarian view of the law, “To succeed means to win concrete results, to change the legal rules, to win damages for your client, or to obtain a court injunction” (3). I believe this is the kind of reasonable, win-based strategy that the city has been urged to take. But Lobel cautions against such a narrow definition of success, particularly when a short-term legal “win” may come at the expense of longer-term political gain. Lobel points out that “Virtually hopeless test cases brought to challenge unjust policies is a recurring thread in the tapestry of American law” (6). And he persuasively argues that “we should view success as the living out of values, persistence in the face of great odds, and the strength to stand up for principle even when defeat seems inevitable” (267).

I believe that we the people of Denton are in a position where we cannot respond to TXOGA and the Texas legislature with reasonable measures. We all know that we are in an unreasonable situation where oil and gas interests effectively govern our state. Where “commercially reasonable” practices are allowed to trump our ability to make choices about our health and safety. We have no hope of stopping fracking in Denton, let alone in the state of Texas, if we agree to continue our fight on their terms.

If by filing a motion to dismiss, we expose the way our whole political system in Texas, including the judiciary, is in the pocket of oil and gas, then all the better. Remember, while our ban passed through a democratic process, so did HB40. It’s just that the legislature and their friends in the industry are telling us that their democracy holds more weight than ours does. TXOGA wants to shove this point home by forcing us to repeal a ban that is already in fact unenforceable. We can’t give in to how they want to play the game. We need to reach for true success, a Denton without fracking, and if we need to lose in the short term, then I say so be it. As we’ve been singing out in front of the the Vantage site for the past few weeks, “Ain’t no frackers gonna break us/Denton love is much too strong.”

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Favorite Songs of 2014

Hurray for the Riff Raff "The Body Electric"

Eels "Where I'm From"

Ages and Ages "Divisionary (Do the Right Thing)"

Quilt "Tired and Buttered"

Bruce Springsteen "High Hopes"

Favorite Albums of 2014

Let's make it an even eleven, cuz I'm nice like that

Angel Olsen Burn Your Fire for No Witness

Benjamin Booker Benjamin Booker

Deerhoof La Isla Bonita

EMA The Future's Void

Ex-Hex Rips

Perfect Pussy Say Yes to Love

Perfume Genius Too Bright

Robert Plant lullaby and...The Ceaseless Roar

Sarah Jaffe Don't Disconnect

St. Vincent St. Vincent

Tune-Yards nikki nack

Friday, January 03, 2014

So you want to read a YA dystopian novel with a strong female protagonist

In the same way that the Twilight series spawned a genre called "teen paranormal romance" (see also: Beautiful Creatures and any number of forgettable books and movies), The Hunger Games trilogy has produced a, uh, hunger for dystopian stories helmed by strong but flawed young women.

I am all for this development. I came of age during the height of the early 80s nuclear war fears and love me a good dystopian story. Young women at the center of narratives - especially smart, physically strong young women, or ones who are willing to become that way: great. Bring it.

Let me tell you the bad news right up front: all of the series that I've read feature white 16 year-old girls in relationships with white 16-18 year-old boys. Often, but not always, there is a heterosexual love triangle. Sometimes there are important relationships among females, but typically these relationships take a backseat to the central girl-meets-boy(s) romance. Now, by and large, these offerings are much better than what's in the mainstream. This is no Walking Dead scenario, for example, which my friend Bob has described as demonstrating that it's easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of  the patriarchy and racism. However, it does seem that in the YA-dystopian-girls universe, it's easier to imagine the end of society as we know it than it is to imagine girls and young women loving other girls and young women, or at least being interested in something other than that boy. (Which goes back to my long-standing argument that boys' coming of age stories are about friendship and death and class and sex and lots of other things, while girls' are pretty much about boys. Or occasionally cancer.)*

The other bad news is that the Divergent series, coming in April to the aforementioned cineplexes and anointed the next Hunger Games by those who declare such things, is not terribly good. The first book about a society divided into five factions that each fulfill a particular role in society - Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Candor, Amity - is entertaining. Watching the protagonist, Tris, choose a life of daring and boldness and then learn how to actually be and do those things is exciting, even when things start to royally fall apart around her. Book number two, Insurgent, is fine, though there are almost too many twists and turns and I found myself caring less and less what happened by the end of the book. The series finale, Allegiant, is so badly written and so ludicrously plotted that I can only imagine a movie executive pressured the publisher to skip the editing process and rush a first draft to press. There is no other explanation for the sudden introduction of alternating voices of Tris and her boyfriend (previously Tris is the sole narrator), voices which are in fact indistinguishable and cause a lot of confusion for the reader. (I hate to say it, but it makes Stefanie Myers' introduction of Jacob's voice in Breaking Dawn look really skillful.) And the plot and characters in the third book just have no resonance with what's come before. I was looking forward to the movies (before I read the last book, at least). I've really liked Shailene Woodley's work, and thought she would be able to do justice to Tris' complexities. But now that I've seen the print ads, I'm really disappointed in how they define her only through her relationship to a man. One poster even has her in that back-to-the-viewer pose that has been thoroughly and wittily mocked.

The good news is that there are other series that are actually well-written and engrossing and worth a read. These are probably also the series not likely to be made into movies. They do follow a similar pattern to Hunger Games and Divergent: society got fucked up and people a while ago decided that _______ was the cause of the strife and that order could be restored by _______, which will happen during adolescence, usually age 16, through a public test/selection/procedure. The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld (Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Extras) focuses on the role of beauty in society. Lauren Oliver's Delirium trilogy (including Pandemonium and Requiem) identifies love as the problem. Westerfeld's series is intriguing for its refusal to produce a pat or romantic resolution, while Oliver's particularly well-written accounts of what it feels like to be in love for the first time made me wish she had written the Twilight series. (In a not-so-subtle marketing ploy, the covers of her books bear a remarkable resemblance to Twilight movie posters, from a Kristen Stewart look-alike to the curve of her hair.) Like Divergent, both series take place in (eventually) recognizable US cities (Los Angeles, Portland, ME). They also propose the forests as places where an alternative life is possible.

What are your favorite YA dystopian novels with a strong female lead? Do you disagree with what I've said here? Looking forward to hearing from you in the comments.

*This is not to diminish the fact that when you're a teenager, first love and relationships can and do feel like the entire world. But really, if we're writing speculative fiction, can't we imagine some other scenarios beyond "girl falls for boy"?


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