December 12, 2017
Delaware is a unique place, where we have an increased ability to change our political landscape, due to our small size and increased access to our elected officials. However, to affect change, we need to be present and speak out whenever possible. Delawareans have that opportunity right now on many fronts, all of which desperately need our attention. On two particular fronts, Governor Carney is either pushing or allowing important policy changes to be rushed through without adequate public input. The regulatory process for the modification of the Coastal Zone Act (CZA), and plans for the City of Wilmington school system, are both in the public input phase. But neither of these issues are receiving the time or attention they deserve.
Right now, State leadership continues the hurried and opaque process that played out in the writing and passage of the CZA modification bill. During the committee and legislative process through which HB 190 was drafted and passed, sponsors and supporters placated the bill’s detractors with assurances that the future regulatory process would be transparent and would engage the communities most affected by potential coastal zone changes.
Yet, as of today, only two scheduled meetings have been held to gather public input before starting to define the regulatory process. What’s more, both meetings were scheduled with only two weeks’ notice and during the holiday season. This is no way to engage the community or gather input from people whose lives could change in numerous ways, including potential serious health risks. Understandably, many Delawareans do not know the intricacies of this regulatory process, or the original or modified CZA, but they do know how they feel about potentially polluting companies entering their neighborhoods. They know the concerns they have, and regulations should revolve around those concerns.
In two ways, you can help ensure that communities near the newly reopened coastal zone sites have a voice in this process. First, you can sign this petition from Network Delaware: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdMmQ8yZqGoHWG6wWym6mZqZ_apjD0HNBIMHfUqdNMKgeuAvQ/viewform?c=0&w=1 . Second, if you live in or around Claymont, Southbridge, Delaware City, or the Route 9 corridor, call your legislators and ask them to host additional meetings for the public to provide input about CZA regulations.
A similarly sad scenario is playing out regarding the future of education in the city of Wilmington. Governor Carney, along with some Christina School Board (CSB) members and education officials, are rushing through plans to condense the number of Wilmington schools to two K-8 schools, eliminating three schools. (The former three schools would be repurposed for non-educational activities.) This plan met with a wave of controversy after the News Journal released a draft of the related memorandum of understanding (MOU). Many parents came to the first meeting to discuss proposed changes with the Governor and the Superintendent—including concerns about larger class sizes, overworked teachers, and students’ safety. However, in truly bullish style, Governor Carney dismissed the parents, replying that “nothing is set in stone.” The Governor implied that proposed changes were still being reviewed, but two days later, the MOU to be voted upon by the CSB was released—virtually unchanged, addressing almost none of the parents’ pressing concerns.
Again, public input should not be solicited in this manner, with one paltry meeting before a vote. The CSB is set to meet tonight and vote on the current draft of this policy, with voting on the final draft to take place on December 12th. The future of Wilmington’s children will be decided with one public meeting with two weeks of preparation—similar to how the future of our coastline will be decided with two public meetings with two weeks of preparation. Clearly, whenever Governor Carney plans action that could result in blowback, he severely restricts the timeframe for public feedback and debate. If Governor Carney continues down this path, there is only one solution when he is up for reelection in 2020.
Regarding plans for Wilmington’s schools, you can attend the vote and speak to the CSB members if you show up before 6:30pm tonight at Bayard Middle School. Even if you agree that Wilmington children should be shoveled into two schools, surely you must also agree that Delawareans should have more input into the process. We ask that no one support closing the schools until citizens give their feedback and it is thoroughly considered by officials.
Contact Info for Legislators in the Coastal Zone Areas:
Bryon Short – 302-744-4297 Deb Heffernan – 302-744-4351
Sean Matthews – 302-744-4351 Stephanie Bolden – 302-744-4351
JJ Johnson – 302-744-4351 Mike Mulrooney – 302-744-4351
Val Longhurst – 302-744-4351 Harris McDowell – 302-744-4147
Margaret Rose Henry – 302-744-4191 Nicole Poore – 302-744-4164
Contact for Governor Carney
Wilmington – (302) 577-3210
Dover – (302) 744-4101
Contact for Christina School Board
Email for all Board Members: CSDBoardMembers@christina.k12.de.us