After You Allow It, How Will You Police It?

COOL CRUISERNot very well, if you're allowed to do it in Texas. The prolific Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe has the story of why a fracking well blow-out in the middle of Denton got such a slack response from all those who were supposed to be protecting the public from these kinds of things.

One huge problem with the new Dallas gas ordinance is that it will require a multi-staffed new Office of Gas Inspections available to answer calls 24/7. Time and again, City Hall staff's response to questions about who's going to be responsible for enforcing the regs of the ordinance is simply, "The gas inspector will do that." 

But no one at City Hall has a clue how much that would cost, what it would entail or how soon it would be established if ever. Not a single council person has advocated funding for such an office. So you know, we're all in favor of fracking, but regulating the stuff, not so much.

Moreover, the actual City of Dallas department that would host such a position, the Office of Environmental Quality, has been completely MIA in all the proceedings of the last year – ever since the 2011 Task Force went out of business last February or so. No input has been provided or requested from the OEQ to better understand how this new bureaucracy is supposed to work.

You can't rely on EPA. They have nobody in the field to help. You can't rely on the state – as Peggy's story makes clear. And Dallas can't be bothered to think about these things now while they're still busying themselves trying to make a land swap with Trinity East so it can get the company its permits. Like everything else about drilling in Dallas under Mike Rawlings and the still-hovering Mary Suhm, all other details, problems, policies, etc have to take a back seat to fulfilling the secret deal Trinity East and the City made. Nothing else matters until these permits are in place. Those are the priorities at City Hall today.

Want to Send Dallas City Hall a Message? Claudia Meyer For Dallas City Council

peoplepowerAs hard as it is to believe, despite everything that's happened, Dallas could wind up with a more pro-drilling City Council in May than it has right now. Angela Hunt is term-limited. Scott Griggs is being paired with another incumbent, Della Jasso, and one of them won't be back. That's two out of the three major drilling opponents. Only Sandy Greyson is safe.

That's why it's important to look at the only Dallas City Council race that pits a grassroots environmental leader of the drilling fight against an over-the-top supporter of more drilling – Claudia Meyer vs. Vonciel Hill in District 3, a new district that includes much of Griggs' Oak Cliff and Southwest Dallas turf along with precincts from Hill's old District 5.

ClaudiaMeyerPress_SMALL-1You know Claudia, even if you haven't met her personally – because she's one of you. She's a 20-year Dallas resident, who along with her husband Ed, was there at the very beginning of the Dallas fight four years ago. Like so many others, curiosity about a proposed well near her neighborhood initialed research and activism that continues today. She attended every single Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force Meeting. She's a co-founder of Dallas Residents at Risk. And if that's isn't enough bone fides for you, she's also an original Downwinder, a veteran of the TXI hazardous waste fight of the 1990's.

Vonciel Hill is a two-term incumbent who enthusiastically supports gas drilling and has shown a propensity for cronyism in office.

Most recently, you might remember her from her February 27th rant comparing City Manager Mary Suhm to Christ for having to suffer through Angela Hunt's cross-examination of Suhm about the circumstances of the secret agreement between Suhm and Trinity East over their pursuit of gas drilling permits in Dallas. The Dallas Observer's Jim Schutze wrote a column about it the next day headlined: "Vonciel Hill: City Council Member, Prophet, Theologian and Sell-Out:"

Yesterday in a Dallas City Council debate over gas drilling on city parkland, Hill compared council member Angela Hunt to Haman, the killer of Jews and symbol of all evil in the Book of Esther.


Not done yet. Next, Hill compared Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm to Jesus Christ. She predicted that Suhm would one day rise from the dead and enjoy her own personal version of Easter.

Council member Hunt had questioned City Manager Suhm sharply over a deception Suhm pulled on the council in 2008, promising to fight against gas drilling on parkland, then secretly signing a deal with a gas company saying she would win them permission to drill on parkland, then taking a $19 million check from them, on behalf of the city, in return for the deal that she hid for years from the council and from the public until Hunt and council member Scott Griggs got onto it recently.

"Recall in the story of Esther how Haman built the gallows for Mordecai, but it was Haman who hanged on the gallows. Those who affix the gallows for you may themselves hang on those gallows.

"And then reach forward from the Hebrew scriptures to the New Testament scriptures, where those who said of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, 'Well, he's done, he's dead, we've got him now,' wait three days, because Easter will come and there will be the resurrection. And those who pierced him on Good Friday are no longer known, and their names are not around, but two thousand and some years later, the name of the Christ is still ringing forth.

"Miss Suhm, this is a Good Friday moment, but I guarantee you from the faith well into which I reach, your Easter is coming, and you will sail forth."

One last thing about this. Since Hill is the one who chose to put the gas drilling debate on these terms, I think it's fair for me to turn it around and ask her a question on the same terms. And this is not a joke.

If Jesus Christ had signed a secret covenant with the Romans agreeing to look the other way while they screwed over the Jews, would we remember his name today? Really? Or wouldn't he have been just one more forgotten cheap politician who took on all sorts of cheap gaudy religious airs in order to pump up his profile? Like you, Ms. Hill. Exactly like you.

vonciel_hillSo many people were disgusted by her performance that day that Claudia was overwhelmed by requests to run against Hill. At the last minute, Claudia said yes. 

This race is now the necessary next step in the Dallas Drilling Fight. The stakes are very high. If Claudia runs and doesn't win, it not only sets the cause back, but residents could very well have a Dallas city council that will be more pro-drilling than now.

Claudia starts out in a familiar place: underfunded and overworked. That's why she's asking for your help. She's requesting that you please go to her website contribution page right now and send her some needed cash.  She needs to raise $9,000 by the end of the first week in April to be able to run the campaign she needs to run to win. Do this today if you want to send City Hall a message that you will continue to fight its drilling plans. 

Claudia also needs volunteers to help block walk and make telephone calls, and deliver yard signs. She needs the same army that shows up at City Hall to show up in District 3 to carry the day. Send an e-mail to and let them know you want to volunteer for the campaign. Do it today please.

Remember how you're always saying you'd really like to work for a candidate you believe in? Remember saying how you wish you could send those so-and-so's down at City Hall a real sign of how you feel? The time is now. The opportunity is an e-mail away. In these campaigns, every day is like a week. Don't waste any time. Don't put it off. Or come May, you may find yourself with a City Council that wants to Drill, Baby Drill.