Thursday, January 11, 2007

Divine Strake Info Session: Questions of Trust

I think my last two posts were way too long, so I will try to be more piffy & succinct from now on.

I attended the Divine Strake information session last night, held at the Grand America Hotel’s Imperial Ballroom. The change of venue initially concerned me; I thought many people would feel less comfortable just walking into Utah’s only 5-star hotel. My concerns were unfounded, though, as the place was packed when I got there at 6:30 and was still buzzing after 8 when I left.

The presenters from the National Nuclear Security Agency and Defense Threat Reduction Agency were well prepared and extremely patient. I was very impressed with this aspect of our Federal Government. I tried to keep my questions to the technical issues of the test; I wanted to allow them the courtesy of listening to their viewpoint.
However, the majority of the other participants could not get beyond the fundamental questions of how they could trust these government officials when so many lies have been told in the past. In the gaggles I participated in, the ratio of questions on the project itself versus questions of the integrity of the government was probably 1:4. This does not bode well for reactions to the test, which I came away with the impression that it was inevitable. I felt while this session was helpful, it was wholly insufficient to assuage the trust issues that persist in Utah regarding testing at the Nevada Test Site. I could not help but sympathize with the presenters at last night’s meeting, because many of them expressed that they were not the policymakers, but were the instruments of that policy. It does not appear that policymakers from the NNSA, DTRA, Departments of Defense or Energy will be subjected to the brunt of personal commentary many of last night’s attendees were eager but unable to express. At least legally, in the case of one man there.

I was also left completely frustrated at the conflicted trust issues posed by last night’s event compared to the results of the election in Utah. Despite press releases to the contrary, it is obvious that Hatch, Bishop, Matheson, Cannon (and Bennett, but he wasn’t on the ballot) all have staff that were if not aware of this test in it’s initial stages, were at least aware before we knew. One of the statements that stood out last night was when one of the NTS personnel describing the environmental assessment bluntly asserted that none of Utah’s Federal representatives had looked over the EA we all had in our hands. With the incredible public distrust on this issue, why were we unable to gain traction on the issue? Why were people willing to vote for representatives whose only actions before the Election (and since) appeared to be only press releases and staff visits? Why did they not vote for the candidates who pledged to fight tooth and nail against it? Why are Utahns filled with a level of distrust of the Federal government but unwilling to express that distrust at the ballot machine against those candidates who failed to exercise oversight? These are basic questions I have no answers for, beyond the understanding that perhaps we in the campaigns did not do enough to publicize that issue and connect it to other major issues of government scandal and distrust.

Tribune: Divine Strake visitors frustrated
D News: Divine Strake session criticized

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