One evening recently, I sat down with pen and paper to list all the great ways Gov. Frank O'Bannon has made Indiana a cleaner, healthier place to live. The next morning, still at my desk, I awakened slumped over a blank sheet of paper.
Later, my fair-minded wife reminded me of the ceremony where the governor dumped a few helpless fish into polluted White River to make up for the big fish kill of '99. OK -- except for that one, I wasn't having much luck with my "healthier" list. I therefore decided to jot down a few of O'Bannon's anti-environmental actions and policies. This time I had no trouble keeping my Bic rolling -- in fact smoking! Good grief what a list!
Poisoning groundwater with toxic coal ash, unregulated sprawl, notorious merchant power plants, downsized regulatory agencies, allowing over twice California's tonnage of known carcinogens to be emitted to Indiana's environment, enormous amounts of hazardous waste generated all in the name of "economic development." Then there is the crown jewel of O'Bannon's war on the public interest - the new terrain I-69 highway in southwest Indiana.
Let's examine the last one, remembering that the same dynamic is contributing to all those other problems, also.
Regardless of public opinion or even common sense, the O'Bannon administration advocates tirelessly for the most destructive and expensive way possible to extend I-69 through Southwest Indiana.
O'Bannon & Company talk endlessly of how "economic development" should be the primary consideration, implying that it's a choice between jobs and the environment. How completely wrong they are was brought out in a national study from the Institute for Southern Studies called "Gold & Green 2000" - http://www.southernstudies.org/goldgreen2000.html.
The report compared each state using 20 economic indicators (annual pay, employment growth, households in poverty, etc.) and 20 environmental indicators (air quality, cancer risk, sprawl, hazardous waste, etc.). The findings are sobering for Indiana: "States with the best environmental records also offer the best job opportunities and climate for long-term economic development."
With our governor's misplaced loyalties, it was no surprise that poor old polluted Indiana finished 48th in environmental quality and 40th economically. Indiana even has the horrible distinction of being the only northern state to land in the "WORST" fifteen on both lists. In sharp contrast, Vermont finished 1st environmentally and 3rd economically.
The Institute concludes, "States that protect their natural resources also cherish their human resources…states seeking quick-fix, unsustainable development end up sacrificing both workers and the environment."
The question is "why would elected officials allow this to happen to us?" The answer came from another study released by the World Economic Forum this year on environmental health in 142 countries - ...
This exhaustive report took into account 68 variables and arrived at a remarkable conclusion that addresses Indiana's plight perfectly: The level of government corruption has a "high correlation with overall environmental performance."
It's obvious that our business-friendly governor couldn't care less about Indiana's natural resources or human resources. He's fixated on the most expensive, destructive option for I-69 simply because it means more public cash for contractors, speculators, consultants and others who have lavished campaign contributions on him over the years. Even as a lame duck, this man remains loyal to his "investors".
This cozy relationship between financial contributors and our elected officials is a symptom of a thoroughly corrupt system at all levels of government. But the I-69 issue is an excellent visual aid of why we so desperately need clean, publicly financed elections in Indiana.
When the public funds elections, we'll see this tireless loyalty to campaign funders transferred at last to the public-but not before. The old couplet "Whose bread I eat, his song I sing" was never more relevant.
HEC is joining Common Cause and Alliance for Democracy in a coalition to work for Clean Money publicly financed elections in Indiana.
Jack Miller is president of the Hoosier Environmental Council - .... For more information on the Indiana Clean Elections coalition (ICE), contact him at or (317) 872-3516.