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A Civics Lesson

A recent community briefing on uranium mining could have taught Capitol Hill a thing or two.

The notice from the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce said something about “uranium.”  My first reaction, of course, was, “Why can’t the Chamber drop the ‘Lee’ part?” 

Putting that long-held query aside, I was excited to be invited to a briefing by an organization whose name was something clever like “Patriotic Americans for Friendly, Cheap Energy.” It seems this group and the company it represented, was asking the state, uh, sorry, the Commonwealth to let the company start mining a 118 acre site in southern Virginia that was rich with uranium. Intrigued—and with the inducement of a free breakfast at Mamma’s Kitchen—I actually showered and went to the seminar.

About 20 folks attended the event, including state Del. Scott Surovell, who, in his usual candid style, said he was currently opposed to the proposal. But the first person I ran into was Sandy Liddy Bourne, a strong conservative whose father is G. Gordon Liddy of Watergate fame. Sandy and I disagree on everything, including the weather, but we’ve always had a cordial relationship and after opening pleasantries she told me she was working with that “Uranium Will Save the World and Make People Happier” group. I wasn’t shocked and she wisely argued right up front that opening up the mining would create billions of jobs. She was smooth on her feet as always, but because she was the messenger I honestly didn’t listen too closely. 

Then presentation was led by a folksy guy who looked like one of Herman’s Hermits doing an ad for Brooks Brothers. He had the obligatory powerpoint with lots of charts and graphs that I could not read but he did get my attention.  In fact, while Del. Surovell had said one reason he opposed the plan was because the “people in the community opposed” it, I started thinking how that is the same reasoning given for denying so many cell phone tower applications here in Mount Vernon, so when Herman said it was a “small but vocal” group of opponents, I did not reject him out of hand.    

The first thing I learned was that the company would actually be extracting dirt with uranium in it—and the uranium is not radioactive! Also, it is an alternative source of energy, which we desperately need and, yes, it would create jobs, bring in revenue, etc. Fearing the worst, I asked what would happen if one of their trucks crashed on Route One.  Their answer was simple: he said they’ll send in a crew and pick it up!  In other words, don’t worry folks, if there was an accident the community would not be glowing like Homer Simpson the next day. 

Now, it should come as no surprise when I say that I am a strong environmentalist. We recycle, we have a compost bin and I wear bio-degradable underwear. So, yes, I’m still a little nervous about this proposal. But I can’t articulate why I’m nervous about it. I’m sure—and I encourage—I will soon hear from the opponents of the proposal. 

But that’s almost beside the point. Without getting too corny, I want to note that this meeting epitomized what American is all about—or what it should be about. People from the entire political spectrum got together to talk and learn about an issue. We listened, asked questions, debated and shook hands afterwards, even if we may ultimately disagree. In fact, I am now inspired to do some more reading about this issue and, who knows, I just may come out in support the measure (not that my endorsement means diddly-squat). 

The point is that I appreciate the Chamber for sponsoring this event and I anticipate the Sierra Club is not far behind. And that’s cool. More importantly, I want to thank everyone in that room for taking such a civil approach to a controversial issue. It was a great democratic experience. Del. Surovell was open about his “current” position. I got to ask the experts some good questions.  There were no bumper stickers within miles of the event. 

The politicians on Capitol Hill could have learned a thing or two from us.

DAVE December 06, 2011 at 04:12 PM
Hmmmm....sounds like the cost of extracting this uranium would be, let's see, just about the same price as leaving it in the ground. Would not I be a hypocrite for strip mining someone's back yard when just 2 weeks ago I raised hell about someone clear cutting mine? I always endorse the civil discourse of policy as long as I don't have to be involved in it.. However, I think Googling it is far more accurrate. Take a look: http://www.wise-uranium.org/uwai.html
Scott Surovell December 06, 2011 at 07:08 PM
Thanks for the article Ron. I think what I said is that I'm strongly leaning against it. What I've said in questionnaires is that I'm 90% opposed. I'm still waiting for information from the industry and some of the outstanding studies regarding their proposal to completely make up my mind. I'm not a mining expert and it's a new issue to me so I want to get more educated on it. The briefing we attended was actually the most information I've heard from Virginia Uranium on the subject yet (and I had to leave early). They've tried to set up a couple briefings with me but they haven't squared with my calendar due to campaign/job/family commitments. I've laid out my current position on my blog in an article which was also published in the Mt. Vernon Gazette. http://scottsurovell.blogspot.com/2011/07/uranium-mining-coming-battle.html Thanks for writing about this. It's an important issue to everyone in the state.
Ron Fitzsimmons December 06, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Thanks for the clarification, Scott. I think when I said you were "currently" opposed I meant to say that you are not 100% yet. It is a very interesting issue, that's for sure. I hope your constituents will chime in to give you feed back as our representative!
Kari Warren December 06, 2011 at 11:36 PM
Love this! It's amazing what one can learn if we simply listen to others. Doesn't mean we end up agreeing with them, but at least our opinions are based on hearing all sides. Now, if we can only get people to "listen" to the facts surrounding our Mount Vernon High School, we might find there are a whole lot of good things going on in that building for our kids!
Keith Whited December 07, 2011 at 12:01 AM
I believe the answer to this dilemma can be found in the answer to ONE question! Is the level of radiation that could be released greater than 50% of the radiation given off by the average cell phone tower. If it meets or exceeds that level then the proposed mining project absolutely MUST be banned. Our local friend Mr. Hyland can certainly elaborate on all of the reasons - - particularly the part about a 'small but vocal' group of opponents. :-P
rant rave December 07, 2011 at 02:24 AM
Think thorium, people. As it seems that the lot of you enjoy ample time best spent on blogging/posting, perhaps you all could take a minute from your very busy schedules to study that element's potential as a source of energy. And Scott, while you may not be a mining expert, it appears that you do have some experience in the field of excavation, as evidenced by the HUGE campaign signs your team planted on Route 1, hard by the car dealerships as well as our dearly-departed temple-o-culture, the old multiplex. Call Toddy and have her bring a few friends; her signs have mated with yours. Same goes for our "good friend" Gerry and many others who plunked their garbage in our neck of the woods. And, by the way, pony up your fine and/or disgorge the bond payment that Fairfax Zoning may have erroneously returned. Your signs should've been down already. When you're done with beautifying this piece of paradise, check our thorium. Or have Gerry shut off those idiotic ped x-ing flashers on Richmond Highway, send out the cops to ticket jaywalkers, and kill two birds with one stone by saving energy (thus obviating the need for an additional reactor) and adding to the Fairfax PD's bottom line.
DAVE December 07, 2011 at 11:36 AM
Wow!
Ron Fitzsimmons December 07, 2011 at 02:20 PM
Well, now I know why you chose the name Rant Rave. Why not use your real name since you're so opinionated? By the say, I agree with yoyu about this ped x-ing flashing lights!!
DAVE December 07, 2011 at 03:04 PM
DOUBLE WOW!!
Vanessa Wheeler December 07, 2011 at 04:07 PM
Ron, I was there and Sandy did not say "the mining would create billions of jobs" She and the gentlemen who spoke ("folksy guy who looked like one of Herman’s Hermits doing an ad for Brooks Brothers") both said that they estimated 250 high paying jobs would be created. And referring to the speaker above I would have described him as highly educated, very knowledgable and articulate about his chosen profession.
Scott Surovell December 07, 2011 at 04:25 PM
"Rant Rave" - That's an interesting ad hominem non-sequitur. If you have a problem with signs send them to me directly and I'll get them down. As far as I know, they are all down. If I'm wrong, send me an email to my Delegate account and I'll have it down in 24 hours. Given your opinions, I'm also sure you'll be happy to support my legislation this session to require a bond for posting political signs.
DAVE December 07, 2011 at 04:36 PM
Ron, in the future, to avoid confusion could you please make sure to note your satirical writings with a smiley face or maybe ROFLMAO. Apparently there is a great deal of confusion (wink, wink) as to when you are being serious. And as long as there are "250 high paying jobs" lets rape the land and get to truckin'. Maybe they can turn it into a swimming pool when they're done. Sometimes the answer to every question is not JOBS!
H. Jay Spiegel December 07, 2011 at 04:47 PM
If "Rant Rave" has to give his real name, shouldn't "DAVE" have to give his name, too?
Ron Fitzsimmons December 07, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Vanessa - dont you know my sense of humor yet? :) Of course, she didn't say it would create "billions" of jobs. Only Obama says that :) And, again, referring to the presenter in the way I did was also an attempt at humor. The bottom line with Sandy and the other person, however, is that they really got me to thinking about the proposal so all in all it was a compliment! You gotta spend a weekend up in Brooklyn, Vanessa, so you can see where I get my sick sense of humor!! Sorry I didn't get a chance to say high to you that day.
Ron Fitzsimmons December 07, 2011 at 05:56 PM
When I said a "billion" jobs I was of course making fun of people in BOTH parties who say everything they do is to create jobs. Every bill that is introduced in Congress has the word "job" in it. When one party says their proposal will create jobs, the other party calls it a "job killer." Obviously, jobs is a very important issue. I just kinda chuckled a little when the uranium folks talked about jobs. And, Dave, I'm sorry but I hope my satire would be evident enough so I can avoid the famous smiley face :) I'll try harder.
Rachel Carter December 07, 2011 at 06:37 PM
Ron, I was there (sorry we couldn't speak, I had to leave early, too) but I think it was billions of DOLLARS that it was going to raise (LOL - I get your humor!). I used to work in the nuclear industry and the mining of uranium is by far the least of anyone's worries from an environmental standpoint but could be a big boost to the VA economy. I don't see a downside.
Jessie Biele (Editor) December 07, 2011 at 07:02 PM
Dave, Your last comment was deleted due to the use of mild profanity. Please keep it clean. Thanks! Jessie
DAVE December 07, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Trust me Jess, if I used the profanity I wanted I'd surely be deleted. Mr. Spygel has an axe to grind with Mr. Fitzsimmons and the easiest, and least mature, way to do that is to use me as the soapstone. Spygel knows exactly who I am and has made it clear to be offline he knows my name and where I live. To think that someone would actually take the time to find me because of my opinion is quite creepy to say the least and is exactly why I don't use my full name.
DAVE December 07, 2011 at 08:57 PM
From what I've read it is far from "the least of anyone's worries." I'd like to know more if you don;t mind sharing.
Scott Surovell December 07, 2011 at 09:00 PM
It's expected to create about 350 jobs per VUI. Another study projected 1,000. They think the lode is worth $10B. The tax revenue it will generate will depend upon what tax if any is levied if we allow it to go through. It is not expected to generate billions of tax revenue.
H. Jay Spiegel December 08, 2011 at 12:03 AM
In response to DAVE, the fact that I might know his identity doesn't make his identity known to readers of the PATCH. It wasn't difficult to identify him. In one of his typically obnoxious posts, he mentioned the street on which he lives. In the space of one minute, I visited the Fairfax County website and discovered there is only one "Dave" who owns a house on that street. Thanks for confirming my hunch, Dave. IMHO, if DAVE were required to give his full name when posting here, his comments would instantly become less offensive, less profane and would be deleted by the editor less often. DAVE is in no position to judge the maturity of others, as he did with respect to me, given his obvious inability to maintain self control while posting. All I said was that if "rant rave" has to identify themselves, shouldn't DAVE be identified, too? DAVE's reply was deleted by the editor. DAVE, please explain to me the "axe" I allegedly have to grind with Ron Fitzsimmons so I'll know what it is. Indifference doesn't constitute an axe to grind. Not everyone in the Mount Vernon community has as much free time as you obviously have - some of us have a life.
Keith Whited December 08, 2011 at 04:41 AM
I am Soooooo sorry that I am so busy at the presest time - - there is so much I'd love to write. The only thing I'll mention here is a simple reminder to DAVE that there are a few folks whose posts it is best to simply ignore. We ALL know they have an axe to grind and only they know what it is - - - or probably not. it's most likely simply their nature. The more you address their comments the more opportunity it gives them to respond and see themselves in print.
H. Jay Spiegel December 08, 2011 at 07:08 AM
Mr. Whited said: "The more you address their comments the more opportunity it gives them to respond and see themselves in print." Mr. Whited obviously wants the IMHO column to be a private exchange between the author, DAVE & him and the rest of us, who might have something compelling to say, should be denied entry into their scary private club. I frankly don't care if Mr. Whited responds to my comments. The stats show that the IMHO column is virtually a private exchange between the three aforementioned contributors. There have been 15 IMHO columns so far and, including this one, 576 total comments. Of those, the author has made 187 (32.5%) followed by DAVE: 101 (17.5%) and Keith: 52 (9%). These three "contributors" account for 59% of the comments! Maybe this is a private column. I've made a total of 18 comments (3%) most of which concern DAVE's inappropriate anonymity (Keith has posted comments 3 times as often as have I). I'll leave it to the readers to decide, as between Whited & me, who is more enamored by seeing their words in print in the PATCH.
DAVE December 08, 2011 at 11:37 AM
Scott or Rachel have any environmental impact studies been performed? From what I've read this type of mining is not environmentally friendly. I'm assuming by "high paying jobs" they mean jobs for heavy equipment operators, engineers, etc.? I understand the states need to generate tax revenue by any means necessary, but is this really the way we want to go about it?
DAVE December 08, 2011 at 11:39 AM
The great thing about a democracy is we all get to have our own opinions. I just wish sometimes people would remember that.
H. Jay Spiegel December 08, 2011 at 11:41 AM
Why do I have to reveal your name? Why don't you do it yourself? Compiling those stats took about 10 minutes, a worthy time expenditure to amply make my point. Talk about petty: All I had to do was politely point out that if "rant rave" should be identified, so should you. I was responding to Fitzsimmons' comment: "Why not use your real name since you're so opinionated?" and wondering why he was discriminating against "rant rave" when the most opinionated, obnoxious poster on PATCH remains anonymous. Does your definition of "an intelligent conversation" include your post that was deleted by the editor as including profanity? You are truly delusional. If you are "grown ups," heaven help us.
H. Jay Spiegel December 08, 2011 at 12:06 PM
Come on, DAVE, identify yourself! No, you're not wasting time counting comments - you're wasting time posting profane comments that get deleted. I'm capable of being passionate without descending into profanity. There's only one "grown up" in this conversation.
H. Jay Spiegel December 08, 2011 at 12:34 PM
DAVE has deleted his comments that I responded to apparently to make it look like I'm talking to myself. I'll leave my comments posted to make clear there was something said by DAVE to which I responded.
Ron Fitzsimmons December 08, 2011 at 01:53 PM
Jesse, please shut down the comments on this thread. This current conversation is not productive at all.
Jessie Biele (Editor) December 08, 2011 at 02:01 PM
And the comments thread has been closed down.

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