Mayor's forum a bust for those who have long studied nuclear short-comings

Councilmember Reed Williams, whose question for CPS Energy was too dangerous for the public, demonstrates his telekinetic ability by forcing our camera out of focus.

Greg Harman

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Your delightful Council made it through the first (last?) City-hosted town hall on CPS Energy's nuke recommendation in one 10-member piece. But some of them will have a hard time living down their own inept performances.

Activists who were the impetus behind the gathering â?? those who got Mayor Castro to first commit to this public airing of the issue â?? are calling it a bust.

Understandable. When you've got a list of questions assembled over years of obsessive research spilling down your leg and you've been limited to one solitary question (a minute-forty-five with rebuttal) it can chafe a bit. Compounding the mental indigestion, the clean-energy rabble also had to watch as council members and business “leaders” threw this hard-won time away.

By the numbers, the room was stacked solidly against CPS. We sat happily behind Milton “Wish I were home in Austin” Lee and his co-pilot Steve “I'm with Milton” Bartley, tapping out a steady stream of Q&A banter into the Current's Twitter account, such as the nearly inscrutable: “Know politics are afoot. Every smiles and secretly wants to eat you. #satx #cps #nuke.”

But just as it seemed the whole world was against CPS's earnest recommendation to buy into an expansion of the South Texas Project nuclear complex outside Bay City for $5.2 billion with more than a decade of rate hikes, a gentle-if-not-prominent leader of the local Chinese Chamber of Commerce expressed his enthusiasm with an inquiry about local job-creation potential. You could feel Purpose herself slipping from the room. (Taking a six-pack and Integrity along with her?)

Welcome to the conversation, Chinese Chamber, but we're going to have to drop you into a tepid vat of nuke waste now.

You see, the rest of us have been engaged in this conversation for two years and, CPS Sustainability Officer suggestions aside, this really is an “either-or” debate. One (nuclear) offers a couple hundred high-skilled jobs 200 miles away, while the other (renewables and efficiency) would provide thousands upon thousands of jobs and spin-off business development right here in our neighborhoods. And the cost for the nukequake will so drain our resources (your wallet, reader) as to make game-changing alternatives a non-issue.

Margaret Day (right, biting her tongue), one of our local residents that made the meeting possible by pushing all the mayoral candidates in the first part of the year to pledge to an open airing of the issue, found the sad affair little more than a “three-ring circus.”

“This was specifically designed to discuss the nuclear issue and I'd say three-quarters of the council people didn't ask anything even related to the nuclear issue, only to energy issues in general,” she said this morning.

With promised answers on demand related to one of the most significant decisions the city will make this side of the century â?? on one of the most controversial energy sources available â?? Councilman Phillip Cortez was asking if the nukes would negate financial assistance programs for the elderly and disabled.

No, Phillip. A deal has been struck with Sarah Palin's alleged “death panels,” and we're going to start feeding our wastrels into the reactor cores. (You obviously don't understand nuclear fission!)

And when Councilman Reed Williams' chosen question trod on “matters of a competitive nature,” he simply passed his time, instead of reframing it in a way that could be discussed safely in the light of day.

While the daily paper credits the meeting's remarkable temporal efficiency to Mr. Castro, our read of the clock suggested we were kept on track by the failure of the chambers of commerce interests to offer rebuttal or follow-ups on their questions.

What's to question when you've endorsed the plan already anyway?