From Puget Sound to Chesapeake Bay

While 50,000 were mobilizing in the streets of Seattle last week to protest a World Trade Organization meeting, 500 turned out in Southern Anne Arundel County at an Army Corps of Engineers meeting on a proposed supermarket development. Most opposed the new stores.

The gatherings occurred 3,000 miles apart, but they're alike in suggesting a new popular willingness - in fact eagerness - to resist forces that would impose their will against the wishes of the majority.

In Seattle, protesters brought about the collapse of a meeting called to set the agenda for the next round of global trade talks. The protesters succeeded in slowing the sprint toward globalization and a single-world economy.

We think that such a pause is needed.

Seattle was about money and multinational corporations. But it was also about power and the ability of people to make themselves heard. These are important issues locally as Marylanders fight to corral unwise development, restore Chesapeake Bay and take control over the quality of our lives.

The non-violent protesters in Seattle were workers and environmental advocates and farmers going out of business and folks worried about the manipulation of genes in their food. They were liberals and conservatives alike who believe that a foreign-based power (Switzerland) like the WTO shouldn't be making decisions that have the effect of setting aside American law and sovereignty. They were people who believe that corporations shouldn't trample the wishes of citizens.

That's a lesson for world governments, for tax-happy state governments and even for Anne Arundel County government, which is being asked to intervene on behalf of many of those hundreds of citizens who turned out to oppose Safeway's grocery-commercial-fast food complex.

A recent letter from Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens to the Deale-Shady Side Small Area Planning Committee suggested that citizens may need to begin looking elsewhere for help.

Owens wrote of her concern that a general moratorium on waivers to develop flood-plains like Safeway is seeking, "could unduly impact the rights of property owners The county should not," she continued, "pursue positions or policies that may be construed as 'takings' under federal law."

If Owens sticks to that position, she'll disappoint many people who voted for her last year after listening to her promise to rein in unwanted growth. The Safeway saga is far from over, despite the Corps' go-ahead on developers' plan to fill in .9 acres of wetlands. People who object to the proposal will need to continue to make their voices heard if they hope to defeat it.

As we head into a new century, change will come from the bottom as well as the top. That's the lesson we saw in Seattle (we were there). It's a lesson close to home in Chesapeake Country.

| Issue 49 |

Volume VII Number 49
December 9-15, 1999
New Bay Times

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