Answer This, Mr. McKeon, If You Can
By Darryl Manzer
For those of you who don't remember, the Cemex mega-mine issue has been around since at least 1998.
Way back when, it was called the "TMC project," for Transit Mixed Concrete. It was June of that year when the Santa Clarita Valley learned that the Santa Clara River had been removed from the American Heritage Rivers Initiative at the request of your representative in Congress, Howard "Buck" McKeon. He removed it because he didn't like "opening the door to federal involvement" by including our river on the list.
Removing the river from the list was a huge favor to Transit Mixed and its successor, Cemex. Had the river been left on the list, the fight over the mine might have ended many years ago.
Wouldn't you love to get more than $200,000 tax-free to use just about any way you wanted? McKeon received that much and more from various lending institutions as he helped raise the interest rates on student loans. Most of the money he got went into his "Leadership PAC" fund, which can be used to help other members of Congress at election time — and for just about anything else he wants to spend it on.
Some of the money headed in the direction of Tom DeLay, the former House leader who resigned from office after being indicted on election fraud charges.
Did you know DeLay has very close ties with the president of Cemex USA and the lobbyists for Cemex?
Just a little "quid pro quo" going on, Mr. McKeon? You sold the SCV's river and everyone in the valley with it, too. What did you get? Chairmanship of a committee? More power? More PAC money? Election for life? What would it cost the folks of the SCV to buy your vote to stop Cemex? Oh — they don't have enough money?
Speaking of money, how come, Mr. McKeon, you just happened to get some money for the CLWA to clean up water just before the election? Wanted to look like you got something for the voters? Did you tell them those funds have been collected for years and you just got around to getting them disbursed?
You could look like you had a great environmental record just before the election and before Cemex starts operations that will pollute the river you got taken out of the American Heritage Rivers Initiative. You don't seem too worried about "federal involvement" when it comes time for election.
Now you've got your lap dog, Scott Wilk running around extolling your virtues. In reality, he shouldn't have much to say. I guess if you're a mining company, large land developer, a fellow politician who needs funds for legal defense or big business in general, you, Mr. McKeon, have many virtues. Isn't it time you served those who cast their votes for you instead of the folks that fund your PAC?
In response to this column, Mr. McKeon, you could write this newspaper and belittle me for not understanding the situation in the SCV, since I live in Virginia. I do understand that course of action. I've had many e-mails from your fellow SCV Republicans wanting me to write what I've just written. Nearly all state that they would do it if they were not afraid of political reprisals from you or the SCV Republican "leadership" if they said anything.
But you don't have to explain your position to me. You've got to explain it to the people of the SCV. Might I suggest some points you can cover:
1) Explain your votes on education funding and student interest rates and how your acceptance of more than $200,000 from special interest groups affected your vote.
2) Explain just how Cemex and the city of Santa Clarita are going to initiate negotiations, and if that can happen — sort of like thinking we'll find WMD's in Iraq even now — you get to facilitate the negotiations.
3) Explain how the funds for CLWA were collected, for how long, and how they are disbursed, along with the role you and-or your staff played in getting those funds just before the election.
4) Explain the real reason you had the Santa Clara River removed from the American Heritage Rivers Initiative.
Mr. McKeon, you'll go to great lengths to discredit me and possibly this newspaper. You'll do everything you can to sidestep the issues. Why you may even call me a — dare I say it in an SCV newspaper that whole families can read? — "liberal Democrat." But I doubt you can answer the questions or explain your actions.
My congressman here in the 4th District of Virginia, Randy Forbes — also a Republican — also was re-elected. He had about the same vote totals as Mr. McKeon. Forbes didn't run against a "liberal Democrat" but rather a member of the "ultra, ultra liberal" Green Party. The Green Party candidate got nearly 25 percent of the vote and didn't really have a campaign.
Yes, it happened right here in the most politically conservative part of the Old Dominion. Maybe it was because Forbes has delivered about as much as McKeon. Multiply the two sums and we all get a big, fat zero.
Oh, by the way, I was supposed to submit a book report, as I said in my last column. You'll get that book report soon. I've got to rewrite it. Ya see — Cemex ate it.
Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at email@example.com. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].
©2006, DARRYL MANZER · ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.