BIASED FORUM QUASHED

Members of the PMC Coordinating Committee noticed a "public forum" on Energy Independence was scheduled by the Monterey County Business Council (MCBC) for their September luncheon at the Bayonet and Blackhorse in Seaside. 

Given that the venue is City of Seaside owned property, and a significant portion of funding for the MCBC comes from Monterey County taxpayers, we found it outrageous that the event was advertised using language straight from a Political Action Committee registered under California law as "Monterey County for Energy Independence—Stop the Oil and Gas Shutdown," with major funding from Aera Energy and Chevron Corporation. 

So we complained to the MCBC, and then to the County, after MCBC refused our request for equal time. It has now been cancelled, with the excuse "no interest." This episode lays bare the sleazy tactics of big oil's deceptive campaign, and sends a strong message to other groups considering like "public forums." One can see from the below letter that all PMC requested was a fair hearing. The MCBC reason for cancellation, "no interest" is highly unlikely, given the standing-room-only attendance at every debate to date.

Lesson of the Day: Big Oil can be defeated by aggressive community organizing. 

If you are a member of a social or civic club who has been lobbied by Chevron representatives, do your civic duty and demand equal time for Measure Z proponents. Send an email to info@protectmontereycounty.org and request a presentation. 

Letter below: 

 

 

August 22, 2016 

Monterey County Business Council
Brian Turlington
Executive Director
Monterey County Business Council
P.O. Box 2746
Monterey, CA 93942

Re:  September 12 Public Luncheon

Dear Mr. Turlington:

I have been asked to respond to your August 18 email to Luana Conley rejecting the request for equal time at the September 12 public luncheon by Protect Monterey County (PMC), the proponent of Measure Z.

In support of your refusal to afford PMC equal time you state that MCBC is a “membership-only organization” and that “this lunch is being underwritten by Monterey County for Energy Independence.” As you know, that organization is a Political Action Committee registered under California law as Monterey County for Energy Independence—Stop the Oil and Gas Shutdown, with major funding from Aera Energy and Chevron Corporation.  (Aera Energy is wholly owned by ExxonMobil and Shell.)

MCBC’s promotion of this “public luncheon” is not viewpoint neutral, but plainly biased. The promotion falsely states that Measure Z “is a blanket ban that would stop all oil and gas production in Monterey County, causing damage to local families, workers and taxpayers [and]. . .would cause the county to lose millions of dollars in county tax revenue, resulting in significant cuts to local schools, fire and police departments, and many other vital services.”  

MCBC’s conduct of this “public luncheon” to promote oil industry views in opposition to Measure Z and refusal to afford equal time for the expression of PMC’s views as the initiative sponsor is neither reasonable, nor viewpoint neutral, but discriminates against PMC’s expression of views based on the content of this speech.

MCBC is significantly funded (approximately 25%) by Monterey County.  The County has an obligation of absolute impartiality in the campaign over Measure Z.  MCBC’s “public luncheon” is a public forum that will be held on property owned by the City of Seaside, a public entity.  PMC supporters have the right to engage in free speech and expressive activity at this event.

By your own admission, MCBC is promoting and providing this public luncheon as the agent of the oil industry’s PAC (“this lunch is being underwritten by Monterey County for Energy Independence”).  If you have read Measure Z, you know that the oil industry claim and MCBC’s promotion of opposition to the measure as a complete “shutdown” of all oil and gas production in Monterey County is an absolute fabrication.  Please note the following:

Measure Z “does not prohibit oil and gas operations from existing oil and gas wells in the County, which number over 1,500” (Measure Z, Sections 1(B) and 2(A), LU-1.23(1).)

Measure Z does not prohibit steam flooding, water flooding, cyclic steaming” and other current production methods and “routine activities.” (Measure Z, Section 2(A), LU-1.21(2).)

Monterey County Counsel’s impartial analysis of Measure Z states in part: “The measure would prohibit drilling ‘new’ wells; however, because a stated purpose of the initiative is to prevent expansion of oil and gas operations it appears that the prohibition applies only to drilling wells exceeding the number operating at the time the measure becomes effective, and would permit replacement wells.” (Impartial Analysis, p. 1.)

Measure Z protects local oil jobs and preserves County revenues because it allows continuing replacement production from 1,500+ currently active wells.

MCBC’s deceptive promotion of its “public luncheon” and vigorous expression of oil industry opposition views to Measure Z as an agent for the oil industry PAC constitutes wholly inappropriate participation in an illicit scheme of voter fraud intended to deceive and frighten voters to oppose the measure.

A Reasonable and Viewpoint Neutral Method for Conducting MCBC’s Public Luncheon

PMC and its supporters have the right to engage in free speech and expressive activity at MCBC’s September 12 public luncheon.  We would prefer to exercise these rights through a fair, balanced and viewpoint neutral luncheon forum.  We suggest the following format used by Salinas City Council member Steve McShane in conducting a forum on Measure Z on August 15, 2016 at the Salinas City Hall Rotunda:

*Presentation by proponents of Measure Z (PMC) 
*Presentation by opponents of Measure Z (oil industry PAC) 
*Moderated questions from the audience 
*Final statement by proponents
*Final statement by opponents

We also suggest that you invite Steve McShane to moderate the discussion.  He is a prominent local business owner and well-respected member of the Salinas City Council.  Although this issue is very controversial, Mr. McShane conducted a very orderly discussion without disruption.

We hope and expect that MCBC will abandon its current ill-advised course and undertake the conduct of its September 12 public luncheon in a fair and balanced manner consistent with fundamental principles of free speech in a public forum and in service of the interests of the entire community which MCBC purports to serve.

Sincerely,

James Eggleston
 Protect Monterey County

 cc: Luana Conley, Steve McShane

 


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