from Rachel Rothgery, student at Oberlin College
My last article in October was entitled “A Setback, Not a Defeat.” The “setback” regarded a City Council 4-3 vote which authorized a contract with AMP Ohio’s proposed coal power plant. “A Setback, Not a Defeat” was not an empty promise.
11pm Tuesday (11/6) night, newly-elected Councilman David Sonner popped open the champagne bottle, and the table of Councilmen and volunteers and sponsors toasted to a greener future. Oberlin will reject the Oberlin coal-fired power plant contract!!!!
For the last month I have been working for four Council candidates: David Ashenhurst, Jack Baumann, Charles Peterson, and David Sonner. The four of them adopted me as Campaign Manager after my canvassing team doubled the signature goal needed to sway our Mayor’s vote from “for” to “against” an incoming coal plant. (He was the 3rd vote against the contract in October.) If approved, the coal-fired plant will serve over 30 municipalities around Ohio, fueling over half of our electricity needs for the next 40 years. The aim of humble environmentalists like me is to get enough cities to reject the contract and cripple plans for the plant. Recently, Westerville, OH became the first to reject the contract. Oberlin City Council authorized the contract, but the next elected Council will be empowered to revoke authorization. After the “setback,” it was clear that a new Council was necessary.
I was proud to campaign for Ashenhurst, Baumann, Peterson, and Sonner. Not only are all four of them experienced, progressive, warm people, they are also staunch opposers of the coal plant. As of Tuesday, they are now the new majority of City Council. It is because of them that Oberlin will be revoking authorization of the plant. The Councilmen would be the first to assure you that they could not have done it without the campus vote. That is a big statement coming from governors of a city long divided between College and Town. It has been an honor and an educational experience interacting with the Town for the last month. Simply by choosing to educate myself about the ballot issues, I have consequentially closely befriended my governors, met with the Superintendent and School Board members, and substantially influenced my city’s future. I’ve talked with families about their economic concerns, and interviewed barroom fixtures about the history of the College and the Town. In the meantime, candidates who usually dismissed the importance of the College vote started making appearances at College events. My anti-coal plan campaign alone became a viable threat to their chances at gaining a Council seat if they supported coal.
I’ll be honest. Until Tuesday, this experience was more REAL than elational. I was victim to juvenile hostilities and personal attacks — all from fellow students. They were so worried about being “imperialist” over the Town, they receded into indulgent inaction. They learned nothing about the Town. They put the future of our climate into unknown hands. It was a discouraging experience, but one that was overcome. I told myself it was all business, grew a thicker hide, and did my best to perform damage control. It was undeniably a very political experience. Annoying, egotistical, exhausting, drunken, re-sobered…eventually victorious and sweet.
I suppose my lesson for others is this: no matter how much adversity you face, if you’re convinced that you’re fighting the right fight, even if you’re fighting it alone, don’t give up. No pettiness along the way will last as long as your achievement. Hopefully in the end you’ll have the luck that I had to be surrounded by friends, champagne, and endless pats on the back. You’ll sleep in the next day. Hit the showers. Pick the next fight.
Live it up! And keep walking the talk clipboard warriors!
-Rachel Rothgery, Oberlin College