Dick Yarbrough

Anybody who thinks term limits for elected officials is the panacea for what ails us understands the political process one-foot wide and one-inch deep. We already have term limits for politicians. It is called elections.

Ask former Gov. Roy Barnes. Ask former U.S. Sens. Wyche Fowler, Mack Mattingly and Max Cleland. Ask former members of Congress Buddy Darden, Bob Barr and Karen Handel. Ask state Rep. Sam Teasley, a part of the Cobb County cabal focused on hobbling our public schools with their private school voucher schemes. All sought another term in office. All were denied that term by the voters.

No, my fellow Americans, the problem with our government is not so much the politicians. It’s the bureaucracy. In fact, I will posit that the less influential the politician, the more powerful the bureaucracy. If bureaucrats know elected officials aren’t going to be around long, they aren’t likely to jump through hoops to accommodate them.

Sometimes, it doesn’t even help to have a lot of power. One of my roles during the planning for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games was dealing with our federal and state governments, including the bureaucrats within them. I had some powerful allies, including Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, who was one of the most highly respected members of the Senate, and U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich did a lot of public grandstanding over our moving a preliminary volleyball venue out of Cobb County, but behind the scenes he let it be known to all that he expected our requests for assistance to be handled.

Somebody forgot to tell some pointy-head in the Defense Department who oversaw fences. We needed a lot of wire fencing materials for security reasons. No one seemed able to find the right person in the right section of the right division because our requests kept being turned down. Finally, a three-star general and the former commanding officer at Fort Benning who was on our staff volunteered to plumb the depths of the Department of Defense. After a time, he identified the low-level fence czar, submitted the correct requisition forms and we got our materials.

I bring this up to say that government bureaucracy is still alive and well and misfunctioning today. Only this time, we aren’t talking about fences. We are talking about our health.

As you are aware, for years many of us have been sucking in copious amounts of ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen, thanks to a bunch of nameless bureaucrats at the federal Environment Protection Agency and their cohorts at the state Environmental Protection Division who didn’t seem to think we had a need to know that.

I got a press release from the EPA in the mail this week via some organization in Vinings addressing the current controversy over ethylene oxide emissions at the Sterigenics plant near Smyrna and the Becton Dickinson facility in Covington. It was no doubt written by some public information person with the authority of a chipmunk and scrubbed clean by lawyers.

The release states that the EPA is “working with our state partners at the EPD to better understand the nature of the facilities’ emissions and what those emissions may mean for the surrounding communities.” Somehow, I think they should already know that. If not, they might want to read the July story from WebMD and Georgia Health News, which revealed that Georgia had multiple census tracts the EPA has identified as having higher cancer risks because of ethylene oxide emissions. Two are in the Smyrna area. Four more are just across the Chattahoochee in Fulton County. Another is in Covington. We may never have found that out if left up to the bureaucrats to tell us.

The EPA release says they are now reviewing regulations for facilities that emit ethylene oxide and are seeking additional information on industrial emissions of EO, which will “help the EPA as it evaluates opportunities to reduce ethylene oxide emissions as a part or its regulations review.” Blah. Blah. Blah.

The bureaucrats will be unable to hide behind their gobbledygook much longer. The EPA and EPD will have to face the music and defend their actions — or inactions.

Our elected officials in both parties at the state and local level have thus far worked remarkably well together following the revelations about the Sterigenics emission controversy and possible solutions. I don’t think they need reminding that we are looking to them to get this issue settled to our satisfaction. Our personal health is at stake as are our property values and our anxiety levels.

Meanwhile, bureaucrats will go on being bureaucrats and impacting every aspect of our lives. No amount of anti-regulation promises or “drain the swamp” rhetoric will change that fact. And, unlike our politicians, until we can figure out a way to put term limits on these faceless souls, it will forever be so.

Dick Yarbrough is available at dick@dickyarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta Ga. 31139; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.

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