... of the People

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories.

—Thomas Jefferson, Virginian, 3rd U.S. President, statesman, philosopher, inventor, architect, farmer and founder of The University of Virginia.

 The 140 ladies and gentlemen who constitute the 100-member House of Delegates and the 40-member Senate of Virginia will convene at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 14, to consider thousands of proposed changes to the Commonwealth’s laws, including bills that may impact your electric cooperative, your community, or your profession.

Virginia’s legislature, of course, is the oldest continuous democratic body in the Western Hemisphere, and despite long centuries of practice, the process works well ONLY if the Commonwealth’s citizens are involved and invested in the decisions that are being made by our elected officials.

Toward that end, your electric cooperative has for 20 years now been publishing an annual Virginia Legislative Guide and making it available within the folds of Cooperative Living magazine, and the 2009 edition you’ll find herein awaits your review and usage. Legislators’ mail and e-mail addresses, and phone and fax numbers, are included in the guide. For those with computer connectivity, please consider also going for more information to the General Assembly’s Web site, http://legis.state.va.us/. But whether through e-mail or postal mail, or by telephone, fax machine or in-person visit, please be sure to stay in touch with your legislators on the issues important to you, your family and your community.

The progress of democracy seems irresistible, because it is the most uniform, the most ancient, and the most permanent tendency which is to be found in history.

— Alexis de Tocqueville, 19th-century French political thinker, historian and author of Democracy in America.

A new presidential administration and a new Congress begin work later this month in Washington, in the midst of domestic and international challenges that will test American ingenuity and resolve, tests that Americans have always passed, and will surely do so this time as well. Among the many important measures that Congress will be considering are the development of a national energy policy, and consideration of climate-change legislation.

This nation’s 900-plus electric cooperatives — serving 40 million member-owners spread across 47 states — are on record in support of a broad-based energy policy that is consumer-friendly while achieving realistic environmental goals. The issue of climate change clearly needs to be examined in the context of this larger discussion of energy policy, as Congress works to build what we hope will be an energy road map that will guide our nation for decades to come. Indeed, it would be painful and problematic for all of us if, instead of doing so, Congress drove hastily toward a temporary outpost that failed to address both the environment AND the economy, the requirements of large industries AND those of average folks, and the need for additional conservation AND for construction of additional generating capacity.

All of this constitutes a tall order. And it’s an order that can only be met if our elected officials hear early, clearly and often from the men and women back home who elected them. You and me.

Along these lines, as we discussed several times in these pages last year, we strongly encourage you to take part in a national effort entitled, “Our Energy, Our Future — A Dialogue with America,” organized by this nation’s member-owned electric cooperatives. Please go to a special Web site, www.ourenergy.coop, and let your House member and Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner know that you want Congress to make decisions that will ensure that our electric supply remains reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible.

Throughout our 75-year history, electric cooperatives have addressed and overcome challenges large and small, with a grassroots, consumer-friendly approach that mirrors the fact that our customers are also our owners. So, please, join with us as we work with our elected officials in Richmond and in Washington, seeking reasonable solutions to the complex problems that face us. By doing so, you’ll add to the democratic right of electing these officials the wondrous grassroots power of making your voice heard in their deliberations.

Of the many things we have done to democracy in the past, the worst has been the indignity of taking it for granted.

— Max Lerner, 20th-century American author and newspaper columnist.


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