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Published Thursday, September 28, 2000,
in the Akron Beacon Journal.


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Nader's words resonate in Ohio town

East Liverpool residents like candidate's speech against waste incinerator

Beacon Journal staff writer

EAST LIVERPOOL: The polls show Ralph Nader's presidential bid getting maybe 3 percent of the vote.

But in this postage-stamp city, hunkered down on the banks of the Ohio River, Nader is a political force, thanks to the thick plume of smoke that is a constant stain on the skyline.

There were as many anti-Al Gore signs as there were pro-Nader ones in the crowd that gathered to greet Nader in front of the East Liverpool school administration building yesterday morning. This town of 13,000 was the first of the day's three scheduled campaign stops in Ohio.

Typical of those gathered were Donna Danver and her neighbor Margery McKinnon, both spry gray-haired women, their sweater pockets stuffed with Nader stickers and buttons.

``I'm a registered Democrat. Been one all my life. But I'm voting for Ralph Nader and that's why,'' said Danver, nodding over her shoulder at the thick white smoke boiling from a lone stack less than 300 yards away.

The stack is from the Waste Technologies Industries' hazardous waste incinerator, which has been a burning issue in East Liverpool for nearly a decade and has folks here hot with Al Gore.

``Gore is a liar, period. I have no use for liars,'' McKinnon fumed.

``Ditto,'' chimed in Danver.

The neighbors describe how this dates back to a 1992 promise by Gore, then a candidate for vice president, to prevent the opening of the WTI plant because of its proximity to an elementary school.

The plant was allowed to open by the outgoing Bush administration, and the Clinton- Gore White House said it was unable to close the incinerator, a position disputed by critics.

When Nader finally arrived just before 11 a.m., nearly an hour late, he was greeted by thunderous applause from the crowd of nearly 200.

Standing at center court in the gymnasium connected to the administration building, a relaxed, hand-in-pocket Nader recited a litany of complaints against the incinerator that those gathered had long-ago committed to memory:

Dioxins, furans, chromium, lead and arsenic released into the air . . . 60,000 tons of hazardous waste every year.

``Any incinerator that emits almost a pound of mercury into the air every day can't be good for our children's ability to learn,'' Nader said. He referenced the elementary school being less than 1,500 feet downwind of the incinerator.

Nader told the crowd that Gore recently promised to take on large corporations.

``If Gore can't stand up for the people against this outrageously dangerous polluter, should anyone believe he will ever fight for the people and not the powerful?''

Texas Gov. George W. Bush wasn't given a free pass by Nader, who said Republicans are no better than Democrats.

``Bush is a big corporation running for president disguised as a candidate. . . . The Republicans and Democrats are just one big corporate party.''

But while a contingent of East Liverpool people have personally heckled Gore from New Hampshire (before the primary) to California (during the Democratic national convention), it would be incorrect to paint them as anti-establishment environmental activists.

Fully more than half of the crowd was past retirement age. Nearly all were working-class men and women, who no longer believe that either of the established political parties will address their concerns.

``There is no distinction between Gore and Bush. I see Ralph Nader as a viable option,'' said Richard K. Wolf, who stood against the gym wall and took in Nader's speech.

But realistically how viable an option is the Green Party ticket of Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke?

Nader said to simply vote for the ``lesser of two evils'' is counterproductive.

``At the end of the day, you still end up with evil,'' Nader said. Even if he loses, he said, the Green Party will make major strides in narrowing the ``democracy gap -- where corporations have become sovereign rather than the people.''

If he makes a strong showing, the Democrats and Republicans will be put on notice that business as usual is no longer acceptable, Nader said.

McKinnon echoed Nader's sentiments.

``My vote for Nader won't be wasted. I feel I might be one voter, but I will be doing what I can for someone who can help us. At least he came to hear our concerns.''

Wolf said a vote for Nader is just one more step on the road toward real political change.

``Rome wasn't built in a day. We have to start somewhere. We have to send a message.''

Carl Chancellor can be reached at 330-996-3725 or

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