POCATELLO — As if the name Idaho Lorax isn't theater enough, the Pocatello resident who has become a fixture at City Council meetings has shown up to address the council in a full Hazmat suit or has stripped down to a T-shirt carrying the logo of “Mothers Against Death.”
He has also called himself the Toxic Avenger and used the name Carta Sierra. These days he prefers to be called simply Lorax.
However the use of pseudonyms may cost the man who is dedicated to the removal of slag from the FMC elemental phosphorus plant that was used as the base for roads, alleys and school playgrounds in Pocatello. And he may not be able to push a new “Peoples Park” along the Portneuf River.
The mayor and city council want the Lorax to put his real identity on the record.
“The council just wants him to follow the rules for all citizens,” Pocatello city attorney Dean Tranmer explained.
Each meeting, the council provides a three-minute window of opportunity to citizens to express their concerns about issues not on that evening's agenda. Those who wish to speak must sign up using their name and address.
Tranmer said this requirement for anyone means the person's legal name and address.
Idaho Lorax misses the standard on two counts.
He signs in as Idaho Lorax and gives his address as Beaver Hamlet, Pocatello. For the past several months, Lorax has then used his three minutes to lecture the council about the safety hazards of slag in the city or push for approval of the new park.
According to Tranmer, Mayor Brian Blad put Lorax on notice at last Thursday's meeting that the microphone would be off-limits to him unless he gave his lawful name and address in the future.
Lorax said in a recent interview that he thinks his message is much more important than his real identity. He's even launched a write-in campaign for Idaho Legislative District 28 House Seat A as a “Green Democrat.” The name to write in is “Idaho Lorax.”
“They need to know that's the stuff,” Lorax said about the radioactive nature of the slag used within the city limits. He calls himself a professional educator, scientist, entertainer and artist.
Slag is a byproduct of converting phosphate ore into elemental phosphorus and there are tons of it piled up at the old FMC plant site just west of the Pocatello city limits. For decades it was used as an aggregate on roadbeds, railway beds and alleys in Southeast Idaho.
Because of concern about the radioactive particles contained in slag, it's use as a building material was banned in 1990.
Lorax said the material that was used must be removed for the safety of the community.
“It's in the alley ways from Gould Street to the university,” Lorax said. “It was even used at schools.”
Though it would costs millions to safely remove slag from Pocatello, Lorax said elected leaders have a moral obligation to see that it is done.
“There's a protocol for safety and no one will do it,” he said.
The activist claims federal money is available for the cleanup effort if city and county leaders will just pursue the matter. He insists funding would come from the Radiation Compensation Act passed by U.S. Congress in 1990. That federal statute was actually established to provide relief to people exposed to downwind radiation during the above ground nuclear testing that took place in Nevada, but also covered uranium miners, millers and ore transporters.
Lorax points to the elevated levels of radon associated with phosphate slag and said that makes Pocatello qualify.
“This stuff is full of uranium,” he said.
The problem he now faces in selling his plan is the council has had its fill of listening to someone who refuses to use his real name. The use of a Dr. Seuss character identity has reached its limit with the Pocatello council and mayor. Anonymity has its price.