"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."City Hall
-- John F. Kennedy
Star City, CA
The thick, wooden doors leading into the city council chamber burst open and out rushed Oliver Queen. He wore a black suit three-piece suit with a white shirt and an emerald tie, his usual council meeting attire. Ollie kept his hands in his pocket as he stalked through the halls back towards his office.
A small gaggle of reporters chased after him down the corridor. He stopped and turned around. There were a few newspaper men, the lady from Channel 6 with a camera hoisted on her shoulder, and a radio reporter with a handheld voice recorder. Ollie brushed his lapels and took a deep breath as they swooped in on him.
One of the newspaper men spoke first. "We saw you leaving the chamber in a huff. You don't agree with the majority decision."
"Considering I voted against it, Mike, that'd be a no." He winked at the reporter before flashing a grin. "Regular Bob Woodward you are."
A titter went through the group. Now that he had made them laugh, Ollie went on the offensive.
"This franchise tax was one of my key promises when I ran for office, guys. Of course I'm going to be a little sore when I get voted down by short-sighted people who are just worried about reelection. This tax was a step towards the big companies that are slowly working their hooks into Star City"
"Critics of the tax argue that it's a pay to play scenario designed to drown out smaller competitors," the TV lady said.
Ollie thrust a finger forward. "No, it's a tax on the companies who are already making a hefty profit on our city. They big companies have done a fine job drowning out the smaller competitors on their own. They don't need our help."
The radio reporter said, "What do you say to Councilman Conklin's arguments that those companies are responsible for the stability in Star City?"
"They were an asset in a time of peril," said Ollie. "But the time of crisis has passed. We must let regulation and government lead the way. Conklin might be against that seeing as how he was selected as El Dorado Power & Water's Man of the Year this year. The franchise tax would help shift the balance of power back to the government, as will keeping the SCPD away from Thornguard."
The TV reporter asked, "Thornguard Security's work in other towns shows that in six months alone it can be more effective than the Star City PD has ever been. They even promise a drop off in Green Arrow sightings."
Ollie shook his head. "The towns they've worked in before aren't Star City. They're smaller and more affluent and less ethnically diverse. It's easy to police Mayberry. Comparing Thornguard's work in those towns against SCPD statistics is unfair. And to answer your Green Arrow question, with the brutality and excessive violence complaints Thornguard has gotten over the years, I'm sure Green Arrow has already been added to their payroll."
Another laugh from the reporters gave Ollie a chance to wrap up the questions.
"If we allow Thornguard to take over emergency services, then there will be four companies that are dangerously close to running the day to day affairs of this city. We have to scale back their control and influence and make sure its the voice of the people, not the voice of profit margins, are in control of our local government. That's all for now, folks. Thanks."
He held his hands up and backed away from the reporters before turning around and heading up two flights to his office on the third floor. The small space wasn't much to look at it, barely larger than a cubicle and with no window. It was identical to all the council offices. All eight city councilors shared office space on the third floor as well as Doris, a collective secretary. The job was only part-time anyway. Ollie never hung around the place much if there was no need for it, he preferred to be at the mission or on the streets.
Sitting down behind his desk, Ollie kicked his feet up and looked at the wall. Everyone called it his conspiracy board, but it helped him keep track of things. He had the names of all three major companies and what they did for Star City listed with interconnecting lines running between the companies where their duties may overlap. There was:
Hephaestus: Building and road construction
El Dorado Power & Water: Utilities
California Transportation Trust: Mass transit
It was a libertarian's wet dream, a city where private companies provided the lion's share of services with minimal oversight by the municipal government. In theory, the government would get the best services for the cheapest cost. The great business experiment they had called it three years ago when the city council approved it. But so far the great experiment wasn't panning out. The city went with the three companies because they were the only ones who ever placed bids. Anybody who did place a bid ended up pulling out suddenly and one of the other three got the job. The shady nature of the whole affair is why he got back into politics and ran for the city council. So far he was the only person on the council trying to raise awareness. He knew most of the city council and Mayor Fitzroy were getting some sort of support from the companies, but he couldn't prove it.
The overlap between the three companies made it a tangled mess. CTT supplied Hephaestus with the heavy machinery it needed, El Dorado got the power trucks. Hephaestus maintained the roads and rails CTT's buses and trains operated on. And now Thornguard was getting thrown into the mix. Its bids for emergency service was low as anything possible for a privatized police, fire, and paramedic force. Odds on the cars would come from CTT and their facilities would be maintained by Hephaestus. If the Thornguard bill was approved, the four companies would begin to settle over the city like a net and tighten until everyone was so used to their work and rates of pay nobody would argue. And that was when the prices would increase. That's how monopolies worked. Once the octopus got its tentacles in, it flexed them and strangled the life out of its prey. Ollie knew it was wrong on the surface, but something in his gut told him it went deeper. This combination, as shady as it was, had something darker lurking beneath the surface.
He rubbed his head and sighed. Ollie had a plan, more like the makings of a plan, but it was being blocked by the mayor and the rest of the city council. He was just one man against nine others, seven plus the mayor. He'd be checked and outvoted every time. He stood and headed out of his office before the rest of the councilmen got back from the meeting. The powers that be were blocking him, but they sure as hell hadn't counted on the Green Arrow looking into the matter.