Public Hearing Behavior

Two weeks ago I posted a news report about the Public Hearing hosted by our Planning Board to receive community input on the Pine/Lent Hill SDEIS and Dutch Hill DEIS. As I indicated, I thought the meeting went well overall, given the level of energy in the community that's been raised by this issue. Many of those who were critical of UPC Wind's intiative(s) had clearly read through the SDEIS/DEIS material carefully and offered specific comments about particular aspects in each report. Others were critical of the one-sided way the process has been handled by our Town leaders so far, a problem that only seems to be getting worse. It was clear from Chris Swartley's presentation on behalf of UPC Wind, for instance, that UPC fully expects the Planning Board to give their final approval within a month so that the permit process can move forward, giving the clear appearance that January 19th's "hearing" was really only for show.

Speakers were asked to the podium in the order in which they had signed in, somehow leaving most of those who spoke on behalf of the project toward the end of the list. Their comments were generally brief, had little if anything specific to say about either the SDEIS or DEIS, and expressed primarily their ongoing support of the project. Several were leaseholders. There were bursts of applause and vocal expressions of support or dismay during and after several presentations throughout the evening, but certainly nothing as loud or emotional as one might experience at a hotly contested a sports event. All in all, the evening actually went better than one could have expected.

However, that was all before last week's Valley News came out. To read the entire page of comments published there by YES! supporters, you'd think the meeting was a shocking display of social disorder on the part of wind critics "that showed their total lack of respect for our entire system of American government" complete with "jeering, and taunting... parading through the gym trying to distract everyone." Those who opposed the project were accused in print of avoiding commentary on the SDEIS/DEIS documents and using the meeting "to call a great-grandfather names and to verbally attack him after the meeting." Another sponsored writer said critics "ridiculed the handicapped... and mocked and made slanderous comments toward local officials." Still another said "their tactics included false statements, bullying, and the threat of lawsuits." And on and on.

Ladies and Gentlemen. My wife and I were among the first of those to arrive and the last to leave. I spoke early on and listened carefully to every speaker. I've been to lots of meetings in my life, and this one was spirited, to be sure, but not at all the way you've depicted it. Let's get real here. This is American democracy in action, not its antithesis. Sadly, many of your comments are such gross exaggerations that they spill over into complete misrepresentations of the truth. It looks like you've become so emotionally entangled in this project that you're becoming false witnesses.

Honestly, can't we do better than this?

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