Letter: Dismay at the Attitudes and Behavior

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To The Editor:

I am writing to express my dismay at the attitudes and behavior demonstrated by some of the members of the Board of Selectmen meeting on September 26. I was unable to attend the meeting, however after viewing it online, I have to say, I was quite disturbed.
During the meeting, several members of the community spoke up about an issue involving the Board of Health – namely the recent appointment of two new members. These constituents questioned both the Board’s judgement on the appointments, including the qualifications of the new appointees, and also the decision to forgo the policy stated in the town’s Rule Charter which requires 15 days public notice of a board vacancy.
The community members were interrupted, talked over, and scolded. One Board member went so far as to stop a constituent from speaking with an angry outburst of “okay that’s enough”. The Board’s opposition was apparently that they felt that these concerns amounted to “personal attacks”.
In my opinion, questioning the decision making of the Board, and questioning an appointee’s professional qualifications for a position, are in no way “personal attacks”. They are, in fact, the duty of an engaged citizenry.
In addition, during the “epilogue” portion of the meeting, multiple Selectmen opined that these questions were part of a coordinated “social media” campaign. The community members were accused of participating in a “culture war” and trying to “divide the town”.
Frankly, accusing concerned citizens of starting a culture war, accusing them of attempting to divide the town – these are personal attacks.
As we are all aware, the recent political movement in this country has caused many people to become more active in local government. The vocal opposition that has been seen in the last few months are most certainly a result of this awakening. Constituents are demanding transparency and accountability from their elected officials. It is disturbing to me to see those same elected officials respond to community concerns with defensiveness and attempts at silencing.
I would respectfully ask that the board take this opportunity to reflect on how it might respond to future dissension. Dissent is, after all, a key component to a healthy democracy.
Jennifer Corwin
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