Web Skipper's Comments

This page is intended to provide me (Burr Taylor) with an opportunity to highlight new additions and changes to the website as well as a place for me to express some of my ideas.  Your comments are welcome. As always please, send them to Comments. I will  post them on the new comments page.

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Response to Selectman Weil

6/14/04 (revised)

  • According to The Times Record, the petition asking for a revote has been turned into the Town Office with 1272 signers. I would like to make the following comments on the question of whether there should be a revote.

    • "Petitioners claim voting was marred by a bomb threat at the polls. The group is concerned that the bomb threat might have deterred people from voting that day."
       I do not think there should be a "revote" whenever someone is deterred from voting. Quite frankly there could be 1001 reasons why people might have been deterred from voting. Some people could be deterred  by a severe thunderstorm.  An agoraphobic could be very hesitant to vote in an election. Other people could have had a sudden emergency at home, which had to be dealt with. However, I do not believe any of these would be considered a sufficient reason for a revote. What is different about this petition? It is my opinion that the difference is that the petitioners are insinuating that the anti-LNG people planted the bomb scare.
      The petition only makes sense if we assume the scare was called in by an anti-LNG person. Would there be a call for a revote, if it was known that a pro-LNG called in the scare? I do not think so. Apparently it does not matter to the petitioners that we do not know whether the bomb scare was called in by a pro- person, and anti- person or just a trouble maker.

    • Swallow said the petition was submitted by people who want to "stand up and say 'We're not going to go for the nastiness of this election.'"
      "The nastiness" This comment has many assumptions. First, it is unclear to me how or why this election would be any different than the previous one. Indeed, so far, I feel the the comments in the Times Record, on TV, and on the petition are at least as nasty as most of the comments I heard during the previous campaign when people were all riled up. The nastiest comment I recall was a former town official accusing the anti-LNG people of using McCarthy tactics. He gave no evidence, no examples, no particulars, just a vague statement. I do not know what Mr. Sylvester meant by his comment. I can only hope he did not know his history, because if he did he made a very serious allegation.
      Nastiness was clearly practiced by both sides in the previous campaign. Much of it probably did not mean a whole lot. Some was probably said under the influence of alcohol. Many of the stories people told became exaggerated as they passed from person to person. Besides it was a difficult issue which many saw as crucial to the future of Harpswell. All this happened in a town with a long history of divisiveness and strong words. Remember the discussion of the Mountain Road Bridge, or the secession of Harpswell Neck in the 1950's, the the Cribstone Bridge. Harpswell has a reputation that extends far beyond its borders. I have attended more than one town meeting where nastiness and divisiveness had the upper hand. 
      Further there have been stories of the lengths that pro-revoters went to in order to get people to sign their petition. Bob Anderson described some examples in the Anchor a few weeks ago.
      It is my opinion that the nastiest statement was made by Mr. Weil when he gave a very one-sided description of the nastiness and bias of the anti-LNG group. While I  respect the effort he put in and the frustration he felt, the "rant" was uncharacteristically emotional, biased and irrational. I think it was very divisive for the town, and provided the basis for many complaints by the pro-LNG people.
      Therefore, I see nothing to suggest that a revote would be any more healthy than the last.

    • Intimidation is a word often used in reference to the vote.  I was told about some people did not vote because they felt intimidated. But what made them feel intimidated. Just because someone feels intimidated does not mean anyone said or did anything to intimate them. They could well have been intimated by the general hysteria expressed by the pro-LNG people. If I had not known better, I would have felt intimidated by Mr. Weil's rant.
      I will provide one extreme example to clarify my point: The whites in the South felt intimidated by the Blacks who tried to enter Little Rock High School, yet I have not heard of any intimidating behavior on the part of the Blacks. You can be sure, though, that the whites could provide plenty of examples of terrible things Blacks had done. I am not suggesting that this is what happened in Harpswell, but there were a lot of unsubstantiated stories going around.

    • Vandalism: I cannot believe that Mr. Knight and Mr. Theberge believe that vandalism is new to Harpswell, as I think they said. Vandalism has been part of life in Harpswell for a long time. My home was vandalized, my brother's home and mailbox were vandalized. I suspect there is a fair chance that some of the the damage was done during the campaign happened because the opportunity presented itself and LNG was the cover.

    • Negativism: Mrs. Chattergee complained about how negative the anti-LNG people were. I do not understand why she expected people who were opposed to LNG to be positive about it.

    • Fairness: The revote is more than just voting again. A revote would force both sides to begin a new campaign. Volunteers have to be re-energized; money raised. The pro-LNG people let Fairwinds provide most of the work and money for their side, but that was not true for the anti-LNGers. They paid their own way with their money and sweat. The fishermen put in their share, but now they are busy with other things. I do not think it is fair to ask the anti-LNGers to set up a new campaign for a reason that they had no control over.

4/6/04

  • I haven't seen the entire Selectmen's meeting, yet, but Kristi, in the Administrator's report, referred to a letter from the town lawyer about using mooring fees for the General Fund. You can read it here.

4/5/04

4/3/04

  • ConocoPhilips has applied for a permit for an offshore facility in Mobile, Alabama. al.com News; Reasons for an offshore facility include safety and environmental concerns.

  • I was straightened out about the number of signatures the revote people need. The town requires 277 (of the vote in the last gubernatorial election) to meet the requirements for a petition that would force the town to put it on the warrant. Even so, the Selectmen do not have to put in on the ballot because the court  ruled they do not need if the same vote just happened. I am told that Fairwinds requires 2000 signatures if they are going to return to town and pay for the next campaign.

4/2/04

  • I have not seen any revote petitions for two days-since Wednesday.

  • The Selectmen's Meeting 4/2/04

    • Next week's meeting will be on Tuesday because Gordon will be at a hockey game

    • They discussed the fee schedule (the Budget Advisory Committee had mad recommendations) I was surprised that the BAC had recommended an increase in mooring fees from $8.00 to $20.00, ($100 for non-residents) then $25.00 next year. I wonder what they plan to do with the money. Gordon was far more interested in raising the fees at the recycling center. Jim was mostly concerned about raising the prices of copies made at the town office even though Kristi say the current $.25 is standard.

    • Kay Ogrodnik said she had expected a list of guidelines governing the behavior to be on the agenda by that meeting. She explained that in fact her request was a petition and should be honored just like other petitions. (She said it much better than I.)

  • Kristi tried to respond to my query about what is the appropriate venue to express concern about the behavior. She said during public comment at a selectmen's meeting, in a letter to the editor, or at the ballot box. Unfortunately, none of these choices provides an opportunity/requirement for the selectmen to respond. I am still looking for a better way.

3/31/04

  • Both supporters and opponents of a revote have been reported on 123 and on 24 collecting signatures. Opponents of the recall can sign a petition on line at Fishing Families for Harpswell
    http://www.fffh.org/petition.html
    Or at the Grange on Sunday, April 4, from 9am - 5pm.
    I have not been told where the pro-revote petition can be signed.

3/25/04

  • The Selectman's meeting

    • Public comment was moved to the end to help prevent people from continuing to wallow in the mess.

    • In response to Mr. Merryman's saying that he had received a telephone threat, Mr. Weil spoke out strongly against threats and violence by anyone and any side in Harpswell. Amy Haible complimented him on the statement. I agree it was a welcome statement.

    • Only one petition had been presented to the Selectmen,. There was no petition yet on a revote. Mr. Weil made a detailed statement about the kinds of petitions and how the Selectmen were required to response. They are aware that they do not have to approve a re-vote.

3/24/04

  • The Selectmen have not responded to my question as of today.

3/21/04

  • Selectman's Meeting of 3/18: Two citizens used the public comment section to express very articulately about some of their concerns about the behavior of the Selectmen in recent meetings, particularly Mar 4

    • John Loyd,  Spoke for the value of an economic development committee.

    • Allison Hawkes: Mr. Knight's use of word disgust, belittling citizens, selectmen turned venomously on people who disagreed, did not allow them to respond. an abuse of power, a power trip, most of the hard feeling stem from the lack of unbiased leadership by the selectmen. The selectmen should should have used the opportunity to lead by example, instead they used it to further their own interests

    • Kay Ogrodnik: Called for policy to be followed by both Selectmen and speakers. (1. no gossip, make defamatory comments or use abusive or vulgar language; 2. refrain from arguing; 3. Right to good will, right to be heard, right to be responded to with courtesy, right to have one's own view, right to clear and informative answers, right to be spoken to with respect, right to be free from verbal or physical threats, right to be free from angry outbursts and rage, no loud voices, personal attacks and intimidation are prohibited, no campaigning in town buildings.  She referred to the following behaviors by the Selectmen: personal attacks by selectmen, us, use of personal emails without permission referring to Yellow wood report in disgusting and vulgar terms.  Factual responses are OK. While her husband was having a discussion with a selectman, another selectmen became so angry that he he threw two heavy books within inches of her husband and her, as well as shouting profanities. She said it was wrong to electioneer from the Selectmen's meeting.

    • BJ Wallace, Congratulated Gordon, and said it was OK for some to announce candidacy from podium, and selection should speak up and set record straight.

    • Weil,  Said no one should make personal attacks, or treat people rudely. Although he did not acknowledge doing that, he did say he would try not to do that. Thinks role of Selectmen in bringing about reconciliation is limited, it is up to all the people in the town. He thinks that means leaving things in the past in the past, and dealing with the future. He agrees with need for rules, wants to go back to the days when there was limited public comments about complaints, questions or compliments, all pretty small. This is not a town meeting a not a public forum, selectmen do have the right to limit who speaks at a selectmen's meeting, and when and on what. Electioneering is OK.

    • Knight,  Sometimes people come forward with some real good ideas, should bring issues to Town Administrator. He has considered changes to public but his idea is for everyone to speak whatever is on their mind. Need to move on and focus on the issues. Job takes a lot of time. The concerns a matter of the selectman just trying to do something.

  • Burr's thoughts: I feel Ms. Hawkes and Ms. Ogrodnik raised some extremely serious concerns in a matter that showed appropriate respect. For all practical purposes the Selectmen choose to ignore them. The Selectmen said to keep the past in the past, but that was what was said after the fight between Selectmen Knight and Swallow. I think these issues need to be faced by the Selectmen. They are not related directly to LNG and that debate. They are related to how the Selectmen carry themselves in office and how they deal people who disagree. It is a very current issue. The Selectmen still only complain about people who are critical of their behavior. I strongly disagree with Selectmen Weil that the Selectmen have a minimal role to play in bringing about reconciliation in Harpswell. For reconciliation to be success, I believe we need some assurances that the behavior of the selectmen will change, and that the people of Harpswell do not need to fear speaking up.
    I think my wife hit it right on the head: When we had finished hearing the Selectmen's comments, she said "They are certainly fat and happy."
    The Selectmen said that the meeting was not the right place to speak up. Therefore I sent the following mesage to the Selectmen today.

Selectmen,

At the last Selectmen meeting (3/18) two Harpswell citizens expressed serious concerns about the behavior of the some of the Selectmen. In no uncertain terms they were told that they were using an improper venue.

Could you tell me what is the correct venue for citizens to express concern about the behavior of the Selectmen?

This is not a rhetorical question. I look forward to an answer.

Burr Taylor

  • Also, at this meeting Selectmen Weil spoke in favor of smaller committees, citizens can only be on one committee at a time, and a greater variety of people should be on a committee. The example he used was that there should be non-clammers on the Marine Resources Committee. While I am strong in favor of diversity, I oppose his suggestions. Having a person on only one committee would inhibit other committees from know what is going on. with other committees. Traditionally the Land Use Committee was made up of members of several other committees and were expected to share information about what was happing. In general, the proposal seems too much like another effort to keep information, ideas and power as close to the Selectmen as possible.

  • Apparently a petition is being circulated promoting a revote on Fairwinds because of the bomb scare.  I have heard this has been verified through the town office.

  • As always I appreciate your comments.

3/14/04

  • As you can see I am trying to remodel this website to cover a broader area of interest and concerns. Right now I am not sure there will be enough interest to make it worthwhile, but I will try it for a while anyway.

  • The Fairwinds vote has passed and we have had one Selectman's meeting and one town meeting. There is talk of reconciliation now. That is good. I need some reconciliation. I looked it up in the dictionary: "n 1: the reestablishing of cordial relations"  Does anyone have any ideas of how I can achieve reconciliation with the Selectmen?

  • Mr. Weil in his letter to the editor of the Times Record said,

Harpswell people now expect that the town's sense of community should be restored, and they look to the selectmen to bring that about. Certainly, town government should treat all townspeople fairly and provide service to them without taking into account their positions or conduct in the LNG campaign. The processes of government must be open to all.

But the major responsibility falls to the people themselves. Each side showed a good deal of mistrust of the other, so community can only be restored if each of us begins to treat others with trust and respect. The time to begin is now.

  • I agree that we cannot expect the Selectmen to bring about a renewed sense of community on their own, but I believe the people of this town can expect the Selectmen to provide leadership in that direction. Note that Mr. Weil says the town should provide service to all regardless of their position. That is a minimal offer. I interpret that as meaning the town will take my taxes, but don't expect anyone to say hello or smile. I think that sets a bad example.

  • Mr. Weil acknowledges that both sides showed evidence of mistrust. However, he does not acknowledge the major role the Selectmen in general, and Mr. Weil in particular , had in creating and perpetuating that mistrust.

  • There was no reconciliation at the Selectman's meeting on 3/11. It was much closer to a pre-election (3/13) rally for Mr. Weil and Mrs. Knight and a mutual admiration session. It is interesting that they did not give equal time to the other candidates in this very popular show.  It is also interesting that they have plenty of time for mutual admiration, electioneering, but not dissenting opinions.

  • Mr. Knight's demand for an apology from Amy Haible at the end of the meeting struck me as more political grandstanding by Mr. Knight. It may have also been an indication about how Amy Haible would be treated if she won. Mr. Knight justified his comments by saying something like, "I have to say this." Mr. Weil used the same justification for his so very divisive rant a few weeks ago. Maybe they would let me speak, if I just said, "I have to say this."

  • Mr. Gelwick's motion to reduce monies for Harpswell TV was, in my opinion, totally inappropriate, provocative attempt to achieve what may be a worthwhile goal. It led to an impossible, inappropriate and inevitable debate on the floor of the meeting. I was appalled, and I was even more appalled that the Selectmen did not say anything, which could have included better ways to achieve Mr. Gelwick's goal.

So my response to Mr. Weil's letter is that right now the behavior of the Selectmen is making it very difficult to bring about reconciliation. The town needs your help, not your barbs, attacks and neglect.