Attacks, rancor cause fears for Williamstown
To the editor:
How do we want our leaders to act? They should be good-spirited, virtuous, and intellectual. They should be honest. They must have good manners. We saw too much of bad manners and bad intentions obstructing good debate in the recent elections in Williamstown.
The Planning Board members who were trying to write a thoughtful response to the bylaw proposals to allow development of the hotel on Waubeeka were the subject of animosity. We were disheartened by the personal attacks and unnecessary rancor that included name-calling, false complaints about unfair processes, and depictions of candidates as people of ill will.
The people we knew who were running for office are devoted public servants with years of experience and hundreds of hours of service to the town. One might disagree with their vision of Williamstown's future and economic development, but that is no reason to vilify or humiliate the candidates or speakers or policies you disagree with.
We did not find the debate at town meeting to be open and considerate either. We found the developer's revenue figures to be inflated yet these numbers were repeated as if true. There was a lot of anxiety over how much land we have preserved in Williamstown, and we fall below average when compared to the other towns in the state, at about 135 out of 351. (Source: P. Dunlavey "Taxes, Growth and Demographics in Williamstown," November 2008.)
To quote President Obama from his recent graduation address at Rutgers, "When our leaders express a disdain for facts, when they're not held accountable for repeating falsehoods and just making stuff up, while actual experts are dismissed as elitists, then we've got a problem."
Reasonable people may disagree about the method and legality of the provisions adopted for preserving open space in exchange for development rights at Waubeeka, but we have a greater concern. The process of crafting a zoning bylaw on the floor of town meeting resulted in an alarming display of poor citizenship. Together with the rancor from the election, we began to worry about our town.
As our president urged, each of us should want to cultivate in ourselves qualities of good citizenship, such as an understanding of the facts, reasoned thought and logic. We must be respectful to each other. We should acknowledge the knowledge, experience and effort it takes to serve as a volunteer in a public position. We should be thankful for the dedication and commitment of our public servants, past and present, who so strongly contribute to the well-being of our town.
Elisabeth C. Goodman, Carol Stein-Payne, Williamstown