To the Editor:
I take exception to some of the statements and behavior revealed on the second night of the Marion Town Meeting. I have served five years on the Marion Planning Board. I have been the minority voice on the Board for most of that time. Thus I have had plenty of experience listening to people who disagree with my opinion, and they have had to endure listening to my opinion. However, at the end of each meeting, there was a mutual respect for one another and each other’s opinion. There has been no mudslinging or treating one another with disrespect. Debate is a healthy exercise upon which this great country was founded. It is not something to take personally or to cause one to ridicule the other in a public forum.
During the second night of Town Meeting, the question of a new Solar Bylaws was on the floor for consideration and open debate. The Energy Management Committee made its presentation and then the Planning Board made its recommendations. I think the debate was lively and constructive between the EMC and Planning Board, as it has been in prior meetings. It is not personal, but simply a difference in opinion. Although I think they mischaracterized the Special Permit process, I respect their opinion on the Solar Bylaws and by the way they conducted themselves, I believe they respected our opinion. The opinions are just different.
Unfortunately, I found it extremely disappointing and upsetting the way in which one of the Selectmen, our colleague, handled the situation. Instead of simply voicing his opinion and support in favor of the Solar Bylaws, he decided to belittle, insult, and disrespect the members of the Planning Board. “Clumpity, clumpity, clumpity” is how the Planning Board process was described, even though he admittedly had not been to a Planning Board meeting in a long time. He further painted the picture that the Planning Board was a place of last resort that no one should ever have to visit. We were depicted as ogres who intentionally stall projects and fail to get anything done in a timely manner. And if that was not bad enough, when the Planning Board Chair walked to the podium to give his report, he was taunted by this Selectman, who loudly voiced “Clumpity, clumpity, clumpity” as he walked by. Really?
It is my experience that when one stoops to personal insults and taunts, it is to mask that there is simply no merit to his underlying argument and he must redirect the audience’s attention elsewhere. We, the public, should expect more from our elected officials. We want our elected officials to have differences of opinion so every person in Marion can be represented during the debate on the issues of the day. However, we must insist on civility and respect so we can move the concerns of Marion forward in a productive manner and we do not fall down a slippery slope that will land us characterized as a bunch of juvenile delinquents.
Further, I want to clear the air about the Planning Board process. I will agree that there was a time when I, too, thought the process took too long, and I have voiced that concern on a number of occasions. However, if anybody has been paying attention over the last several years, there has been a real concerted effort by everyone to move the process along. In fact, there have been a couple of projects that were approved in one meeting. We are charged with overseeing the growth of Marion, on a case-by-case basis. Each project is widely different and requires a different review. Sometimes there may be a delay because we did not get an opinion back from one of our consultants, or many times there are delays because the Applicant requests it. At the end of the day, I do my job as I believe I was charged to do it. I give up time with my family and from my practice to do so. I receive no monetary compensation, and there is definitely no power or prestige that comes with being a member of the Planning Board. I ran for the position out of a sense of civic duty. I review each matter as a concerned neighbor so we can try and ensure that there is peace between neighbors and not unexpected surprises that will later cause friction.
After hearing the characterization given about the Planning Board, by some of the townspeople and by a colleague, perhaps we should care less about each application. Perhaps we only need to rubber stamp each application and get home early to our families. Or perhaps it’s time for Marion to hire a full-time planner, if that is what the town wants. I am not insulted if that is the direction that the Town wants to go in. In fact, it will really free up my time to be better spent elsewhere. In the meantime, I simply ask that we show respect to one another by engaging in constructive and effective debate without the use of insults and other childish behavior.
Patricia A McArdle
Marion Planning Board