Belle-COW For Town Hall Meeting

May 24, 2006

cow bell

COWs know that democracy depends on an informed citizen participation. There seem to be a big inhibitor in our Town; the fear of retaliation. We hear again and again from people who are afraid to let their voices be herd due to fear of retaliation. Our survey results were alarming 141 respondents or 76.2% expressed concern about retaliation if they were to be “outspoken” about Town performance. COWs shouldn’t feel like a bull being forced into a bullfight ring, afraid of losing their ears and tail, if they express their opinions.

At a Council meeting last fall, some were brave enough to tell the Council about their fear of retaliation. The Council directed Town Manager Susan George to hold a series of confidential meetings to assess what the problems and concerns are. Susan had issued an open invitation and stated in the Almanac that she would meet or talk to everyone who wanted to express opinions. She promised to honor anonymity. We hear through the grapevine that some meetings have been held and that she is winding up this process with a “town hall” meeting next Wednesday May 30th at 7:30. Since we do not know who has participated, we are not sure that the invitations did not go to a hand selected few. We do know that many with current building projects were not contacted.

The Town Council and its Town Manager must make sure that dissent is valued, that all points of view are made to feel welcome and that everyone in this Town is treated equally and fairly. But COWs bear some responsibility too. We need to moo loudly enough to be herd. So email Susan at sgeorge_at_woodsidetown.org (just replace _at_ with the @ symbol) to request to attend that meeting or call her at 851-6790 and share your feelings and ideas.

0 Comments on “Belle-COW For Town Hall Meeting

  1. Debbie Dodge

    I was at the Council meeting where concerns about retaliation by staff against people and their building projects were discussed. What was most troubling to me, was the reaction of the Council. I was disheartened to see that Council Members did not appear to be shocked that retaliation against fellow Woodsiders was a possibility and that they did not then and there issue a clear message to staff and citizens alike that this behavior would NOT be tolerated and if were found to occur, there would be immediate and serious consequences.

    Perhaps I am naive but it seems wholly un-American for people to be in fear their government. Sadly though, I know that fear is not unwarranted, I know there is retaliation. I speak my mind freely and openly and if I feel there may be a mistake in a decision by staff that concerns one of my clients I will challenge it and support my argument with fact. As a result, certain persons at town hall have told some perspective clients and others not to use my services.

    I understand the fear and the desire for anonymity, people’s homes and livelihoods could be affected by retaliation. It’s a very serious issue with thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be involved because of retaliatory delays or denials. As a result, until the Council takes strong action people including my company have gone to extremes to protect identities and/or project addresses for fear of the potential for retaliation. This includes recommending to people to use security when talking with or filling out surveys etc. with the Town or others involved in town business including COW. Unless action is taken or many people start voicing their opinions openly, how could anyone ask single individuals to stick their necks out with what is potentially at stake – no matter what some have said I believe most people certainly understand you COWs being anonymous.

    I have shared this experience in print and with my name attached to help give credence to this issue, retaliation is real. It is one of the issues I brought up in the meeting I attended with Susan George about the process and others confirmed similar experiences involving it (retaliation). In that meeting Susan said she clearly got the message about this and other problems in Planning and Building and assured us she was working on them. I am hopeful that immediate and extreme measures will put an end to retaliation of any kind and pave the way to a better Woodside.

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