Unfortunately we could not attend the meeting of the Council when it discussed the Grand Jury report. However, we did listen to a tape recording of the meeting and have some excerpts for you. We will put the tape online in a few days for you to hear for yourselves. (The Town may want to consider a better recording system because some of it was hard to understand.) It seems that some of the Council members are not in touch with what is going on in the community. They continue to deny the wide spread fear of retaliation. The Council does not take seriously the COWS that spoke at their own Council meeting, our COW poll or even the Grand Jury report. We COWs, on the other hand, take very seriously what the Council thinks of its citizens.
We quote from Council member Goeld (whose statements were expressly supported by Mayor Gordon and implicitly approved by the silence of the majority of the Council) on the reason the process is so torturous.
“The quality of submittals, which I think is something Hope has submitted to us many times has a lot to do with the speed of issuing permits, which is something that is notably absent, I think, from the report. Any substance to that, you know garbage in, garbage out. You present good plans, I do not know that they can sail through, but at least we can make a determination. You present crappy plans, then do not blame the staff for sending them back. Applicants push the envelope, purposely disregard the rules or purposely deceptive, and I think that is an issue that we have to deal with.”
“â€¦we have these very demanding applicants who want to change the rules, who are being deceptive, you know I think that I am not going to impugn the motives of the professionals who come here, but I think it is in some of their interest to maintain the perception that the process is arduous, I think that there is a financial incentive in that. I do agree with the restructuring management recommendation that they talk about and that we are going to talk about at the future meeting, and I also agree with the fast track permitting if we can do it, but I just think that I would have liked to have seen as much weight given to what the town is doing, it just seemed to me like the table was slanted very much in one direction and that is the town stinks when it handles the permitting process.
“I am not questioning their (the Grand Jury’s) motives. I am questioning their findings, and I think that they are making statements here. Fear of Retribution that is not process. Since you say fear of retribution, tell us what you are talking about, I mean I think it is almost McCarthyism if you will, they are saying things and then not substantiating it.”
Only Council member Sinclair seemed to understand that the purpose of the Grand Jury report.
“They are there to determine the whole process, as I understand it, to be a feedback group, for there to be some accountability by governmental agencies within the county, that is the whole purpose of it. It is not a criminal thing. It is simply to try and get feedback back from citizens back to the town, and for us to take that feedback and see if we can do something constructive with it. “
There was one brave member of the public who spoke up on the issue. Not an easy thing to do. She specifically said that she has been retaliated against by staff. She said that she told Susan George about this in one of the meetings Susan is holding for that purpose. The Council members, who criticized the Grand Jury for not giving details of retaliation, asked no questions and show no interest in the information that the speaker provided. Nor did they ask Susan if she had investigated the claim. There was nothing constructive about their response.
The Grand Jury recommendations will come back to Council in the Fall to see if, when and how they will be implemented. After listening to the tape, and how the public speaker was skewered, we certainly hope they are moo’vd to develop some sort of independent ombudsman program where people can feel safe in expressing their opinions