Guest opinion/Ted Wang: Personal attacks don’t advance policymaking in Granby
February 19, 2008
For years, Patrick Brower attended town board meetings as a journalist and wrote articles for the Sky-Hi News. It’s obvious, however, from his diatribe in last Thursday’s (Feb. 14) paper that he both missed his calling as a writer of fiction and failed, as well, to learn anything about the process of making decisions on a town council.
Rather than be engaged in a mature debate on an important issue, that of “what do we want our downtown to look like,” he’s decided to push the discussion into the mud of personal attack politics.
Polls show that the American public is sick and tired of the negativity and attack ad approach to addressing issues, and it’s not at all helpful that Patrick has descended to that level. Rather than have the discussion in an adult manner, he’s poisoning it by over-the-top emotionalism, name-calling, and his own brand of moralizing.
There clearly is a difference of opinion on the question of how many pawn shops and tattoo parlors the community wants to have on our main street. As an elected official, when people come to me with concerns, I have an obligation to bring their questions and concerns to the board. Despite what some say, I don’t make these decisions alone.
If you came to one of your elected representatives with an idea and were told that it would be blocked from consideration, how would you feel? There’s a “no win” situation being created here.
People in the community do have different visions of what makes a vital and appealing downtown. As the town grows and we work on our downtown, there must be a debate about content and appearance. Recognizing that there are emotions involved, it would have been nice to have that debate done civilly, but I guess that Patrick would prefer shouting matches over reasoned discourse. That probably sells more newspapers, but he’s not in that business anymore.
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I found it quite interesting that Patrick slams those who don’t like pawn shops and tattoo parlors as not being “regular men and women” and then goes on to make condescending remarks about all sorts of hypothetical retail possibilities in his own “fit of righteous indignation.” It’s obvious that he points a middle finger directly at newcomers to our community, particularly those who purchase those expensive homes that so many in our area depend upon for their livelihood. Who’s doing the smothering with righteous indignation, here?
A new resident or visitor to our town is hardly going to feel welcomed by the tone of his letter. Is intimidation and insult going to be the means of discussion for Granby? If the only means of discourse is a shouting match, then our public process and the future of our community will be lost.
Why would any citizen with a constructive idea come forward to present those thoughts to the town board, much less run for office, if any suggestion is met with the scorn and invective exhibited in Patrick’s letter?
Bringing forward ideas, discussing them, and making considered decisions (nearly all of which will be disagreed with by someone) is what your trustees are charged to do. The first part of that process is to bring up the topics. That’s all that’s happened here. Drafting a document to clearly outline the issue is part of the process and is designed to focus the discussions. Without a defined framework, such as a specific ordinance, the debate easily becomes unfocused and overly general. That can lead to bad decisions.
It’s understandable for a member of the general public, who has never attended town board meetings, to not know how the public process works. Patrick, on the other hand, has years of observation. It’s a shame he didn’t learn anything from it, or chooses to engage in character assassination instead of a positive contribution.
He also completely misrepresents the overall relationship between the town government, the business community, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Downtown Enhancement efforts, aligning himself with a group of nay-sayers who have steadfastly not participated in the efforts under way to make improvements to downtown and sit on the sidelines making negative and inaccurate pronouncements about those efforts.
The trustees and I have been nothing but encouraging and supportive to the citizen and business committees that are producing exciting projects to be built this year to create a more attractive downtown. If it weren’t for the town board’s insistence on a share of the bond proceeds from the big annexations, there would be no money available for the downtown improvements or, for that matter, the hoped for recreation center.
Having the debate on the future of downtown is important. Putting forth ideas for consideration is a part of that process. The accusatory, demeaning, arrogant, inaccurate, and inflammatory rhetoric in Patrick’s letter contributes nothing positive to the discussion and only will make it more difficult to focus on the bigger picture. His misrepresentations of the positions and roles of the Board of Trustees and the mayor are irresponsible and I would have thought beneath someone of his knowledge and experience.