In The Twilight Zone…
Letters to the Editor
From over 40 years of experience working with city and tribal councils, county commissioners, and board members, I’ve come to expect a certain level of interest from them – about their community and the things that affect it … the things that matter. I’ve grown to respect them for the attention and courtesy they show for their “constituency.” And then in a flash, in one moment of “Coulee Dam reality,” that respect was tarnished.
The town is facing one of its largest expenditures ever, a $6.2 million ill-conceived and unnecessary project promoted by engineering consultants (who stand to be paid over $1.2 million for their services). They’ve already been paid about $70,000 to convince us to spend the rest!
These engineers made a clumsy and lackluster presentation to the town council, interested citizens, and tribal representatives Wednesday past. After the presentation, questions were asked. However, not one, not a single question from the (our) Town Council … they sat there – blank and silent. They seemed so uninterested and devoid of passion (or compassion) that I thought I was in an old black and white “Twilight Zone” episode (I’m still humming that damn theme song)!
Wouldn’t you expect that if they were going to spend over $11,000 from every household budget, they would at least pretend to be interested?! The Town is spending $6 million directly out of our pockets – and that’s $6 million that we won’t have to buy lunch at the casino, dinner at the Melody Grill, some family time at the bowling alley, a movie at the Village Cinema, fuel at the service station, or fresh baked maple bars at Harvest foods. Maybe our council members and mayor don’t do those things anyway. I know our town clerk doesn’t.
The audience didn’t really want to hear the engineering mumbo-jumbo about the nitrification process that creates low pH when the ambient summer temperature causes a bio-chemical reaction. Nor did they want to hear about round and string-like bacteria requiring a $200,000 bio-selector to help them sink or swim in the new $600,000 clarifier (a swimming pool of sorts)… Hell, these bacteria are getting more attention than the town was willing to give to the swimming pool for its children!
We, as interested citizens, wanted a demonstration of real need (a justification, if you will), an explanation of the costs, an understanding of the new (doubling of) the sewer bills. And we wanted — no — expected our council members to be there probing and serving our interests. The mayor defended the project in his usual arrogant and ignorant way … with an apparent and complete lack of understanding. He (and the council members) had obviously already been convinced by the engineer that this project was absolutely necessary. Missing, too, from the meeting were the regulators; they hadn’t even been notified or invited.
As a footnote to the meeting, I was discouraged from attending by this comment from the Town Clerk: “Greg, we are not taking input or questions – it’s only an informational meeting to describe what we will be doing. The decisions have already been made.”
I questioned that. I called the Department of Ecology, I called the Tribe, I called the Environmental Protection Agency … all of whom have a stake in the project. There was a general feeling of disbelief from them all: “A public meeting without questions!”
Then in a follow-up call, there was a bit of a change. “Greg, this is not a ‘public hearing’ but we will allow ‘some’ questions after the presentation.”
There you have it … true and good reasons to flee. But then there was this magical full moon a few nights ago, buoyed by an azure morning sky fighting to stay afloat above the west canyon rim.
I remain interested, yet disappointed in the lack of mayoral (and now) council leadership. I also remain,
F. Gregory Wilder