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Letter to the editor: Polarizing language was not helpful in BLSG debate

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Posted on March 14, 2019 |
By Heidi Willis



I am writing in response to Mr. Lynn’s editorial of 3/7/19, “BLSG: Finding Common Ground.” If one were interested in helping those engaged in the debate regarding the spraying and board practices of the Brandon Leicester Salisbury Goshen and Pittsford Mosquito District, then I wouldn’t begin by calling the discussion a “slugfest.” Mr. Lynn also describes the Salisbury Town Meeting as “Trumpian,” though he wasn’t actually in attendance. As one who attended the whole meeting (and has worked with a small group of Salisbury citizens trying to maintain a meaningful, informative, respectful and enjoyable Town Meeting…) I find this characterization highly offensive and wildly inaccurate.

I would offer a different description of the meeting. It was civil, respectful, lively, and very informative. As happens at most Town Meetings, there were differences of opinion, all of which were heard out. There was no name calling, bullying, ridiculing, chanting, or swinging on the flag … none! (I have attended a few Salisbury meetings that did include some of the aforementioned.) 

Though not a Salisbury resident, Dr. Lawton was given permission to speak for 5 minutes, after a voice vote by the citizens, as required by Town Meeting rules of order. He had been apprised of this requirement days before Town Meeting occurred. There were loud voices on both sides during the voice vote. When Dr. Lawton exceeded his time limit and went off topic, Moderator Wayne Smith correctly and respectfully required him to stop. 

Comments that I heard at the potluck following the meeting were that the meeting was informative and useful and civil. What could be construed to be “Trumpian” in this whole situation is how disagreement is perceived. Disagreement and differing opinions, to state the obvious, is a foundation of democratic practice. In this case, the BLSG does not appear to welcome differing perspectives, criticisms, suggestions, or anyone with new ideas, either about operating as a board, or in field practice. Former Salisbury BLSG representative Kip Andres has written a clear and descriptive letter about his observations and experiences with the BLSG Board which can found in the Addison Independent online paper, or Moosalamoo Woods and Waters website. His description is of a board that is secretive, defensive, entrenched and unprofessional. I encourage folks to read the full letter, which is reasoned and detailed. (The Addison Independent declined to print the letter in full in its print edition because of its length.)

Mr. Lynn suggests caution in reading the information offered by Moosalamoo W&W. One could suggest the same caution when reading BLSG materials. The BLSG report in the Salisbury Town Report warned residents about the possibility of the Zika virus in Vermont. As corrected by a Vermont State Ag official, the mosquitoes that carry Zika are found only in Texas and Florida and don’t live in Vermont. 

If Mr. Lynn truly wants to help in finding common cause, then he could widen his sources of information, note that a number of recent letter writers are citizens of wide experience and expertise, deep community involvement and are well respected, even if falling under the dubious category of “liberal environmentalist”! He could also refrain from using polarizing language. To be clear, Salisbury residents engaged in a lively, passionate, informative and respectful debate and discussion around this topic during Town Meeting, as opposed to a Trumpian slugfest and perhaps, the lawsuit and the close Salisbury vote are not a “nuisance” but a wakeup call.

Heidi Willis

Salisbury

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