Vol. II No. 02 1/15/2021
by Robert Jones
It has been said that a New England Town meeting is the purest form of democracy that ensures that all policy decisions are in the public interest since no intermediaries are placed between the voters and the public decisions. Of course, on a daily basis, this is thoroughly impractical. Our solution is to elect or appoint representatives to manage the day-to-day business of the Town: the employees, overseeing expenditures, looking for the best deal on insurance... The list goes on and on. The big decisions are made at Town Meeting. By the voters. Items like zoning changes, the annual budget, major expenditures... These are decided upon by the voters. You know. You've been there.
Representative government has been hijacked recently, in a very big way. Boards of Selectmen and/or their representatives three years ago entered into closed door negotiations with the EPA and the GE corporation to craft a "solution" for the PCB contamination of our Housatonic River. This includes the towns of Sheffield, Great Barrington, Stockbridge, Lee, Lenox and the City of Pittsfield. This was done without your knowledge, your input, your right to question and void of any disclosure of details. When it was done, all the towns made money, the Town of Lee was the Grand Prize winner for $25,000,000 and a proposed toxic waste dump in a residential neighborhood. The "binding decision" was made public about a year ago, with great fanfare and celebration. But, not by all. Certainly not the residents of Lenox and Lee.
In the end, this plan ensures only that GE will pay a lot less and do a lot less to remediate the river and remove the waste than what they agreed to in the past. This was facilitated by a highly politicized, weaponized, corporate friendly EPA. This EPA, for the last four years, has overturned hundreds of environment protection laws. The damage will take decades to repair. And, they have foisted a toxic waste dump, full of cancer-causing carcinogens, a few feet from the Housatonic River, on the residents of Lee and the citizens of Berkshire County. It won't end here. Attorneys have been hired, both in Boston and here to fight this outrage. But you still have an opportunity to have a say.
Call your Selectmen. Challenge them to justify their actions, which took place behind your backs. Don't take no for an answer. You were not represented in this action. You were ruled. That doesn't fly in New England.
Photo: Joan Gallos.