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Residents respond to Northampton Supervisors after Rails to Trails Public Mtg

21 Sep 2016

Northampton Twp Board of Supervisors

Northampton Twp Board of Supervisors

Below is an email sent to the NH BOS from a township resident:

Date: September 16, 2016
To: “Larry Weinstein” <lweinstein@nhtwp.org>
Cc: “Robert Pellegrino” <rmp@nhtwp.org>, “Barry Moore” <bmoore@nhtwp.org>, “Kimberly Rose” <krose@nhtwp.org>, “Frank ODonnell” <fodonnell@nhtwp.org>, “Elaine Silver” <esilver@nhtwp.org>, “Mike Solomon” <msolomon@nhtwp.org>,
Subject: RE: resident’s opinions on Newtown Rails to Trails

Dear Mr. Weinstein,

I acknowledge and respect the difficult position that you and the other Supervisors face in dealing with the volatile issue of the Newtown Rails to Trails proposal. However I am deeply concerned about the way this issue is being handled, particularly with respect to public comments.

Last evening’s hearing was distressing on a number of levels. Two county officials from the Planning Commission were invited to give a presentation by the NHT Board of Supervisors upon the recommendations received from residents at prior meetings. In your opening remarks, you quite appropriately asked the assembly to address their remarks and questions to those two officials. You also indicated that questions from the audience would be taken row by row, beginning in row 1. We know, by now, that there is a core of confirmed opponents to the trails project. numbering perhaps 20 –30 individuals. These opponents came early and filled the first three rows of seats, and with several exceptions were the only persons given the ability to address the Planning Commission members. They had the right, of course, to express their opinions. However most of the opponents spoke from printed scripts and few of them asked questions of the Commission members, but rather faced the audience and addressed the world at large. They did not follow your clear initial instructions to address the county representatives, and thus, as it appeared to me, to disrespect the Planning Commission representatives.

However it was clear from the composition of those attending last evening’s meetings, that a large majority of Northampton Twp residents in attendance were supportive of the rails to trails project. The vast majority of those in the back half of the auditorium, and many in the front half indicated their support by holding “vote yes” signs. Almost none of them were given the opportunity to speak. The vocal minority of trail opponents were, essentially, given an opportunity to filibuster any significant dialogue with the county representatives. I have been a life long resident of Cornell Avenue, and I’ve spoken with most of my neighbors regarding the project, both those opposed and those in favor. I assured all of them that I would work to obtain answers to their questions about the project, and I had several technical questions to ask the Commission representatives last night. Even though I was seated in the fourth row, I was not given the opportunity to ask questions on behalf of xxxxxx Avenue residents who are both “pro” and “con.”

We live in a Republic. We elect responsible people to fill responsible positions in order to decide difficult questions. The residents of Northampton Township have given you the responsibility to listen to all relevant opinions and to exercise your best judgment to find solutions. The majority should not be heard from exclusively, nor should the minority. Regrettably, the present situation for discernment of how to settle this rails to trails issue does not seem to be working. The minority appears to dominate the discussion. The same 20 – 30 individuals are heard from again and again, while the voice of the majority is stifled. Things should change, and here are some suggestions:

1. Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not to proceed with additional studies rests with you, the Board of Supervisors. If you want to hear from all of the residents, then you must come up with an efficient way to do so. Last night’s arrangement clearly didn’t work. Given the information with which you have been already presented, the resident’s petitions and the clear evidence of widespread support, you may well wish to hold another meeting with the County representatives in which Board of Supervisors alone ask questions. You have indicated in the past that the Board of Supervisors has a number of unanswered questions. Such a forum would allow you to seek answers in an open air format. You could also, of course, authorize the county to proceed with the proposed studies. I favor this approach. Such a move would not bind you to future approval of the project, but it would antagonize the vocal opposition. It would also augment your standing in the eyes of the project’s supporters. Mercifully, I don’t have to make this choice. But your call to public service puts you in the hot seat.

2. If you wish to continue with public comment you must come up with a way for all of our residents to express their opinions, not just the most fired up folks, such as me, or the project’s opponents. I suggest a venue in which two microphones are placed in an auditorium, one for the “pro” folks, and one for the “con” folks. You could them simply alternate between speakers until time runs out, everyone has spoken, or we’ve all passed out or died.

This is clearly an important issue for township residents. To quote a chant from the ‘60s: “the whole world is watching.”

Thank you, and best wishes. DavidL, Northampton Twp Resident

 

Sign the petition to build the Newtown Rail Trail at www.bikebuckscounty.com

Voice your Opinion by emailing the Northampton Twp Supervisors at:

Barry Moore: bmoore@nhtwp.org, Kimberly Rose: krose@nhtwp.org, Frank Donnell: fodonnell@nhtwp.org, Elaine Silver: esilver@nhtwp.org, Larry Weinstein: lweinstein@nhtwp.org

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