Passion is not a one-way street

To the Editor:

Having attended the March 5 Westerlo Town Board meeting, I observed that public attendance appeared to increase.

Supervisor [Richard] Rapp, as was indicated, had signed the necessary paperwork that afternoon, and was not at the meeting. He is now officially, not our town supervisor.

The table positions were different. Westerlo’s new town attorney had an end seat and Mr. Bichteman sat at the opposite end of the table. It was nice to view all the faces of our town board. It was also courteous to seat our only female councilwoman in the center.

Councilwoman Amie Burnside, along with her team, spearheaded a committee that honors our local veterans, living or deceased. These vets are our Hometown Heroes. These heroes are displayed on flags that are strategically placed throughout the town during our favorable seasonal temperatures.

For Westerlo, this was a grassroots effort having major positive results. The original committee, I believe, consisted of five enthusiastic women: Lisa DeGroff (Republican chairwoman); Dottie Verch, (planning board chairwoman and Broadband Committee chairwoman); Betty Filkins (wife of Councilman Rich Filkins); Bonnie Laub (a previous Republican chairwoman); and, of course, Councilwoman Amie Burnside.

This committee persevered through many long hours. The members faced difficult situations and challenges of various degrees. The kindness in their good hearts allowed for this project to come to fruition. They never gave up and I consider them as heroes themselves.

The committee for this project has since expanded and everyone in the town of Westerlo can be extremely proud of this major endeavor. I know Ricky Haley, also, has become very active with this group and forgive me for those other names that I have unintentionally omitted.

These individuals continued the process with a ceremony of celebration in November. In my opinion, this committee is keeping alive the freedoms our country was founded on. I commend them all and say “thank you.”

Our town board selected a very nice, approachable, personable attorney. He has made his position very clear: He is there pertaining to legal decisions.

His knowledge of municipal law appears to be outstanding and he is a definite credit to our town. The executive session, held that night, seemed to come off, not as politically planned.

Lots of flies in the ointment but, as a past councilman, Jack Milner, used to say — he referred to it as a “back-door policy.”  This time the door slammed the other way.

The editorial of The Altamont Enterprise of Feb. 21, 2019 captured the full essence of past procedures [“How will Westerlo replace Supervisor Rapp? Let’s put it to a vote.”]. It was, in my opinion, explained accurately and clearly, through the newspaper’s search for the truth.

Now the podium, I gave it a shot the month before, after the meeting. I gave a small recitation of the Gettysburg Address:  “... that all men are created equal’’ segment instilled within myself, “we the people,” should not have to sign in, speak at a podium, or struggle with health issues to even reach the box with the microphone.

I don’t think we go through that when we pay our taxes? I don’t want intimidation, of any shape or form to put a damper on any person, causing them to have a reluctance to speak and voice their concerns. The podium should be a choice of the speaker. A receptive government would understand this.

Personally, I want all the concerns and comments of our people to be presented in an atmosphere that makes them feel comfortable, welcome, and at ease. I admired all the speakers the other night. There were many great ideas and comments.

Dianne Sefcik spoke on the “chilling effect.” She also re-addressed the state’s Open Meetings Law. I wish her topics were printed for all to take home and not just filed with the town board public records.

I believe if you deny any of us “freedom of speech” and/or “freedom of the press” it could be devastating.

Public speaking, as in other behaviors, can create passion. We must remember, passion (on any subject matter) is not a one-way street. Remember that your own passion can be met, equally, by someone else’s passion of opposition.

Through honest, respectful, and civilized communication, an objective result can be achieved. Is it not better to bend than to break?

In closing, “we the people” are entitled to a government and democracy that is representative of our Constitution and it begins at our local level. There should be equal treatment for all — and this is my passion.

Anita Marrone

Westerlo

Editor’s note: See related story.

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