A breeding ground for gossip, misinformation, outright lies

To the Editor:
It was disturbing to read the Aug. 27 article, “Westerlo woman spurs fury with misinformed Facebook post on town’s proposed comprehensive plan,” but I’m glad the Enterprise brought it to light.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic, I rarely missed a Westerlo Town Board meeting and kept up with the work of various town committees. I am very familiar with the draft comprehensive plan and attended many of the meetings, which were all open to the public, but generally not well attended.

A core group of dedicated volunteers saw the comprehensive plan process through from beginning to end, in spite of the challenges posed by limited consultant funding and the pandemic, with all its overlay of threats and disruptions. Residents received surveys and their responses were tabulated and carefully considered.

There were focus group meetings and ongoing input was welcomed. Committee members conducted research on relevant issues, and discussed, critiqued, and reviewed findings, in order to present a robust and thorough plan for the town board to consider. I know how hard they worked. My husband was one of the committee members.

Betty Filkins [in her Facebook post] is quoted as saying that the “5 remaining ‘writers’ of this plan want to make all trails in the town NON-motorized.”

The Enterprise correctly noted that there is no language in the plan that states or implies such a notion. As one of the ways to attract tourism, the plan actually says: “Construct, promote, and maintain a multi use, non motorized trail network for hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and horseback riding.”

Dave Lendrum did his level best as chairman, as did the other “remaining writers.” That he and other committee members are being harassed because of Filkins’s baseless and inflammatory “interpretation” is despicable.

So is the statement [in a Facebook comment] by Lisa DeGroff, Westerlo’s GOP chairwoman, that the work of the committee “is more like a commie plan.” So is DeGroff’s call for intimidation, where she says, “All ATV and snowmobile riders should show up [to the public hearing] — helmets ON. That will send a HUGE message without having to say a single word.”

I am not now, nor have I ever been, on Facebook. People tell me it’s a great way to keep up with family and friends. In my opinion, it is also a breeding ground for gossip, misinformation, outright lies, defamation, hatred, and war-mongering. It is a corrupted modern-day structure to hold Kangaroo Court, where facts are irrelevant, due process ignored, evidence tampered with, ethics a joke, rush to judgement celebrated, and predetermined conclusions inevitable.

Unless you prefer lynching to justice, I suggest watching the great 1943 American film, “The Ox-Bow Incident,” as a reminder about the potential consequences of such behavior.

Anybody can read the plan on the town website before the Sept. 7 public hearing and decide for themselves, based on what is really there, whether they agree with the plan’s recommendations: bit.ly/3BsJG10.

Dianne Sefcik


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