Editor showed a bias
In his thought-provoking opinion piece “Has town meeting run its course?” (March 7), Steve Pappas posits that town meetings should be eliminated. I don’t agree with him on this, but that’s not why I’m writing. Instead, I’d like to comment on the article about the Plainfield Town Meeting that appeared in the paper the day before (“Plainfield voters spar over biomass plant”).
Mr. Pappas was among the electorate present at Plainfield’s town meeting and was the person responsible for that article (although it was not attributed to him). The article was almost exclusively devoted to the lengthy biomass heating debate the meeting witnessed. (In his opinion piece, the unfortunate tone of some of that discussion is cited as an argument in favor of leaving deliberations to “the privacy of the voting booth.”) In 50 words or less, the news article notes that certain budget decisions were made but, aside from that, no other significant town meeting business was reported on. Instead, over 800 words were lavished on a detailed description of the contention over a non-binding resolution. It was hard not to conclude from the article that town meetings can be a waste of time.
As anyone in attendance at Plainfield’s town meeting knows, there were several decisions regarding matters of real significance to the town that, unfortunately, went unreported. The fact that voters decided to proceed with the repairs that are needed to re-open the Plainfield Town Hall, which has been closed for safety reasons for the past 16 months, was not mentioned in Mr. Pappas’s news story. (The fact that Plainfield’s town meeting was held in the gymnasium at Twinfield this year should have been a natural lead-in for a reporter taking note of this important community decision.) Voters also gave a green light to the Select Board to develop plans for a substantial renovation of the town’s municipal building. Since both the Plainfield Town Hall and the municipal building have been reported on in The Times Argus in the recent past, one would have expected these decisions to have garnered some attention in any news story on Plainfield’s town meeting.
I realize that conflict makes compelling reading and sells newspapers. But I can’t help but wonder if the news story Mr. Pappas wrote was slanted in a way that would bolster his follow-on critique of town meeting in general. Why else would he lavish so much attention on a non-binding resolution, and so little space to the more substantive and meaningful decisions the voters made? (The absence of drama or extended debate does not signify the absence of a thoughtful decision.) In any event, it is ironic that someone who laments what he perceives to be a lack of attention paid by voters to things like budgets and major investments in municipal facilities (which he correctly describes as “the meat of any town meeting”) would give those matters such short shrift in his reporting.
The writer is chairman of the Select Board.
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