To the editor:
Town government in Warren is based on the idea of a cooperative partnership between the Town Council and the citizens who volunteer their time to serve on its boards. In addition to critical planning and zoning duties, these boards help develop polices and action items that improve our community. Encouragement and support of the boards and the individuals that do this work is vital to maintain this positive partnership.
The recently defeated tree ordinance, developed over many months by the diligent work of our Tree Commission, is an example of a forward thinking policy initiative designed to help protect essential trees in Warren. Not all council members supported the proposed ordinance, as is their prerogative, but the process and protocol during the hearings was flawed and divisive leaving the members of the commission disillusioned at best.
In particular, Town Council President Chris Stanley fell short of his responsibility to insure fair and objective meetings. He in fact made a number of clearly inaccurate statements regarding specific points in the proposed ordinance that were controversial and inflammatory in nature.
For example, he referred to having to pay a fee for a permit as part of the ordinance. This is false, permits would be free. He also stated his opinion that “trees weren’t being cut down” and as a result the new ordinance was unnecessary. This notion was immediately debunked by the chairman of the Tree Commission. It appeared Mr. Stanley was intentionally misrepresenting aspects of the ordinance and making off the cuff inaccurate statements to negatively influence the outcome.
But what was most concerning and highly inappropriate was his baseless allegation that the tree commission was making a “power grab” with this ordinance. Councilman Lial correctly asked for an explanation but none was forthcoming. Beyond ludicrous, the accusation was insulting to the very people that should be at least commended for their work, even if he chose not to support it.
No one expects consensus on all the issues that we face in Warren but we do need representation from council — especially from the council president — that will act professionally and respectfully towards the volunteer boards. Otherwise we risk marginalizing these important groups.
26 State St.
Mr. Heckert is a member of the Warren Planning Board.