While I am waiting for some additional information on the next articles, I will take some time here to revisit the memorial forest land exchange from last year. For those who did not see it, I wrote an article about it after the county meeting in which the Commissioners voted three to two to approve of the exchange in spite of overwhelming public opposition. The land exchanged was ultimately halted by the DNR Commissioner after he received the information detailing the vast public opposition.
Today, I would like to highlight some of the lessons learned, and some of the questions which need to be asked.
- We can not count on three of our current Commissioners to desist in voting against such strenuous public objection. The other two cited public opinion as a consideration for their decisions to side with the public and vote against the land exchange.
- The key bit of information which led the DNR Commissioner to deny the land exchange was a video of the meeting showing the extensive testimony of the public against the exchange. When we show up to meetings and speak out, we can make a difference.
- This video was not included in the information sent to the DNR by the county, although it was an integral part of the meeting in which the vote was held. A private citizen took it upon themselves to send in the video. This act made all of the difference in the final decision.
- If we do not supervise our employees, the county officials, they may be inclined to think that they can do what they want instead of what we want. They work for us, they should answer to us.
- What led three of the Commissioners to vote against such strong public objection? Did they have an interest in the land exchange of which we are not yet aware?
- Why did the County fail to send the video record, which included the public testimony, of the meeting to the DNR as part of a complete package? Was there a reason someone working for the county decided to send the information favorable for the land exchange, but not send the information unfavorable to the exchange? Was this person, or persons, trying to influence the State’s decision, and skew it towards approving the exchange?
- Who was this person, or persons? I would think that it would be the County Administrator, or someone under her supervision, as this would be an administrative function, but we have no information on this as yet. Could someone other than the Commissioners have had a vested interest in seeing the land exchange approved, or were they just following orders?
I again now, as I did then, commend the two Commissioners who listened to us and voted against the exchange. I remain perplexed as to why the three who voted to approve the land exchange did so. If anyone can add some information to this to help explain this, I ask you to do so.
The best lesson of all to be gleaned from this episode is that we can make a difference.