Over the course of my life, open public debate and communication have proven themselves to be the rightful cornerstone of our country and community. Every child is taught from a young age to feel pride for the flag, the constitution and the judicial prudence of the Supreme Court. America's ability to disagree fundamentally and yet work toward a mutually beneficial conclusion, qualifies the success of our democracy.
Recently, however, these fundamentals have changed as party affiliation and personal indignation have replaced logic and compromise. I recently was struck by a letter to the editor by Mr. Dean Jones (Letters to the Editor, Dec. 20) and decided to respond as his clear passion has invoked mine.
I very much appreciated Jones' interest in the paper's news and more specifically my writing. I was also flattered by his use of figures from previous stories concerning East Carbon City. As for the questions posed in his letter,
I would like to answer just a few. The "drama queens" as Mr. Jones calls Mayor Orlando LaFontaine and Council member David Maggio tend to be contentious, largely because their personalities cause them to be very vocal. As a rule, they comment on just about every issue. However, the reasons behind their comments as well as most city discussions, tend to be more complex than your letter led our readers to believe. Those who attend city meetings understand this. East Carbon and Sunnyside have co-existed for more than 100 years and being as they share a border and a long history, they do have regular disagreements. As for your mention of East Carbon vs. ECDC, anyone who read those articles will realize that the citizens of East Carbon took issue with the possibility of having polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) dumped near their town. Subsequently, they caused an uproar.
During my seven years working in local media, I have found that residents in any city, large or small take notice of potentially dangerous changes in their community. Through the public process, ECDC demonstrated the safety measures they had in place regarding PCBs, the state addressed the city, comments were taken and the issue moved forward. The Sun Advocate reported each step with comments from residents, officials and the council.
Those who attend East Carbon council sessions know that Mayor LaFontaine and Council member Maggio tend to dominate most discussions. As with any council I have covered, there are some members who are more public with their opinions than others. Your opinion of LaFontaine and Maggio was made clear via your letter. However, your contention that their comments were aimed at getting quoted in the newspaper is wrong as far as I'm concerned. Knowing both men, they would make the same comments to an empty room. Both individuals have strong opinions and I have found that they not afraid to share them.
Your failure to understand why the Sun Advocate would waste its time reporting on a "dying shanty town" bothered me greatly. Please permit me to educate you concerning our editorial decisions. For starters, East Carbon City is incredibly interesting for a town its size. Even though your opinion about the town is obvious, you seem to be spending some time reading about East Carbon.
Some do feel the council is embarrassing but that is true of every council in Carbon County. However, another factions of our readers enjoy East Carbon rhetoric. The city has gone through a great many changes in the last 20 years, a process which was expedited by the loss of East Carbon High School, an institution that served as the small city's community center and its heart. With the decline in population and occupancy, the council led by LaFontaine and Maggio I might add, started a city wide clean up effort that has been going on for several years. The "drama queens" have instituted significant and escalating fines for blighted property. While there is an argument to be made about the management of East Carbon City, the revenue brought in through CIB grants and loans has been significant over the past eight years. These funds have provided vital infrastucture the small town could never have afforded otherwise. A little FYI about funds from the Community Impact Board, that money is meant for communities impacted by energy production and the industry. Hence the name. Those tax dollars belong in counties where energy is produced, not the metropolitan areas that so frequently see the lion share of their funding.
In your opinion, the city's recent discussion concerning water usage was "another attempt to attract unwarranted attention," by LaFontaine and Maggio. When in fact, the issue was brought before the council by the city's maintenance department, who is responsible for the town's water. They approached the council concerning reservoir levels after finding historically low snow-pack and early season snow fall. To state that the town's "drama queens" brought the issue forward out of a need for personal attention is simply contrary to the facts. Additionally your statements concerning East Carbons lack of need for a new water source makes me wonder if you really do read what is written about this city. The Grassy Trail Reservoir, which supplies both East Carbon and Sunnyside with water is a very small mountain lake, which is easily effected by drought. The town's council has had to impose usage restrictions on residents twice in my lifetime. So if you really want to see a drop in property values, check out an appraisal in an area with no water.
Name calling and exaggerated rhetoric are inherently dangerous when brought into the arena of policy making. One needs look no further than our own national landscape to see how drastically scare tactics and character assassination can effect legislation. We are headed over a fiscal cliff because the majority of the House of Representatives would rather see Americans suffer than admit they lost. Now that's calling a spade a spade.
Nationally, Democrats and Republicans have demonized and slandered one another badly enough to arrest our system of government. In Washington, the vitriol and hate the parties have for one another has trumped their duty to the American people. This type of assault is most often propagated by outrageous lies and half-truths. Half truths like East Carbon's "rapidly shrinking population" and "substantial debt." Claims such as these with no numbers or context are incredibly derisive and irresponsible. But hey, any lie told enough times will grab a little traction.
You stated that a drive through East Carbon really depressed you. If you feel that way a simple remedy might be stay off of Highway 123. It only has one destination.