To the Editor:
I hesitate to write this because it’s easy to criticize from the sidelines. I also greatly respect the efforts of those who participate in town politics, which seems an often tedious and stressful, if necessary activity. But my urge to share some observations from last week’s Bar Harbor town meeting has overcome my caution.
The meeting went smoothly, in an almost boring fashion, with article after article passing without discussion. Then a motion to fund a study of building a town owned broadband network took place. There was a spirited and informative discussion, and the motion was closely defeated.
Shortly thereafter, Arthur Greif made a motion to lower taxes by removing $250,000 from a $500,000 contingency account. He argued that the half million was excessive.
There was some interesting testimony from the town finance director and public works director which explained the origin and need for the account. Greif responded with the claim that the town had overpaid a damage claim several years ago. After brief further discussion, Town Councilor Paul Paradis spoke from the stage, observing that Greif should not be taken seriously, because he has sued the town, but Paradis failed to note that the many counts in the suits Greif has been involved in were successful. This would seem to enhance his credibility, rather than tarnish it.
At this point, I was waiting for the moderator Ron Beard to call Paradis out of order for his ad hominem and misleading attack. But instead, Beard declared the discussion closed. Grief jumped up and started to respond, in a reasonable manner, but the moderator shut him down and almost immediately threatened to have the “constable” remove him as various people shouted their outrage.
Paradis’ attack was inappropriate at best. But what surprised and appalled me was Beard’s inept and high-handed handling of the situation. I’m not familiar with the rules of debate in use, but it seems that there was no compelling reason to shut the discussion down.
I understand that Greif has been a thorn in the town’s side. But given his track record, it might serve us well to listen to what he has to say. If only we had been given the chance.