SUPPORT THE PETITION
Bud Kulik is right. It was unfair, at the special town meeting of Jan. 30, to allow supporters but not opponents to speak before voting. That vote sent a resolution to dozens of high officials in the US and Canada declaring Bethel's opposition to sending tar sands oil through the pipeline that connects Portland and Montreal via Bethel. I support Bud's petition to force the reconsideration of that decision at our regular June town meeting.
That special town meeting was unfair long before the question was called prematurely, though. Almost nobody but the resolution's proponents knew that this resolution would be on the warrant for the Jan. 30 special town meeting until we all read about it in the Jan. 24 Bethel Citizen. This edition contained a front page above-the-fold article about the Jan. 22 meeting of the selectmen attended by two dozen proponents of the resolution and quoting four of them, plus the full text of the resolution, plus a letter to the editor supporting the resolution.
There was nothing in the article about any opposing views, but how could there have been? This article had to go to press only hours after the selectmen's meeting, with no opportunity to ask the pipeline company or the Canadian government for their take on the resolution. Had a reader of the Jan. 24 article written a letter to the editor suggesting that there might be another side to this issue and that the citizens of Bethel would do well to defer voting until they had heard it, that letter would have been published on Jan. 31, the day after the special town meeting.
It is no secret that special town meetings can pass articles that would never pass muster at a regular town meeting, because a few dozen partisans can overwhelm a sparsely attended special town meeting. This is why selectmen are expected to defer all public votes until the regular town meeting, except for things that absolutely cannot wait. This resolution could easily have waited until June, but only Don Bennett recognized this. The other four selectmen were either absent, or were swayed by the weak arguments for urgency or by their own support for the resolution. We deserve better than this from our selectmen.