| Letter to the editor from Sarah Gusky Kemer |
The Select Board will, tonight, discuss a resolution they have dubbed a “mask mandate,” but actually is a full on absence-of-action order for any pandemic-related orders that have already or may come from our State government. Putting aside the fact that it is full of scientific inaccuracies, with either old or no references to back up their claims (and in 2021 we can link out to references, so there is just no excuse), and the legality is in question after other municipalities have failed to uphold such measures in state courts, the manner in which this resolution has been put forth should concern every citizen, even those who may support such a measure.
First, the agenda and the resolution’s text was uploaded to the site, and thus available to citizens, just the evening before the Select Board meeting. This does not give citizens adequate time to read or respond to the resolution’s text. In fact, if it weren’t for the NGXchange, most citizens wouldn’t even know this was on the agenda at all. While I’m grateful for this citizen-run site, shouldn’t we expect a higher level of transparency straight from our government? Shouldn’t the Select Board be willfully and even enthusiastically putting forth the documents and agenda items, each of which affect each citizen individually–particularly since New Gloucester insists on using the archaic Robert’s Rules of Order for their meetings which restricts public comments solely to the beginning and does not require response to these comments? An opaque government is a dangerous government, one that does not act with the democratic spirit of our country but rather the underhanded spirit of those attempting to retain power.
Second, the timing of this resolution is highly suspect. We’ve been following these orders from the State for over a year now. Why pass such a resolution when we are on our way out of these orders, when the Governor is continually evaluating and loosening the restrictions on businesses and citizens–which were originally enacted to keep the public safe? There are two reasons I can deduce. 1) There are potential, impending vaccine orders that could come down from the State that the Select Board does not want to follow, perhaps even for personal reasons (which should be set aside when discussing matters that affect more than just you as an individual). While I have not heard of any that could come from Augusta, vaccine orders are on everyone’s mind right now as vaccination rates (thankfully) increase and governments consider how to safely return to a more normal life. 2) It’s May, and there are only a few Select Board meetings left until the June election. This is nothing other than a pandering act for the more conservative votes in our town. Whether this passes or not will not matter; just the fact that it’s been put forth will benefit an election campaign for certain board members.
Which brings me to the third and perhaps most important issue. There is no name attached to this resolution. We don’t know which Board member(s) is putting forth this resolution. This is probably allowable as New Gloucester currently runs, but it shouldn’t be. Each resolution in State and Federal government has to have a name, or several, attached to it. Who is supporting this measure to the extent that they are offering it to the government as law or policy? Who supports the original writer? This level of transparency is important as we work within a democratic society. We as citizens elect our representation with the knowledge we have about them. The less knowledge we have, the less representative that person is to the citizens of the government. With this in mind, I would ask that the person or people who wrote this resolution come forward. To do otherwise is nothing more than political cowardice. And further, I would encourage the Charter Commission to provide the policies needed to avoid such underhanded resolutions in the future. Every citizen deserves to know who is representing them and what they stand for.
I am embarrassed that this resolution is even up for discussion, and urge the Select Board not to pass it. If not for the scientific inaccuracies and the lack of legal upholding, then for the opaque nature of the resolution that undermines the democratic government of New Gloucester.
Sent to the NGXchange and CC’d the Select Board
Sarah Gusky Kemer, citizen of New Gloucester
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this opinion piece are solely those of the author. Publication does not reflect endorsement by the NGXchange or its volunteers. NGX welcomes diverse viewpoints and invites your submissions. Learn more here.