February 15, 2012 - This is my last column as editor, so I want to leave with a word of advice for the leadership of Orion Township:
You're all good people, but it's time you start talking the talk.
Last spring, after the last supervisor left, all we heard about was the secret, covert meetings between him, the Township's lawyer and Waste Management. You cried that there was no transparency and the Board was duped into agreeing to allow Eagle Valley to expand.
Then you jumped on the bandwagon last summer and decided you would fight the expansion. A couple of weeks later, the board showed some common sense and suggested the Township secure a second legal opinion on the chances of winning such a battle. You may have saved us all a lot of money and embarrassment.
So here we stand five months later with little or no idea of what is happening in regard to your second opinion. You told me on the record that township officials have met with the second law firm, but refuse to say anything else. I have a strong suspicion these lawyers have provided you with their opinion on whether Orion Township should try to fight Waste Management's expansion plans.
I also know from experience lawyers prefer to be tight-lipped about their thoughts. Let me just say they may know how to navigate a courtroom, but many have little idea of how to effectively work the court of public opinion.
It is this court that you should be most concerned about.
The fact is perception is reality in this world and the feeling amongst many in our community, whether they care about the landfill or not, is that this board is anything but transparent. There have been too many closed executive sessions, "no comment" responses and general lack of communication , especially in recent weeks.
If it is a fact that your new lawyers are recommending not saying anything and you abide by this request, this news paper and others – along with the community – may start turning to other sources for information on this situation. Just because you won't talk doesn't mean the controversy will go away. By not saying anything in such a sensitive situation, you look guilty - of something.
Furthermore, there is little guarantee what the media or public find out from other sources will be accurate. At that point, you will have effectively lost control of the situation and simply be on the defensive, with nobody to blame but yourselves.
Let's not forget you started this latest chapter in the Eagle Valley saga last spring, when you cried about not being given all the facts in this situation, leading to a poor decision. The public listened and some believed you would do the right thing. They also agreed that a second opinion made sense.
Now that you are clamming up and not sharing any information, I and many others who live and pay taxes here wonder if this is just another case of politicians trying to manipulate their constituents.
Let me tell you, it won't work this time with such an emotionally charged issue. (Do you remember any of the crammed board meetings last year?) Staying out front of the situation and providing the people of Orion Township with timely, candid information on this important issue is in your best interest.
I strongly suggest being a little proactive and letting people know if the second law firm thinks you have a shot at fighting Waste Management and you are planning your strategy. Or let us know if the second firm agrees with the first and you are looking at other options.
Most of the people in this town act like adults and will be able to handle the news either way. You won't be tipping your hand, either, before it's time to fight.
But grandstanding in front of the audience later this year at a DEQ hearing on the Eagle Valley expansion may be too late – to save face with this community, or your jobs next November.
But, by then, your new lawyers may already be paid, so what will they care.