Must This Show Go On?

The recent actions by the always entertaining Wawarsing Town Board have reached new heights, or rather depths, of absurdity. Echoing John Kerry's memorable, "I voted for it before I voted against it," the Town Board has continued its flip-flops and contortions in what has become a non-stop circus of embarrassing nonsense. As an opening act, we have the now-you-see-it, now-you-don't "do-over" vote concerning the current residents of the defunct Tamarack Lodge in Greenfield Park. Seemingly, it was resolved a few weeks ago when the board voted, in a rare display of prudence, to withhold the town's recognition of the group as a bona-fide Native American tribe. We should have known it wouldn't last. After the dubious spectacle of being summoned to the lodge en-masse to meet with the resident's legal and business representatives, they returned refreshed, with a new routine to perform for us.

The act started with a feint. John Gavaris, trumpeting the need to serve the public, assured this newspaper nothing would be voted on last Thursday. They would wait to gauge what constituents felt and might contribute through a survey. Instead, seizing an opportunity with only three board members present, the two "No" votes conveniently absent, the board hastily changed its collective mind in a public meeting that lasted all of ten minutes. When asked directly by this newspaper if this all did not appear at the best a little "unseemly," Supervisor Jennings ignored the question and forced the vote through.

But then the board seems to have a history of emphatically saying one thing, doing the opposite, and then having the whole thing fall apart regardless, don't they? The main act stars our town supervisor, in another embarrassing spectacle on Monday. Accommodating the request of Wal-Mart and the owner of the Napanoch Valley Mall, the supervisor organized a meeting between them and various town officials. Rightly concluding that the meeting should be public, the supervisor invited others outside government to attend, including the press. Needless to say, things didn't work out this way.

According to the supervisor, Wal-Mart demanded and got a private meeting. To prevent those pesky legal requirements like the open meetings law from interfering, we were treated to another head-shaking display of municipal ineptitude a parade of individual board members going up and down the stairs to the board room to meet with Wal-Mart in small enough numbers to prevent a quorum, and a lobby full of people now not allowed to attend; disenfranchised, ignored, and ultimately dismissed.

Whose interests is this board serving? Since when does a private corporation get to determine the nature of how our government should run its meetings? To simply state, as the supervisor did, that Wal-Mart "would leave" if the meeting were public demonstrates who is calling the shots here, and it isn't us. Is that how we want this development to be overseen?

Like trout on opening day, we have a town board willing to leap at anything dangled before them, no matter who holds the rod. Imaginary casinos, exploitative road rallies; you name it, this ill-considered and knee-jerk "governance" they are subjecting us to serves no one, and come election day, not even themselves.

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