Politics As Usual?

So I’ve kind of been out of the loop with the whole vacation and everything, but I’m starting to get back into things. In case you only stop in to read LPJ from time to time, there has been a vigorous debate going on in the comments pertaining to Laidlaw and Mayor Paul Grenier.
Laidlaw’s application was rejected by the SEC last week. They have indicated the issues should be sorted out quickly. The Sierra Club has also joined Clean Power Development and several private citizens in asking the SEC to reject the application, although at this point I’m not sure what that means as it already has been rejected.
Mayor Grenier thanked representatives from Laidlaw at the at his inaugural address, and he sounded rather authoritarian in his speech when he warned people not to try to derail the project.
Mayor Grenier does not have veto power or the ability to ram policy past opponents, some of with are resolute as in their beliefs as he is. The Laidlaw application was found wanting in several areas, and my understanding of the law is they have 10 days to rectify the issues before they have to reapply (anyone with a better understanding feel free to chime in). This may mean pitched battles in council and another substantial waiting period before SEC review.
Discussion about the merits of the project, its future and its developer, or the policies, rhetoric and outlook of the new mayor, are worthwhile discussions for a city to have. Honestly, I’d love to have every resident of Berlin chime in on how they feel about these issues. I wish there were some polling organization capable of truly gauging the feelings of residents. There isn’t, however, and the discussions are often behind the faceless veil of the Internet, which isn’t always conducive to honest discourse.

I have to say, however, I am happy to see people engaged. I wish all of Berlin cared the way people on LPJ seem to. I do not, by any means, have the answers for Berlin. My perspective is only one, and it is of limited experience and without deep roots in the city’s past. I recognize that at times that is a hindrance, but it is also an asset. I don’t know what former Mayor Robert Danderson was like when he chaired the council. I don’t know what Mayor Grenier was like before I met him several months ago. I don’t know what Councilor Michael Rozak was like when he was on the school board. I wasn’t around when Laidlaw first came to town, or when CPD first came to town, or when former Mayor David Bertrand was elected two years ago.
I know Berlin since I started working there in May 2009. What I see is a city with problems, but with a core of dedicated people willing to work and sacrifice to find solutions. They don’t agree on what solution works best, but they all agree that Berlin is a wonderful place worth fighting for. And I’m right there with them.

There is more to every story than I have reported. There is more to every political deal than has made it into any paper, or onto any website. I would love to find verifiable sources for all of this information and get it out there so the community can make more informed decisions, but it isn’t all sitting on my desk. I do what I can, and I’ve been able to break several stories involving biomass and politics. Do I get them all? No. But as one reporter covering the entire city I figure I do OK.
I take tips, and not the waitstaff kind, but I take them with a grain of salt. What are the motivations behind any information I get? Can I verify it independently? Will someone go on record and talk to me about it? That’s the guidelines I work with in the paper. Here, on LPJ, I am a little looser because this is my personal blog, but I still work to maintain a level of professionalism the citizens of northern New Hampshire deserve. I report leads I get, and I work to get more information up quickly as it comes in. I hope people find this valuable and worth reading.

In the end, what I hope LPJ does is foster discussion. I don’t have any answers, but I enjoy sharing my opinion. I invite anyone to do the same. I have had a sharp commentary from time to time (usually due to a late council meeting) but I refrain from personal attacks. Whether you dislike Jon Edwards’ rhetoric or that of the new mayor, I’d appreciate it if people focused on the substance of the commentary and not the person. It is hard to compromise with someone who just insulted you, or who you just insulted.
I do respect people’s right to disagree with me, or even to make points on my blog about why my opinion may be obtuse. It may be—I am not immune to illogical thinking (my wife can attest to that). But sign your name, do it respectfully, and further the overall conversation. Berlin is an amazing community. The debates about biomass and about politics will likely last for the next decade, as these projects and others move through the world. Residents need to be informed. I have no desire to proselytize. I would even entertain thoughtful commentaries from anyone who wished to submit one. But please maintain civility, it makes the conversation go much smoother.

And also, if you know anyone in the area who doesn’t care one way or the other about these important issues, try to engage them. The future of Berlin is at stake, and it should be the residents who decide where it goes. One argument is people were asleep at the wheel and elected Mayor Grenier against their best interests. The other is they diligently steered the car that is Berlin Mayor Grenier’s way. I am not about to guess which it is, and I don’t know that it does any good for anyone else in Berlin to do it either. The registered voters of Berlin made their decision, and now it will play out for the next two years. Keep struggling for what you feel is important, and hopefully in the end all of Berlin will come out on top.

Off to a BIDPA meeting. Hopefully I’ll see you in Berlin.

3 thoughts on “Politics As Usual?

  1. Good post Eric. I agree that civil discussion is best for both sides. And, as I've said before, I honestly believe people on both sides of the debate feel that what they are doing is in the best interest of the City. I want to reiterate one very important point. Those of us living in Berlin have very real concerns about a biomass plant in the downtown area. This plant is in plain view for 75% of us and we are worried about noise, dust, air pollution, truck traffic, etc. I'm sure you can appreciate that sentiment.

  2. I absolutely understand that sentiment. It is valid and should not be ignored. But there are a number of former mill workers who travel south of the notches because they can't find work in Berlin who are in favor of Laidlaw. They want the jobs, despite the concerns. I'm not picking a side in this argument. I'm making sure both sides have a voice. I'm trying to expand the amount of information available, and to ensure it is good information. Residents with diverging viewpoints and different backgrounds need to work it out among themselves. I am not one of those residents. My job is to get people information, which hopefully will inform Berlin's discussion. It's good so many people are engaged and care about these issues—without such passion Berlin will never find a path forward.Thanks for the positive comments.

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