We have a very curious situation here in Henderson County. In most
communities, people join boards out of a sense of duty and heartfelt
desire to improve life in their communities. Here, however, we have
a small group of well to do men who join boards in order to keep
progress from happening. This is odd considering the fact that most
people in the sunset of their lives turn their attention to the
health and welfare of future generations. These members of the Etowah
Dinner Club have turned their attention to the health and welfare
of their own agendas. Bored with their lazy hazy days, they revel
in producing useless debates and gridlock. Nowhere can that be better
seen than in the case of the ill fated Environmental Advisory Board.
You may have read in the Times-News that the Environmental Advisory
Board is being re-chartered by our environmentally concerned Board
of Commissioners. Where you impressed that Commissioner Chair Bill
Moyer who refused to prevent an asphalt plant from being built in
the middle of a residential area has now had an epiphany that air
quality is a critical issue for our community? Did you surmise that
Chairmen Ken Weitzen, had left the board because two years is an
exhausting effort added to his work and family responsibilities?
We will return to the answer to the last question in a moment.
Three years ago, five people from the Environmental Conservation
Organization sat around a table discussing how they might help the
community prevent the fast track deterioration of our natural surroundings.
Although we had no idea of the impending asphalt plant on Mud Creek,
disappearing woodland, a former proposed asphalt plant on North
Rugby Road, cell-towers, litter, illegal dumps, and worsening air
quality were reasons enough to motivate a plan of action. After
a year of planning, this group decided to propose the formation
of a "citizen advisory board to advise the Commissioners on
matters related to environmental quality." (Proposal March
The purpose for this board was: "1. To provide a means for
dialogue between the Commissioners and citizens with environmental
concerns, 2. Provide local government leaders and their planning
departments with expert and comprehensive advice on various protection
policies and compliance standards related to the environment, 3.To
prevent brush fire environmental issues from taking up too much
of the Commissioner's time., 4. Promote intergovernmental and public/private
cooperation on environmental policies, 5. To initiate and perform
special studies and projects on environmental concerns. 6. To research
and apply for grants that would benefit the county's environment."
(Proposal) Good and lofty purposes, don't you think? Not to some
of those who were appointed. In no time it became obvious to those
of us nearest the proposal that these gentlemen's reason for applying
was to make sure none of the above happened. This did not go unnoticed
by the public, either Larson Lambert wrote these prophetic words
in a letter to the editor, "What a travesty of government.
The Henderson County Board of Commissions did the citizens and itself
a disservice with the membership it appointed to the Environmental
Advisory Board. Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse….By
creating such a disparate and divergent board, I believe the commissioners
have doomed the board to conflict and failure." (Times-News
7/2/99) Doris Kasner of Etowah also saw trouble afoot, "Having
read "Profiles of environmental board members" (Times-News,
Sunday) has resulted in my sharing a now familiar statement…"'Tis
a puzzlement." Environment is not casual. It envelops all the
conditions, circumstances and influences surrounding our lives.
Therefore I cannot believe how casually some of these board members
were chosen. So many citizens, known and recognized in our area,
for their dedication and hard work in this field have been ignored."
With what result? Two years later, Ken Weitzen, ever the gentlemen
that he truly is, resigns without comment because he is tired of
the endless debates and lack of cooperative spirit that these "foxes"
have produced. By the way, he was also tired of these self same
debaters missing meetings on a regular basis. Check the records.
Yet, the need for this board of promise is stronger than ever. Helene
Cohen, President for the Council for Women outlined those needs
when she said in a recent letter to the editor, "Air pollution,
stream impairment, waste disposal, and shrinking green spaces are
immediate environmental problems that threaten the quality of life
for every citizen in Henderson County. ...We strongly urge you re-charter
this board June 30 and strengthen the resources provided to it."
She further stated, "Women place a high priority on the health
and well being of the land that sustains us. We believe that the
future for our families and neighbors is threatened by the County's
lack of land-use planning and by ordinances that favor commercial
interests at the expense of the air we breathe and the water we
drink. We want to reverse that situation. We want to keep what we
have and protect it from further encroachment and decline."
Well, Mrs. Cohen, even with some excellent new appointments that
will be pretty hard to do since the foxes are still lurking in the
To my readers: If you ever wonder if I get
comments on these columns, I do occasionally. What are your thoughts
on the matter?
opinions stated in this page are those of Ms. Eva Ritchey and do
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