Bored Members

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 17, '99)

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." (Times-News 7/2/99)

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." (Times-News)

Well, Mrs. Cohen, even with some excellent new appointments that will be pretty hard to do since the foxes are still lurking in the henhouse.

To my readers: If you ever wonder if I get comments on these columns, I do occasionally. What are your thoughts on the matter?
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*The opinions stated in this page are those of Ms. Eva Ritchey and do not necessarily represent the views of CyTech Computers & Internet Solutions, Inc.
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