At their last Town Meeting voters in Sutton decided where they were going to “put their mouths” in regard to the UPC wind project proposed for our area. This Wednesday they will decide whether to put their money in the same place.
If they decide not to, it might have been better if the first vote had gone the other way. Better to lie down and beg for mercy than to put up your fists in the face of a developer and an electric co-op only to reveal, some months later, that you lack the stomach for a fight.
Of course, some will say that for Sutton the fight is over. After all, UPC has agreed to scale back its project. What UPC has not agreed to do is to link those plans to a promise. We are not alone in fearing that their decision amounts to an old strategy, one that students of military history will recognize at once: fake a retreat, watch the enemy throw all caution to the wind as they race into your trap, then close in for the kill.
Cutting loose your lawyer when you’re up against a corporation is just the kind of reckless behavior that fake retreats are designed to inspire. It’s like stripping off your armor. You’ll wish you had it on when the guys who appear to be running away from you suddenly turn around and charge.
And if that happens, if UPC gets a foothold here and then decides to expand its operation later on, what standing will Sutton have with the Public Service Board and in the court of public opinion? None worth mentioning. What harm in putting up another twelve towers? Or another fifty? What harm in building another casino in Vegas?
People have different takes on the wind tower controversy. Some will tell you it’s all about global warming; others see it as a property rights issue. We tend to see it as a set of questions about the nature and future of small communities like our own.
For instance, can they survive in the age of global corporations? Can they develop their own resources and plan their own destinies, or do they have value only when they can be developed by someone else and as part of someone else’s agenda?
And do they deserve to survive? Are they republics in miniature or merely the pocket-sized fiefdoms of a few good old boys? Do they hold together through ties of common interest and mutual affection, or must they inevitably be pried apart by any outsider who knows how to locate the fault lines of old resentments?
If the pessimistic answers to the questions above are the true ones, then perhaps small towns ought to go the way of the dodo bird. In that case, UPC may truly be an instrument of progress. We happen not to think so, which is why we’re betting on Sutton, and voting to keep the lawyer.
Garret and Kathy Keizer
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