Orangeville Supervisor Susan May promised a new policy of open, honest and transparent government in Orangeville during her campaign in 2009. She and her running mates received slightly over half the votes. Unfortunately, since the election, Orangeville has remained a town divided nearly in half. The Municipal Code of Ethics that each town official must swear an oath to, states that “Municipal Officials should avoid the appearance of impropriety in their business dealings.” Yet the obvious conclusion that can be drawn from observing town meetings here is that this is not the case in Orangeville.
At the Orangeville Jan. 4, 2011, organizational meeting, a very qualified Planning Board member, who just so happens to disagree with the Town and Planning boards’ current inadequate, unsafe setback recommendations of 450-foot industrial wind turbines in too close proximity to people’s homes, was relieved of his duties. This brings the total up to three people that have been let go from the Orangeville Planning Board in the last year who had issues with the zoning laws that they had tried to make safer.
Then, with the audacity of arrogance and complete disregard for the safety of all their constituents that this board continues to display – at the same meeting, two more people with signed confidentiality contracts with Invenergy were appointed to Orangeville governmental positions. At the 2010 organizational meeting, two Planning Board members whose terms expired were re-appointed on the spot as were Zoning Board of Appeals appointees. The difference? All these re-appointees had contracts with Invenergy and/or had relatives on the Town Board (son, or son-in-laws), or themselves planned (by their own admission) to have turbines on their land. This brings the number of Orangeville municipal officials’ contracts with Invenergy to more than a dozen that we know of. These new appointees with financial contracts include Deputy Town Clerk Wendy Fairchok, and Planning Board member, Hope Reed. Joanne Dickes has no contract but was appointed to the Planning Board and is (town Highway Supervisor) Frank Dickes’ wife.
One 30-year resident of Orangeville who already had completed the required four-hour course at her own expense, and officially submitted her application letter last year, but, whom opposes the turbine project, was overlooked for a Planning Board position. This resident has no contract with “Big Wind.” Obviously, the Orangeville Town Board isn’t interested in even considering the concerns of their fellow Orangeville citizens in the discussion – friends and neighbors who simply wish to protect themselves if this project is going to be pursued – but instead is vigorously stacking the deck in favor of their political agenda and perceived personal financial gains. Where are the checks and balances in Orangeville?
Orangeville did originally have one Town Board member who voted for greater, safer setbacks (longer distance from residents’ property lines). Not surprisingly, he was out-voted. He sold his home and moved to Warsaw.
Will the rest of us be able to sell our homes? We have asked for a guaranteed Property Value Protection Plan, but the Town Board also refuses to agree to this safeguard in order to protect their constituents. If, as Invenergy and our board members assert, there are no negative effects of living within industrial wind complexes, then why won’t they agree to a Property Value Protection Plan on our behalves? A clear-thinking, objective-minded person can only surmise that Invenergy’s refusal to agree to a Property Value Protection Plan is an obvious admission that they know there will be problems, but do not wish to be responsible for them. (See: http://www.wind-watch.org/news/2010/12/16/a-reason-not-to-do-business-with-iberdola/)
As the long list of Orangeville town municipal officials who have signed confidentiality contracts for personal financial gain with Invenergy continues to grow, we can’t help but wonder: What happened to integrity and ethics in government, and the true meaning of “public service”? Are qualifications for office in Orangeville now dependent on whether you have holdings in special interest dealings with “Big Business,” and the cold-hearted ability to blatantly disregard fellow citizens? Is this what Orangeville Supervisor May, and her fellow board members – Hans Boxler Jr., Andy Flint, Tom Schabloski and Jim Herman – meant when they promised “transparency” in government? They’re transparent alright. It’s pretty obvious that it’s all about them – the rest of us be damned.
As proven throughout history, and as seen in the fall of the great civilizations of the world such as Roman Empire, intoxication with power can deteriorate and destroy sound judgment, the lives of those who engage in it, and unfortunately, the lives and well-being of many innocent people.
Cathi Orr of Orangeville is founder of the Clear Skies Over Orangeville Rural Preservation Coalition.