I was surprised when I read Rob Gardiner’s quote stating that he believes that a secret ballot vote would have been “healthier” than a petition for Highland residents.
I was present at the town meeting when Gardiner seemed uncomfortable at the thought of a symbolic vote opposing or supporting the wind project in our community.
Bill Lee, Highland’s lawyer, and the residents were discussing the possible tangible benefit package with Gardiner. Lee suggested that the assessors, the developers and the lawyers work up an agreement and bring it back to the town for a vote.
While I wanted Highland residents to get every benefit, I said I couldn’t vote yes for the package if LURC would perceive it as support. Lee suggested a vote would show support or opposition for the project. Gardiner said the vote would be unnecessary. Then, the town’s lawyer disagreed.
Since that time, tangible benefit negotiations have been ongoing.
The developers had manipulated the circumstances so that there would be no vote. I have gone to each month’s assessor’s meeting requesting a secret ballot vote. Our first assessor said that even if I brought a petition signed by the majority of Highland residents, the vote would not happen.
The assessors have worked hard for a tangible benefit package; I thank them. But I believe our vote was negotiated away. The residents’ alternative was a petition opposing the wind project.
To suggest that Highlanders signed this petition because of social pressure shows how little regard Gardiner has for the intelligence and determination of the residents. The benefit package would make residents’ financial lives easier, yet they signed willing because their quality of life is more precious.