At the last four town meetings the voters of Windham have elected by sizable margins Select Board members whom they know to be opposed to the Iberdrola proposal on Stiles Brook.
Over these same four years the developer, landowner and their attorneys have been unsuccessful in their legitimate attempts to influence our municipal elections and to weaken the town plan.
Recent events indicate how desperate they have become to subvert the wishes of a majority of Windham’s residents. Facing widespread and continuing opposition, Iberdrola offered to abandon the project upon a vote of 50 percent plus one of our registered voters. Seeking ways to control the vote, they decided to sidestep the Select Board and began meetings with a small group of self-selected proponents of the project. This group became the de facto “negotiators” on behalf of the town.
The outcome of the meetings between developer and unauthorized citizens was to offer a large cash amount to each registered voter for 20 years should the vote go in favor of the project. Our voters now have before them an offer of “up to” $1,100 for their yes vote and $350,000 to be distributed directly by Iberdrola to several town groups selected by the ad hoc committee.
As retired members of the Windham Select Board, we believe what is happening in Windham warrants the attention of all Vermonters. It goes without saying that attempts to buy votes, or the appearance of buying votes, violate our deepest held democratic values. It is a gesture that contaminates our entire election process.
More insidious is the direct challenge to our elected municipal officials by a corporation with deep pockets and no qualms about using cash to divide a community. A small group of sympathizers has decided to bypass the Select Board’s publicly discussed and majority decision not to negotiate with Iberdrola until a vote was held to do so and an application is made to the PSB.
This group has virtually acted as a parallel government that does not represent the intentions of the Select Board nor the will of the voters in Windham. This group has taken upon itself the role assigned only to Vermont’s voters and decided for the community where large sums of money are to be placed. This direct distribution of funds to town groups and individuals instead of to the town’s governing officials strikes a blow to the heart of democracy. To have an outside corporation or its agent dispersing funds to individuals and special groups is unmanageable and significantly undermines the authority of our elected officials.
This attempt to buy votes and bypass a Select Board presents a serious challenge to the traditions by which Vermonters live and do business.
The stakes in Windham are indeed very high, for us and for every Vermonter.
Mary Boyer was a member of the Windham Select Board for nine years. Margaret Dwyer was a member for 12 years.
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