There is so much to sift through after Friday's meeting; I'm not entirely sure where to begin. At the very least, it was interesting to observe the dynamics, both on the board and in the audience. Expectedly, much of the discussion revolved around Mary Houle and Chief Miller, but other issues pertinent to a town in transition came to the surface. It struck me that while there is undoubtedly a systemic failure of communication and mindful discourse within the town hall, it is merely an outgrowth of a far more pervasive divide affecting the whole community, in which the divergence of the old guard and new guard is affecting Richmond's ability to self-regulate and mature.
I offer recent events, culminating with Friday's meeting, as the case and point in this divergence. As selectboard chair, Pete Parent's approach to managing the crisis met with opposition and resentment from within the community. Some residents cited his decision to "shake off" public comments through late announcements regarding schedule and location changes, as an attempt to limit free speech and public reaction. Ironically, these choices effectively isolated him from the additional perspectives required to make informed decisions. Similarly, the insertion of venerated moderator, Howard Buxton, into Friday's meeting served only to mitigate the impact of the most necessary and relevant discussions. It's not that Pete was deliberately trying to subvert, as some perceive; but his approach, informed by tradition, no longer resonates with the entire community. He was acting in the public interest and attempting to maintain cohesion and protocol. Unfortunately, the expected façade of civility has become the crutch we all lean on. Our civility has equated to silence, and that silence has allowed a dysfunctional town administration to tear itself apart.
We now have a chance to pursue the dialogue we have started, and the clean break of accountability required if we are ever to conclude. We need an open process. We need officials who are community-minded and driven to improve the local infrastructure and quality of life for everyone in town. Richmond is as diverse as it has ever been, and we require an updated means of engaging that reality on a local level. Such a faceted community cannot remain viable or content under existing conditions. Over the years, we have embraced fear of accountability and deep reticence to adapt in our changed socio-political landscape. It is time to set aside our partiality and prejudices in exchange for progress, empathy and greater solidarity.