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The Audacity of Democracy (letter to editor)

I honestly believe that when people enter into public life, they do so with the desire to make their community, county or state a better place in which to live.  These people soon find themselves entangled in a jungle of legal paperwork, having to refer back and forth between sections, sub-paragraphs, and limiting titles of law, just to determine which authority governs on a particular topic.  Asked to write ordinances and laws pertaining to subjects unfamiliar to them, these well meaning public figures turn to ‘professionals’ for advice. Unfortunately for the public, these ‘professionals’ often advise in a manner giving corporations control over the public.  This is the situation I believe  Shapleigh and other small Maine towns are in at the moment.

The  “Ordinance Governing Water Extraction”, proposed for the Shapleigh voters to act upon boils down to an application permit.  Once any company has met, or promises to meet the requirements of this ordinance, the town would not have the legal right to refuse the applicant permission to extract water.  The town relies upon the applicant to supply information, without independent verification.  Any state certified hydrologist working for a company need only tell the ‘truth’, not necessarily the ‘whole truth’.  Pertinent facts can be omitted or skewed by the inclusion of extraneous information.  Also of note, is that under the application ‘conditions of permit’ the applicant is given an unspecified amount of time to show adherence to the stated requirements.  In truth, some of the requirements would require long term pumping at high capacity just to satisfy the information being asked.  I have not researched the ‘contract’ that Nestle had with McCloud, California, but I suspect that it started with an ‘ordinance’ much like the one in Shapleigh.

But wait!  A small group of community activist in Shapleigh and Newfield created an organization called POWWR (Protecting Our Water and Wildlife Resources).  In a bold and almost unprecedented manner they’ve asked, “What about we the people?”.  In areas like California, Michigan, and Florida, here in our own country, large scale water extraction has been shown to cause adverse effects upon the environment.  Now these ‘fringe elements’ have the audacity to think that if an endeavor has the “potential” to cause harm to the local environment, possibly lowering property values and standards of living, that the people should be given the opportunity to voice an opinion, and if necessary to stop the action in question.  They even obtained council and came up with an alternative proposal, one already enacted in other states.

The town’s attorney has ‘deemed’ this alternative ordinance “illegal” and the town of Shapleigh has refused to allow the people of Shapleigh the right to choose.  Luckily we’re only talking about the second most essential necessity to life itself, and not somethingimportant like ‘women’s right to vote’ or ‘freedom to slaves’, which, if you’ll check your history was also deemed to be “illegal” by similar historical figures.

Though I am NOT a member of this group, I will slightly alter the mantra of the 60’s and say, “POWWR to the PEOPLE”.

Charles Scamman,
Shapleigh, Maine

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