Friday, July 24, 2009

Commissioner loyalties

At the recent meeting in Mora concerning potential oil and gas development in Mora County, there was no question: The attending citizens spoke overwhelmingly against bringing this “dirty” industry into our pristine agricultural county. Of the 48 speakers, all but six strongly asked our commissioners to protect our water, our air, and our way of life against the industrialization that always accompanies oil and gas development. Many asked the commission to consider developing green industries rather than the polluting, outdated petroleum industry.

Of the six other speakers, three were paid industry representatives, one was a Mora County citizen who had leased his mineral rights, and two spoke more against regulation than in favor of oil and gas development. So the mandate was clear: Mora citizens want a clean, green county. Unfortunately, the Optic story did not adequately convey this message.

Most disturbing, however, were three things: First, our commissioners refused to conduct this meeting as an official meeting, and therefore refused to participate. One commissioner even text-messaged during the public comment, indicating his obvious disinterest in citizen input. Secondly, the only time the commissioners appeared to pay close attention was when industry representatives spoke; then, and only then, their attention was riveted upon the speakers. Third, county officials chatted and joked with industry representatives during and after the hearing.

Have our county officials already made their decisions, without public input? It is easy to suspect so, as they have spent considerable time with industry representatives and appear quite friendly with them, at official commission meetings as well as at this public hearing. And, until Drilling Mora County began running advertisements in the Optic, the commission had consistently refused to hold a public hearing. Now, finally, they did hold the hearing, but they appeared disinterested.

Where are their loyalties?

Don Hamilton

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