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Advocating for civility

This is written about Arkwright, a tiny spot having only 1,000 people. Many readers know no one there or have an interest in the area. But the election affects us all. Your community, if not Arkwright, has issues of its own. Learn what they are and about the people who want to represent you. And then go vote.

Any of you who have occasion to remember Tuesday, March 26, may recall it was a day of unusual beauty. Crystal clear with nary a cloud in the sky. OK, also bitterly cold but, yes, still March.

Though the stars were later out in stupendous numbers, one didn’t need to search the heavens to find eye-openers. For me, it was my first meeting with those who call themselves Advocates for Arkwright.

When my Musings first appeared Fred/Nick Norton asked me why I said I lived in Cassadaga rather than Arkwright. I have a Cassadaga address (Fredonia phone number while Pomfret plows my road). I had always pictured Arkwright as a loose group of houses with little connection to each other. There is no post office so we residents of Arkwright have addresses in either Fredonia, Forestville or Cassadaga.

Disconnected? I learned immediately how wrong that initial conception had been. At the beginning I did feel like a spy for, besides knowing almost no one there, mine perhaps was the only one in the room not directly affected by the terrible turbines. I feel they disfigure what was a bucolic countryside, certainly my reason for choosing to move here.

Any discomfort on my part quickly disappeared. I may not know them yet but these were neighbors and eventually, I hope, some friends. What had brought them to this living room, wasn’t camaraderie but disgust with the way our Town Board was meeting in secret (closed meetings with no reason or result ever announced publicly or, worse, as an accomplished fact). To me the last straw was the month they announced the intended purchase of a hundred acres to build a solar farm. Hey! How about allowing the rest of us a say in the matter?

As the comments continued I grew aware that this was a battle not so much for windmills but for a voice in their community. Many had attended Arkwright town meetings and been ignored or, worse, treated disrespectfully. We want transparency, honesty, no more conflicts of interest, no more self-dealing and to be treated with respect. We’re up for the People, not the Purse. Let’s get a board who listens, who cares, and who are honest. That sentiment echoed over and over through the room.

After that meeting I began to attend the Arkwright board meetings. They couldn’t be as bad as I’d heard, right? Wrong. I was horrified to find everything I had heard in that room to be absolutely true. The members of the board whispered to each other, comments obviously not intended to be heard. The disrespect shown one man who had been asked to speak to the board sickened me. He was repeatedly interrupted and insulted. Yes, insulted. I was about ready to stand up and shout, “Stop it.”

Fighting for civility, honesty, respect and transparency in government should not be too much to ask. They want for a board who cares, and who will listen.

That’s probably the moment I learned to be proud of living in Arkwright.

I was personally delighted when I learned Ted Wightman had offered to run for supervisor. I’ve worked with Ted on the Board of Assessment Review and know him to be open, hard-working, intelligent, well-educated and earnest (not necessarily in that — or any — order). I can’t recall meeting a man who so quickly earned my respect. I was happy to hear that other candidates had stepped up to run for the board, highway superintendent and clerk. I’ve known Chris Jackson for years (a 100% hard-working dedicated good guy) and feel certain the others are equally qualified and devoted. Lynn Bedford expects to join Chris on the Town Council with Wendy Lord (a real crackerjack), Town Clerk, and Craig Harrington, Highway Superintendent.

Credentials are important and are there but, equally so in a place like Arkwright, is the downright dedication of each candidate — and everyone in the room who backs them.

I am fed up with those narrow-minded folks who say “Love it or Leave it.” Move? Try marketing your property when YouTube was running a feature on Arkwright called “Get Out While You Can.” The turbines aren’t just over the hill. These, as I realized even more than I had, are smack dab in people’s yards. Not country acres or even large fields but, in many cases, yards. Take a drive up if you haven’t already.

What the future brings — at least as I wrote this in March — is anybody’s guess. It’s time to dig in our heels and fight for what is right.

Then I recall again the faces and figures — all kinds, all ages — present there that night. They’d love to have a miracle. Wouldn’t we all? But even more, they simply want to be heard and treated with the respect each and everyone deserves. They are proud to be Arkwright citizens. Or they were. Now they hope to rightfully claim that pride again after Nov. 5.

I sure hope I can celebrate with them then.

Susan Crossett has lived in Arkwright for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. “Her Reason for Being” was published in 2008 with “Love in Three Acts” following in 2014. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at Susancrossett.com.

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