Tuesday, May 30, 2023

An appeal for public involvement

| November 15, 2007 11:00 PM

To the Editor:

Reference article: Kyle McClellan "Commissioner appeals for more CAG involvement," The Western News - Friday, Nov. 9, 2007.

In addressing the above noted article, I absolutely agree that we need more CAG (Community Advisory Group) involvement from the community, its businesses, and from the elected leaders of the communities of Libby and Troy. Even if folks don't wish to make the commitment to be CAG members, their participation and input is essential if CAG is to function as it was set up to do.

The Libby CAG has a number of purposes in serving the community:

. To provide a conduit for formal and regular communication between the people of Lincoln County and EPA;

. Provide advice and/or recommendations to EPA and others such as Montana's Congressional delegation;

. Facilitate the creation of new organizations as needed;

. Cause the release of information;

. Serve as a point of contact with Lincoln County for Montana's Governor and others.

The article however poses some issues that need to be addressed:

First, in discussing EPA's request for CAG to ask the public for input on budget and project priorities, Lincoln County Commissioner Rita Windom is quoted; "It appears that the EPA doesn't want responsibility for making the final decisions."

This is not the way I see it. Paul Peronard, in public CAG and LATAG meetings and to me in one-on-one meetings, has asked for public input, however has made it very clear that he will be making the final decisions. This is his responsibility, and he takes the flak for his decisions. Commissioner Windom was present in at least one of those CAG meetings.

Second, I assume that either Kyle McClellan or Commissioner Windom made an error in this article. Kyle McClellan writes; "Windom wants community coherence before Dec. 6, when the EPA may ask the community to vote on the direction at a town meeting."

It shouldn't read "may ask" but should read "has asked the community." Additionally, the date, time, and place for this public forum has been set not for Dec. 6, but for Thursday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m., at the Libby Public Schools, Administrative Building, Little Theatre, 724 Louisiana Ave.

Third, and most important, Commissioner Windom is quoted as saying; "I'm very uncomfortable with letting the community vote," and the quote continues; "because when you let the community vote, we have the battle lines drawn like in the past."

WOW, I thought I lived in the United States of America! When a politician, like Commissioner Windom, says; "I'm very uncomfortable with letting the community vote" BIG question marks flash in front of me! CAG represents the community in all it does, and can only serve the best interest of the community by understanding the community needs through community comment and participation; this is supposed to be the same for our elected officials - Or so I was brought up to believe! The word vote is, in any case, not the correct verbiage anyway. In e-mail discussions I've had with Ted Linnert of the EPA, he has stated; "It's going to be a pretty simple comment form on a basic outline of EPA's '08 Workplan for the Libby project, which will incorporate our previous discussions on the budget priorities."

It is next to impossible to have a grouping of two or more people, and have 100 percent meeting of the minds. I would assume that much of the past division referred to is caused by individuals being concerned more about their own personal interests as opposed to the best interests of the community as a whole.

It is common knowledge and practice in any forum that is successful in making positive change and/or developing creative ideas to "Brainstorm." Only by bringing a diverse group of people together to develop those ideas can this be accomplished.

Not every part of every idea is compatible with the desired final result, however the combined input of all, along with refinement of that input usually results in a far superior result. In all this; feelings can't get hurt and egos and personal interest can't get in the way. "Leaders" guide the process, but don't dictate the result.

I strongly encourage every person in Libby, Troy, and all of Lincoln County to take part by attending CAG meetings, or providing input when you have the opportunity to do so, such as by attending the public meeting on Thursday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m., at the Libby Public Schools, Administrative Building, Little Theatre, 724 Louisiana Ave. and/or by providing input via the Public Comment form that will be available in through various local medium.

Phillip Erquiaga

CAG Member, LATAG Board Member