riveting presentation at the recent spirited City Council debate
on the surprisingly controversial zoning changes proposed for
the King Street retail business corridor was that of Ward 2 Councilor
coverage of news and issues of community interest, details are
not only important, but often crucial to a more complete public
others who watched on the local access cable channel, I was impressed
with the depth of feeling expressed by nearly a score of citizens
who spoke on both sides of the issues. I was struck by their interest
in what might otherwise be arcane stuff - setback requirements,
design standards, and site plan review.
Bill Dwight, Rita Bleiman, and Alex Ghiselin, involved in crafting
the zoning changes which seek to limit the scale of new developments
on King Street, also came across as thoughtful and persuasive,
But it was
Volkmann, in her deliberate, meticulous, carefully phrased praise
for the openness of the process by which the ordinances were drafted
and ultimately brought to the council, who carried the day, or
night, in my opinion.
she was critical of the behind-the-scenes manner in which opponents
preferred to operate, culminating in their filing preliminary
plans for a large-tract development on the very day the council
was scheduled to meet, thus rendering any new zoning restrictions,
even if passed by the council, inoperative for this parcel.
identified by name Atty. Edward Etheredge, and Chamber of Commerce
President and realtor Patrick Goggins as the chief players behind
the effort to block the more restrictive zoning.
I thought, and courageous to boot. Apparently, Mayor Mary Clare
Higgins thought Volkmannís comments too strong, because in an
odd and highly unusual comment she sharply rebuked Volkmann for
being so forthright, saying in effect the councilor was out of
line to name names.
next day when I read Judson Brownís otherwise clearly written
and well reported article in the Gazette I was not totally stunned
to see no mention of Volkmannís citations of Etheredge and Goggins
as pro-business moles seeking to undermine the broader community
story contained four paragraphs about the thrust of Volkmannís
comments, we were left only with the vague statement that she
was "highly critical of the seemingly last-minute filing
of the commercial subdivision proposal and of prominent local
people who have opposed at least some of the amendments."
But who these citizens might be, we were left to wonder.
I know Judson
Brown to be a terrific reporter; his hallmark is thoroughness.
Why did he leave out crucial facts in the councilorís statement?
of days later, I asked him about this and he said he had included
the information, but it was removed - with his approval he says
- because of space limitations. Something had to be cut and that
seemed like extraneous material.
can it be that out of a 22 paragraph story only a single sentence
has to be excised and it just happens to be the one which might
be the most sensitive?
you went to Gazettenet, the on-line service of the newspaper and
read Judson Brownís story, you find that Brown, the very thorough
reporter, had included in his original version the following sentence,
referring to Volkmannís statement: "She cited city Attorney
Edward Etheredge, city businessman and Chamber of Commerce President
Patrick Goggins, and Andrew Crystal, a member of the planning
board who works in commercial. development."
So it turns
out excising the controversial sentence from the newspaper was
not completely effective in blacking out the information.
course, what about the people who were on hand for the meeting
or those hundreds or thousands watching it on cable at home. They
heard what Councilor Volkmann said and either were impressed,
angry or indifferent. But it was her right as a elected representative
to speak frankly, despite the mayorís subsequent scolding.
In the end,
it is more likely that if there is any embarrassment over this
small but heavy-handed bit of censorship it is down on Conz Street
and in the Mayorís office, rather than at Goggins Real Estate
or in law offices of Atty. Edward Etheredge.