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Letters to the Editor - The Lakeville Journal - 1-14-21

Disagrees with Journal coverage

In 1998 when I came home to this area and started working for The Nature Conservancy, I was held to the highest ethical standard: “Integrity beyond reproach.” It has remained a hallmark of my subsequent land protection work for more than two decades, and the basis for my reputation and effectiveness helping land trusts, landowners, towns and communities conserve the places we love. 

I was deeply gratified when my friend and respected colleague Dr. Michael Klemens told me last Nov. 9, upon learning that my professional services had been engaged to advise Jeffrey Keenan in his discussions with the Nature Conservancy; “Your conservation bona fides are beyond reproach.” That recognition is profoundly meaningful. I cannot do my work without it. I would not associate myself with anything that causes me to fall short of that standard. 

I had hoped that my reputation as a defender of land conservation, of conservation easements as durable and effective legal instruments, as an honest and effective negotiator in complex conservation transactions, and a valued conservation partner would help reassure those who were initially alarmed by what they feared might happen to protected land on West Twin Lake. I have tried to reassure those who would talk with me directly, and to be visible and transparent in my public statements and long conversations, both on background and for attribution, with this paper.  

I knew that there was risk of being misunderstood and of blowback on the conservation community if this were mishandled and have taken pains not to do so. I knew that although I act as a private consultant, with the knowledge of my regular employer the Housatonic Valley Association — which is not involved in any way with this consultancy — that there was risk of that being misunderstood as well.  I did not expect, and I am deeply grieved, that the coverage of this story by The Lakeville Journal would repeatedly perpetuate what I see as falsehoods and misunderstandings, falling far below the high standard of journalistic excellence that I know, from my dozen years as a former columnist at the paper, it is capable of achieving.

The Journal has gravely erred in providing an uncritical and one-sided forum each week for opinions in the guise of journalism rather than verified facts. Opinions belong in letters such as this, not presented without challenge when the questions raised have already been answered, where facts are known, where I have stated them directly to the paper.

The easement is not, nor has it ever been, at risk. The conclusions of the recent Twin Lakes study are not sufficient to answer the questions that need to be answered about the role of the causeway — good, bad or indifferent — on the ecosystem of the lake.  Neither has that study been ignored nor, with respect, is Dr. Klemen’s view the last word on the subject. That is not how scientific inquiry works. My client understands and respects that. Please stop making things worse by your coverage.

Tim Abbott

North Canaan

 

Key word for Trump: accountability

I would urge the readers of this newspaper to read as well an article in the Oct. 16, 2020, Washington Post co-authored by Prof. Lawrence Tribe. Just Google: “Washington Post, Tribe, Trump, accountability.” I believe it reappeared briefly on Jan. 6. 

In this article, Prof. Tribe urges strongly that there be some form of accountability for the statements, actions and failures to act of ex-President Trump over the past four years. As to the importance of this, he has much to say, but two statements from his article will suffice here: “Accountability for the Trump years is essential” and “We call for accountability when we think there has been outright misconduct.”

I agree wholeheartedly with the statement that accountability is essential. I agree equally with the existence of misconduct, and that we should demand accountability.

There are multiple reasons for this. One is that any public official who does what Trump has done must be held accountable so that there shall be widely acknowledged and credible judgment of such official’s misconduct. But the most important reason, I believe, is that we as a nation may understand what went wrong, so that we can assure that it will not happen again, ever.

Stuyvesant K. Bearns

Lakeville

 

A step too far for this Republican selectman

I am no longer a member of the Republican party. I am now unaffiliated, joining the growing ranks of the largest voting bloc in Connecticut. I had resolved to make the change as 2020 wound to a close, never suspecting the extraordinary events of the past 2 weeks. 

When I turned 18, I proudly went down to Town Hall and registered as a Republican. I still believe in the core tenets of the party of Lincoln: Small government, individual liberties, low taxes, pro-business and a strong defense.  Sadly, that party no longer exists on the federal level.  

It’s important that I state that in leaving the Republican party, I don’t wish to malign Republicans in my hometown, and the Northwest Corner in general. It has been my pleasure to serve alongside them. They are honorable, dedicated people. It is the national brand that I can no longer stand the smell of. The smell of fear. Fear of the disgraced, soon-to-be former President of the United States and his fanatic followers. 

I’ve cringed over the last four years as Donald Trump has trashed the office, the constitution, and democracy in general. I’m now livid.  I ask anyone who has raised, or is raising a child: Would you tolerate this behavior from your child?? It is beyond disgusting to me that Trump was willing to prompt insurrection to change the election in his favor, because his infantile malignant ego can’t accept the loss. And far too many Republicans were backing him! That is denying the will of the People.  The hypocritical butt-covering statements from some of these “honorable” House and Senate members is unforgivable, and I’m done.  

God save the brave election officials and courts in battleground states for not caving in to incredible political pressure, death threats and attacks on their character, and hewing to the law and protecting the voice of the voters. Credit to the House and Senate for completing the Electoral vote count following the siege. The checks and balances work. My faith in our democratic institutions is intact. Sadly, not my faith in the Republican party. I used to think that dictator wanna-be Donald Trump ruined the Republican party. The truth is much sadder: The Republican party allowed itself to be ruined by Donald Trump.  

Dale Jones

West Cornwall

The author is a Sharon Selectman.

 

Our American flag

The destructive violence witnessed in our Capitol on Jan. 6, made it very important for me to see the Battleship Flag which had been given to my husband, John Harney, a dedicated Marine and patriot hanging outside our home as he had insisted on doing on every important holiday. Two of my sons were proud Marines and John took great pride in teaching the grandchildren how to raise the flag and respect it.

“Can this nation long endure”? We have endured for over 245 years as a beacon of liberty and I trust we will continue so. The Marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima did it at the cost of many lives. Surely our flag should be used to show patriotism and respect for our constitutional government.

Let us join in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Country for which it stands.

Elyse Harney

Salisbury

 

Correcting the record on Twin Lakes initiative

The article (“Finding what’s best for West Twin Lake health,” Jan. 7) is what I see as an example of journalist malpractice. The editor treats fair investigative journalism as a game of ping pong with only one side presented at a time and with no critical analysis required. TLJ handed a bullhorn to Michael Klemens who used the opportunity to mislead and prevaricate. The only thing that Klemens has accomplished is to ensure that he will have a conflict and be unable to participate in any Planning and Zoning review of anything related to the causeway.  He is so biased that it would be impossible for the P&Z Board to permit him to participate in any future discussions about the causeway.  

Klemens provides a misleading “interpretation” of the 2017 AER Twin Lakes report.  He could not even get the date of the report correct and he misleads about the basic purpose of the report.  The report says nothing about the impact of the railroad causeway on the health of the West Lake and its authors were not asked to evaluate such impact.  The AER report does not come to the basic conclusions that Klemens claims and he misstates the purpose of the report, which was an analysis of historical data and a holistic lake management plan.  The dam is not even mentioned in the Executive Summary.

I urge those interested in lake issues to read the report and not rely on Klemens who has a biased and unscientific take. Below is a link to the report and other relevant causeway information and studies. I also provide a link to a recent Zoom presentation with Tim Abbott that I feel Klemens wrongly characterizes in his comments. Watch the presentation for yourself and get the facts about our plans to do a scientific evaluation with experts far more qualified than Klemens to evaluate the serious issues relating to the West Lake.

The link to “AER Twin Lakes 2017 Report”: https://bit.ly/rrcauseway

Apparently, Klemens also has access to divine knowledge and an intimate understanding of objectives and motivations.  He expresses said “knowledge” in unfounded speculation on me. Klemens does not know me and has had no direct communication with me about the causeway.  Klemens, in Trump-like fashion, falsely claims that my purpose in evaluating the causeway is my desire to “improve the view from (his) property and keep boats further away from (his) house.”  

Klemens also wrongly claims that I am acting on a “whim.” Those with a serious interest in what is best for the West Lake know me and know better.   Such attacks are beneath Klemens and are demonstrably false.  Read the reports, listen to Tim’s Zoom presentation, and draw your own conclusion. Tim will be doing more Zoom meetings and we welcome everyone with a sincere interest to join those meetings and ask questions.

Those who live on and/or use the West Lake deserve a constructive and honest dialogue about the best way to protect or improve it.        

Jeffrey J. Keenan

Salisbury

 

Sign up for state-funded study, Falls Village

In 2008, buckets of money for “incentive housing” was doled out from Hartford. Did small towns want their shot at the money along with the big cities, whether or not their population could support it?

Falls Village grabbed for money earmarked for incentivized housing, higher density meant more money.

Housing Authorities own public housing. Otherwise affordable housing can be owned by a private entity, like a church, or Habitat for Humanity. Incentivized housing is eight times denser, more high risk, and hopefully owned by a private entity with deep generous pockets and rich experience to match. All three types of affordable housing are held to rent guidelines and income restrictions.

River Road Homes would not be a Habitat for Humanity project. Habitat wishes to sell the land to Falls Village Housing Trust (FVHT).

The fledgling FVHT has ended up trying to own an incentivized housing project. How would the $3.5 million project be financed? Would the rental income cover the yearly payments to bondholders, property taxes and maintenance?  FVHT has made none of this information known.  Do they know but not want it public? Do they not know? When asked, FVHT responded, “We will release this information when we have our certificate of occupancy.” That is a bit late to fix a mistake.

The Lakeville Journal “Looking Back: 2020” story last week headlined the housing project as “moving forward.” It mentions 24 letters in support to the P&Z hearings, not mentioning that many were from non-residents, nor did it mention that the letter in opposition from Lesley Janzen represented 52 residents of Falls Village. 

Is River Road Homes the most controversial, misunderstood, unexplained, expensive, potentially ruinous bad idea to ever be proposed in FV?

This much we know: Town Hall shows $113,000 received since 2008 for the Incentive Housing Zone and housing project. The FVHT website lists an additional $200,000 and a solicitation claims $189,000 going directly to the Trust. So there is possibly $300,000 already spent since 2008 on this project. Some of this money was wasted on designing the 29 unit, 50 bedrooms plan presented in 2019, twice the 14 units approved in 2014 by DOH.

No study determined that this housing is needed or can be afforded. The latest proposal crowds 16 units into 4 remote wooded acres with no jobs, no transportation to jobs, no infrastructure to support it, for tenants who cannot afford market rents, doubling the population in this neighborhood of 22 homes.

Seventy-two residents have petitioned the town for a referendum. The selectmen have refused, explaining simply that they don’t have to. Perhaps after this November’s elections, the thinking will change.

Meanwhile, a state-funded study begins this month to determine the need for affordable housing and to recommend the location, size and type. Residents of FV, sign up! Write selectmen@canaanfallsvillage.org Make an investment of your time in the future of your town. Don’t be misguided by misinformation. A $3.5 million mistake in Falls Village matters. Demand accountability.

Daly Reville

Falls Village

 

Info on COVID vaccines

The new vaccines for  SARS-CoV-2 work very well.  The results and the original paper describing the outcome of the Pfizer phase 3 clinical trial have been published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Almost none of the vaccinated people got sick and if they did, the disease was mild. Unvaccinated people had many more infections Paste DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2035389 into your search engine and the results will appear. Other therapies are coming. This is no time to quit your vigilance. Wear a mask and get vaccinated when your turn comes.

People are rightly concerned about rapidly spreading SARS-CoV-2 mutants that were discovered in the UK and South Africa. The mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 genome accumulate during long-term infections of immune-compromised patients (120 days in one case). Usually the virus would be cleared or the patient would die in a shorter time.  Nine mutations have been found in the Spike protein, affecting perhaps 10 or 12 amino acid subunits. The Spike protein has 1271 amino acids, so most of the sequence is unaffected. In response to the vaccine, the immune system produces many distinct antibodies and T cells that recognize different 12-14 amino acid stretches of the Spike protein.  The vaccine should work against the new mutant, called SARS-CoV-2/VUI202012/01, which comprised about 10% of infections in the UK on Dec. 20, 2020.  VUI stands for Variant Under Investigation. The assumption that the vaccine still works is being tested in the UK. 

Richard Kessin, Ph.D

Norfolk

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