We …. “The Public”


To the Editor,

If you have ever been Zooming in on the Planning Board’s deliberations, as I have done for some time now, you know that there is often a time set aside for input from “the Public.”

What I have observed is that usually people from this so-called “Public” show up to protest or complain about something.  Never do I hear praise, gratitude, or recognition for what these seven brave souls are doing week in week out and in between their meetings on behalf of our town.

Whenever our town is passionately divided about some issues, it appears that only one side shows up in numbers, while people on the other side of the debate are not there to be heard.  As Woody Allen said so perceptively, “Ninety percent of success in life is just showing up.”  I’d make it ninety nine percent, so let’s show up in any way we can.

When the Planning Board hears from “the Public,” they often hear from just a handful of people who act as if they are representative of all of Manchester. 

Let me set the record straight: they are not. 

They use language of obfuscation, claiming that an issue is not studied enough, that some critical information was not presented, that things are not clear, and that therefore everyone (of “the Public”) must be as confused as they are.  Thus, they argue, articles cannot (yet) be placed on the Town Meeting warrant, kicking the already crumpled can once more down the road. 

This has been going on for too long.

If “the Public” of Manchester were as confused as I often hear being proclaimed, how come all the articles that were brought to a vote at last Fall’s town meeting were approved by an overwhelming majority?  For me, the fact that we made some good progress on the long outstanding work of the Planning Board, is a testimony to the opposite of confusion.  True, a minority was still confused and decided a “No” vote was safer.

If the reason to slow down is indeed about confusion, then the solution is simple.  Don’t wait for things to be explained to you.  Contact someone who is knowledgeable about the issue (we have knowledgeable people in our town, many of whom are not on the Planning Board).  Talk with them, engage in a true dialogue, or ask questions via email or by phone.  This is hard work: it requires deep listening and attempts to understand other points of view and underlying values. 

Zoning issues are very complex.  People (“the Public”) need to understand that zoning bylaws are legal documents that must conform to state law, so it does require some efforts to understand their meaning.  The Planning Board members are already doing their part of the hard work.  We, the Public, would do well to match this hard work with our own hard work to clear up the confusion and move on. 

So, please take time before the June 28 town meeting to review the information (it is on the Town Website) and be ready to vote on June 28.

Sylvia Vriesendorp


planning board, charles b. washington, barbara kaija, manchester, sylvia vriesendorp, representative, woody allen, state law