'A representation of the people's voice'
On behalf of the Stay Inside the Fence.com Committee, I want to thank all of the Middletown residents who signed our referendum petition, which was filed on June 5, 2008, and the most recent initiative petition drive, which began on July 8. More than 3,700 signatures were obtained in a span of only a few weeks for the two petition efforts.
The purpose of my letter is, most importantly, to express our gratitude, but also to explain some recent events regarding the initiative petition drive. Prior to the settlement deal between Garden Manor, SunCoke and the city of Middletown, Middletown/Monroe residents, along with Garden Manor administration and employees, worked together as the Stay Inside The Fence.com Committee in an effort to keep the Martin/Bake farmland free from any trace of a coke plant and any of its components.
On July 22, I was notified by Garden Manor's legal counsel that Garden Manor would be pulling all of their support from the initiative petition drive, although, from the beginning, they were the ones who were insistent that the circulation of petitions occur. It was the consensus of the Stay Inside the Fence.com Committee to finish the initiative petition drive even without Garden Manor's support since all of the signatures had been obtained in good faith from the citizens of Middletown. It was the only right thing to do.
From the start, all newly registered voters were promised that their registration forms would be submitted to the board of elections, which has been accomplished. In addition, it was committed to them that their petition signatures would be submitted to the city of Middletown.
On Monday, Aug. 4, 1,650 petition signatures of Middletown registered voters were personally taken to the city of Middletown with the intent to file those initiative petitions on behalf of the citizens for the November ballot. It was reported at that time that the initiative petition had been withdrawn and a copy of a letter from David Paragas was provided. In the letter from Mr. Paragas, attorney for the committee, it states that "the committee has dissolved pursuant to the action of the majority of the committee members" and that "the committee has ceased its efforts to amend the charter by initiative." The letter further advised the city that no one else had authority to file the petitions on behalf of the committee. The letter came from the same law firm representing Garden Manor in their actions against the city. On the petition were three individuals deemed the "Committee to Represent the Petitioners," who have now officially withdrawn their support from the initiative, people whom I had no knowledge of other than their names being listed on the front of the petition as the committee.
In recent days, I've learned that two of them are Garden Manor employees and the third reportedly has a mother who works there. In my opinion, any person who chooses to be listed on any petition as a committee member has an ethical obligation to the petitioners whose signatures were pursued. The question is an issue of morality, not technicality. Or have we come to such a numb place in our society that what is morally right just isn't politically correct anymore?
The initiative is by the people and a representation of the people's voice. It should never be used as a bargaining chip, pawn in a chess match, or ploy. The dynamics of our group may have changed in some aspects, but our purpose has stayed the same — the battle for what is right for the elderly, children and families in our community to live in a safe environment. Truth can be debated, ignored and denied. In the end, however, truth is still truth.