Stop the intimidation tactics in Carbondale
Village at Crystal River attorney Eric Gross’ attack on Carbondale Town Trustee Frosty Merrit is clearly a vote-counting scheme aimed at giving his client the advantage with the trustees. Gross is trying to shove one of our trustees off the board with weak legal arguments covered with bombast and threats. In doing so, the developers of the Village at Crystal River and Gross are attacking democracy and representative government in Carbondale.
Gross is arguing that our elected trustees are not allowed to utter a single word or listen to their constituents’ thoughts about the Village at Crystal River, or any other development application for that matter, unless they are in a noticed public hearing. This interpretation of the law is designed to maximize his client’s advantage by limiting public discussion on this very large, important proposal to develop 25 acres in town with a shopping mall and residential development.
The idea, argued by Gross, that our elected representatives shouldn’t speak with their constituents except in a controlled setting is farcical and unrealistic, and directly threatens important lines of communication that help foster open, thoughtful government in Carbondale. Frosty is a regular participant on the Trustee Report on Wednesday mornings on KDNK, and Mayor Stacey Bernot meets with the public on Tuesday mornings at the Village Smithy. The fact that both Frosty and Stacey regularly share news of the trustees with the public, and that Stacey goes a step further by listening directly to their concerns, makes Carbondale a better place.
But if Gross and his clients prevail, it appears neither Frosty nor Stacey will be able to continue their important outreach. For surely if Frosty and the other trustees can’t share news about a public meeting regarding town business on the radio waves, which are open to all with an FM radio or Internet service, then Stacey can’t speak more privately with individuals and groups about town business at the Village Smithy.
Our mayor and town attorney need to step up and defend open communications between elected officials and the people of Carbondale. The somewhat quiet, timid response from Town Attorney Mark Hamilton is worrying. So far, the developers and their attorney have made lots on noise with accusations and threats but provided no evidence that Frosty has done anything wrong. It’s time for Hamilton to push back and protect the right of the trustees and the people of Carbondale to manage our town business.
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