Editorial: Something to think about

In a letter on this page from the Salisbury selectboard, they take this editor to task for an editorial in which we referred to a battle over BLSG funding for legal expenses “a slugfest.” In the first 100 words of that 1,000-word editorial, I relayed what more than a half dozen other people who had attended the meeting (including our reporter) told me: that the discussion at times was heated, and that a vocal minority of those in attendance yelled a loud “no” when respected Moderator Wayne Smith asked if Dr. Ben Lawton, chairman of the BLSG Insect Control District, could address the audience to explain the BLSG expenses. I categorized such behavior as “unbecoming of Town Meeting” because it’s rare for community members to try to prevent a knowledgable speaker (local or not) from speaking when the topic concerns a controversial issue the town is debating.
As I noted in the editorial, the majority prevailed and Dr. Lawton was allowed five minutes. Dr. Lawton was cut off in the midst of his explanation.
Perhaps the most stinging comment in the editorial was repeating observations by others that the audience, at times, “behaved like Trump supporters.” The reference was to those not wanting to hear an opposing (Lawton’s) view of the BLSG’s spraying policy. And the reference to “liberal environmentalists,” of which I consider myself one, was not derogatory but rather a reminder that fellow liberals can fall victim to shutting out opposing viewpoints just as those on the far-right often do.
We can argue whether a “spirited” debate should be termed a “slugfest” or not, but certainly the point of the editorial was not to cast a bad light on Salisbury’s Town Meeting. In fact, it was entirely the opposite — to seek common cause on an issue that resulted in a 98-83 vote to fully fund the BLSG budget, legal expenses and all. The bulk of the editorial then addressed the very real concerns of the chemical malathion as well as the concerns of a uncontrolled mosquito population and the need to seek a solution that addresses all aspects of that challenge.
Here’s the lede paragraph of the editorial to which the Salisbury selectboard has taken offense: “There’s nothing like an old-fashioned slugfest to get the juices going. The question is always whether the combatants will dust themselves off, shake hands and head to the bar to make amends. For Salisbury’s sake… we hope they do.”
We certainly did not intend for that opening to be offensive, much less “destructive,” and apologize if other comments branded some members of the community unfairly. And as first suggested in that same March 7 editorial, we embrace the need to mend fences and work together to address the very real issues at hand, and applaud the selectboard’s commitment to do so. But I question the board’s response to this editorial. Who else chastises the press for its criticism, reframes the story in a positive light, and proclaims everything they did is beyond refute — and to what purpose? Something to think about.

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