401 Meeker St Delta CO 81416 970.874.4421

'Phantom comments' should have no bearing

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Dear Editor:

Flashback to November 2016!

The Federal Election Commission has just announced that Prohibition Party candidate Jim Hedges has been elected president of the United States. Mr. Hedges received 5,623 votes nationwide. The focal point of President-Elect Hedges' platform is a ban on the production, sales, and consumption of alcoholic beverages.

The runner-up in this year's election, receiving 60 million votes, was Donald Trump.

When Trump supporters complained it was ludicrous to name Mr. Hedges the winner, the Federal Election Commissioners explained they had talked to a number of people who did not vote in the election and found that many of them supported Mr. Hedges.

The Federal Election Commissioners stated they believed the 100 million U.S. citizens who didn't bother to exercise their right to vote would have voted for Mr. Hedges had they cared enough to show up to vote. So, they put all 100 million non-existent votes in Mr. Hedges column and declared him the winner in a landslide!

We know this is absurd because no one can presume to speak for you. If you want your voice to count, you must show up and participate in our country's most important public comment period -- Election Day.

Yet a nearly identical scenario took place at the May 9 public hearing of the Delta County Planning Commission.

The Delta County Planning Commission has conducted dozens of public meetings over the past year to receive public suggestions, recommendations, and comments on the drafting of the Delta County Master Plan.

Having completed their final draft, the Planning Commission requested written comments and held a public hearing to give citizens a final opportunity to provide their input. Everyone who wanted to provide comments has had dozens of opportunities to do so. And the overwhelming majority of people commenting have consistently voiced their strong opposition to oil and gas development

However, the draft Master Plan does not reflect public opposition to oil and gas. For example, page 66 says, "Residents expressed support for oil and gas during the Master Plan process..."

This statement couldn't be further from the truth.

Like the Federal Election Commissioners in the example above, Delta County Planning Commissioner Steve Schrock told the audience at the public hearing that the Planning Commission could dismiss the opinions of the overwhelming majority of public comments. This was because he believed the Delta County citizens who didn't bother to exercise their numerous opportunities to provide input would have supported oil and gas development had they cared enough to show up to express an opinion. So, the Planning Commission put all non-existent, phantom comments in the pro-drilling column and declared oil and gas the winner in a landslide!

Mr. Schrock and the Planning Commission presume to speak for those who have not spoken, to know what the silent would have said, and to place greater importance on these unknown views than on those who actually showed up and expressed their concerns.

As with voting, decisions on public policy are made solely by those who care enough to show up. If you don't have an opinion or don't care enough to show up, you have silenced your own voice.

The Delta County Planning Commission cannot pretend to know the opinions of those who did not speak up during the Master Plan process. To do otherwise is improper, reprehensible, and legally questionable.

Robin Smith
Paonia

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