This opinion piece appeared in the Townsman, January 22 edition
Last December an email from Woodstock Environmental Commission (WEC) member David Lewis was sent to Woodstock councilman Jay Wenk and copied to other members of the town board including the supervisor. Mr Lewis, you will recall, came up short at the 2005 and 2007 Democratic Party caucuses in bids for the party's nomination for town supervisor. His 2007 effort was aided by a $1000 contribution from a political committee, the so-called Committee For Woodstock's Future, which operated in contravention of New York State Election Law. The same committee had made a $1000 contribution to Jay Wenk, and this perhaps explains the fondness between these two fellows. Anyway, it appears Mr Lewis has lowered his sights, at least for the nonce.
From: "David Lewis"
Date: December 3, 2008 11:44:28 AM EST
Cc: "Elizabeth Simonson"
Subject: Head of the Environmental Commision
To all Town Board members,
I would like to apply for the head of the evironmental commision, since Mary will be leaving this position vacant this January. Please let me know of any materials that I will need to hand in to apply for this position.
The above e-mail exhibits several of the dispositions surrounding Lewis, some charming and amusing, others not. It appears this junior member's haste to climb the WEC ladder caused him to fumble 'environmental' ('evironmental'), but commission spelled 'commision' not once but twice strongly suggests that among "any materials" he might "hand in" with an application to "head" the WEC should include a well-thumbed dictionary. But for heaven's sake, if I had been blasted for every spelling error I've made over the years, and continue to make, there would be nothing of me left, so "To all Town Board members" I recommend that each afford a forgiving smile. There are three board members, Jay Wenk in particular, who might recommend to Lewis the person who writes theirs and Michael Pacut's public pronouncements. Yes, truth and clarity would be maimed, but the 'commision' of embarrassments perhaps held to a minimum.
Of less charm and amusement, Mr Lewis's record of attendance to WEC meetings during his 2008 indicates that of the 19 meetings held that year he failed to attend five of them, was an hour and a half late for another, and at least for the first several weeks of 2008 left the meetings early in order to produce a public access television show. Look, we're all busy and Lewis's absences are entirely excusable, but an organization whose meetings we have failed to attend a little more than 25% of the time might prefer our reticence more than our offer of being its "head."
But of least charm and amusement surrounding Mr Lewis's offer to "head" the "eviromental commision" in the coming year was his explanation, "since Mary will be leaving this position vacant this January."
He is referring to Mary Burke, who has chaired (in case you are wondering what the proper term is) the WEC for several years, and had served on the WEC for years before that. If Burke had made up her mind by December 3, 2008 to leave "this position vacant this January," it makes her December 11, 2008 email to the town supervisor expressing interest in reappointment a very odd, indeed a baffling missive, and it makes her interview with the town board on January 12 in an executive session to discuss her application for reappointment a very odd, indeed baffling use of her time.
There can be only one explanation for why Lewis on December 3, 2008 expressed his certainty of Burke's non-reappointment, and anticipated the January 13, 2009 town board meeting that sacked her for Michael Veitch; at least three members of the town board had made Lewis such assurance. Which is fine. Town boards have the authority and the responsibility to staff the various boards with people in whom they have faith and trust. What is odious, what lacks charm, was the town board's decision to interview Burke for reappointment on January 12, 2009 when they already knew she was a goner. This was not only lack of respect for the time belonging to a woman who served our town for many, many years; it was clumsy and a crummy thing to do.
Nothing amusing about that.
* * *
By the time you read this Barack Obama will be our 44th president. Much has been made, as well it should have, of his African ancestry, for indeed our nation's history with regard to our black brothers and sisters would suggest how very unlikely the day would come when we would inaugurate a president with even a hint of African blood.
I count myself among those very proud to be an American. The pride has always been there, but today is especially strong.
President Obama, however, represents another important demographic; he is our first post-baby boom generation president. We have so far elected two baby boomers president, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
History has not yet had the time to make judgment on these two boomers. I think it is fair to guess that in the absence of a Constitutional bar Clinton probably would have won a third term, yes, even despite his randy behavior. It is just as fair to guess that given the choice today, Bush never would have seen the inside of the White House. Ever. Even so, history will judge.
One thing I am certain of is that a generation so gifted by the sacrifices of its parents, and one so willing to talk the talk of a better, more just world - and I am talking about the boomers - really made a hash of things, no matter what one thinks of the Clinton-Bush presidencies. The boomer generation is at the point of distinguishing itself as the first in America's history to hand to its children an America poorer than the one given them. I am a boomer and by no means excuse myself from culpability.
I don't know if I have ever hoped more for a man's success than I do President Obama's in his quest to restore our nation's finances and environment, our respect and prestige in the world, and our promise to our succeeding generations.
Should Obama make progress and be reelected, it will be this day in 2017 that the 45th president of the United States will be inaugurated. The oldest living boomer will be 72, the youngest 57. For the sake of my generation's redemption in history I hope 45 will be a boomer, and that he or she will follow through with fulfilling every generation's obligation to the next.