Follow the laws first

Once again, ‘truth’ failed to roll off the tip of a Ward 2 Councilor’s pen. When the law-abiding citizens are labeled “the opposition”, people should be wondering who is trying to hide something.
Westfield politicians have illegally taken protected land for school projects in the past (Paper Mill School in 1988). Today, they should not act surprised when the people demand that the City respects and protects their natural resources.
Yes, Mr. Figy, there were several public meetings to roll out the plans for the school. You are 100 percent incorrect in stating that “…no one spoke out against the location until contracts were signed and construction was put into place.” Numerous news articles, letters to the City Council, and interviews on local TV stations, prior to contracts being signed, and long before any construction plans were made refute your claims.
We are not, as you claim, “a small group of neighbors….”. Besides, the ‘truth’ is a majority no matter how many politicians refuse to acknowledge it. The truth has now spread and the people object to being marginalized for standing up to protect a government sanctioned natural resource, as defined in the Mass. General Laws, Article 97, and the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
The consequences resulting in the plan to build such a large school on Ashley St. and Cross St. were not honestly presented to any board, committee, or commission in Westfield throughout 2010, 2011 and into 2012.
For example, in August 2011, the Mayor’s contingent assured the Park and Rec. that the City would not be required to replace Cross St. Playground if the commissioners gave up the playground. The Mayor didn’t inform the City Council, Zoning Board of Appeals or Planning Board of the consequences for building on a protected open space.
Just as drinking water, air, forests, soils, rivers, lakes, streams, wetland areas, and the ocean have protection laws, our dedicated public open spaces also have natural resource protections. The people are “the opposition” for rejecting the move to take 30 prcent of an open space natural resource away?
The ‘Save the Neighborhood’ people shared their concerns with the project’s massive size with the City immediately and not, as you wrote, after all the contracts were signed. The people would be served better by directing opinions toward the City of Westfield for what it didn’t do right – not to those serving to protect a natural resource.
The Ward 2 Councilor portrays Councilor’s O’Connell and Flaherty as having flip-flopped in their support for the school project. Mary O’Connell and Dave Flaherty did vote for the project at the time when the City of Westfield withheld many truths regarding the project site. Witness to the City Council meetings and sub-committee meetings reveals Mary O’Connell and Dave Flaherty’s questioning of the speed at which the process was advancing and lack of suitable answers as to how the City of Westfield planned to pay for this project. The Cross St. Playground neighborhood met together beginning in the summer of 2011 and shared their serious concerns for losing the playground, old Ashley St. School building, and the traffic problems that would be created throughout the neighborhoods. We wrote and delivered a 24-page document, with images, to express these concerns to each City Councilor.
When the people learned the of the playground’s protected status, the precarious lease agreement with the Diocese of Springfield to pay the church to use its parking lot, and other important details that were concealed from the public, the project took on a new description that was not portrayed by the City throughout 2010, 2011 and 2012. Now, the truth searchers and bearers are portrayed as “the opposition”?
The City’s choice to replace Cross St. Playground with a tangled mass of briars, invasive vines, and former dumping ground, in the flood plain, in an industrial zone on Ponders Hollow Road is an example of ‘fool the people first’, and then answer for making bad decisions later. Let’s not put the horse before the cart this time, Westfield.
The Little River, in that area, is dangerous. Water is released from the Cobble Mountain Reservoir to power generators every day. Each day, without any warning, the Little River water level and flow increases rapidly.
According to the news accounts, people have been swept away while wading in the river.
Let’s answer the questions first, follow the laws first, and let the people be included first before hitching the reigns to the wrong wagon, again.
Tom Smith

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