Editor, The Spotlight;
As a Bethlehem resident and candidate for Town Supervisor, I find it outrageous that in last week’s Spotlight article titled, “Running on Their Past Record,” the incumbents in Town Hall touted their alleged accomplishments including purported improvements in the “Transparency and Efficiency” of Town government under Clarkson’s administration.
Conspicuous in its absence is any mention of April’s landslide along the Normans Kill. Try as they might to sweep it under the rug, the “Normans Slide” disaster is a costly and embarrassing mistake by John Clarkson and his administration and taxpayers may pay millions to fix it. The problem has not been fixed, and Department of Transportation engineers estimate that these remediation costs may ultimately total nearly $8 million — which equates to one-fifth of Bethlehem’s 2015 Town Budget. Had the administration taken prompt action when dump trucks first began rumbling down the quiet, residential streets of Elsmere, the disaster would likely have been prevented. Rather than putting a halt to the illegal dumping, the Town instead issued a permit in March giving approval for an additional 5,200 cubic yards of fill to be dumped along the unstable slopes of the Normans Kill.
With respect to “transparency,” if there was one lesson to be learned from the Watergate scandal, it was that the cover-up was worse than the crime. And although the “Normans Slide” debacle noted above is certainly scandalous enough, it appears that the current administration chose to deny certain sensitive and embarrassing documents to me in response to my May 8 FOIL request seeking documents relating to the landslide. I only became aware of the current administration’s apparent selective production of documents as a result of a June 22 Times Union article that cited emails from Clarkson and other Town employees that had been supplied in response to the Times Union’s FOIL request, but not to mine. The documents missing from what was provided to me by the Town included an email sent on March 26 — weeks before the landslide — in which Clarkson himself wrote to Town building inspectors and engineers that “memories of vegetable and carwash come to mind” in reference to previous landslides along the Normans Kill.
It is preposterous that the current administration would run on a record of transparency when it contravenes both the letter and spirit of freedom of information laws by denying anyone access to documents that are made available to others. Transparency is not selective. It is equally ridiculous for the administration to tout its alleged improvements in efficiency when through both action and inaction, the administration has exposed taxpayers to potentially millions of dollars in liability for a disaster that could easily have been prevented. If this is the record they are running on, then we all are being taken for a ride.
Editor’s note: Foster is the Republican candidate for Town Supervisor.
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