Please Consider The Process

Posted:  Sunday, January 26, 2014 - 2:30pm
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Dear Editor: 

As Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Professor of Economics at Harvard, as well as Camden taxpayers, we are concerned with the process by which the community will resolve the Fox Hill rezoning application.  

With all due respect to those supporting Fox Hill, including our colleagues at Harvard Medical School, the process they are requesting the Select Board to follow is inconsistent with representative democracy because it renders the critical roles of the Planning and Select Boards irrelevant. 

Please allow us to reiterate the fundamental tenets of the democratic process, which the Select Board swore to uphold upon taking office: 

In the United States, democratic representation is government by the people, for the people, and of the people—that is, we are a government elected by, and comprised of, our own citizens whom we empower to represent us, enforce our laws, and act in ways that benefit the majority.  Citizens express their points of view and expect elected officials to make decisions that represent them. 

In Camden, Selectmen hold public hearings to become informed about how voters wish to be governed.  Selectmen, as elected representatives, should listen and then vote with the views of voters in mind, rather than being swayed by minority special interests. If the Select Board fails in its duty to make important decisions because they are “too complex or contentious,” it will have failed in its most basic and fundamental duty to those who elected them. 

In the case of Camden, there is one additional step for any zoning change—formal adoption by the people at town vote.  We encourage the Select Board not to confuse this additional step with their job in a representative democracy of deciding first whether or not it should even be considered for adoption. If the majority of Selectmen oppose the proposal, the board must reject it.  If a majority approve of the proposal, the board must recommend its adoption in June. 

We urge the Select Board to make a decision on behalf of the very people who elected it to do so. 

Respectfully,
Rachel McCleary
Senior Research Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Robert Barro
Professor of Economics, Harvard University

 158 Chestnut Street, Camden