Biker gangs, Uvalde P.D. and the Thomaston Select Board. Same disease, different towns

Tue, 06/07/2022 - 7:30pm

Disrespect for the ideas enshrined in our Constitution can be found in Uvalde, Texas and right here in Thomaston, Maine. 

This past week, in an effort to minimize damage from what is being described as the greatest dereliction of duty in American policing history, the publicly funded Uvalde Police, lead by the now impossible to locate for comment and newest member of the Uvalde City Council, Chief Pete Arredondo, coordinated with a motorcycle gang to physically prevent reporters for doing their First Amendment duties in reporting on the mass shooting which, ironically, is calling into question the very next Amendment to our Constitution.

In coordination with biker groups, Uvalde police violated the norms of community policing and acted in a way which would compel anyone with even a passing familiarity with the U.S. Constitution to become understandably enraged.

They had their thugs intimidate reporters. Reporters like the Houston Chronicle's Julian Gill, who posted the following tweet from the scene:


How different is the disrespect for freedoms taking hold in Texas from recent actions taken right here in Maine by the Thomaston Select Board and town government in their colossally ham handed and undemocratic opposition to a citizens initiative to preserve the Thomaston Town Green? 

Same disease, different victim. 

Simply put, the town and Thomaston Select Board have done everything in their power to stifle the citizens initiative Thomaston ballot Question No. 4, an initiative to keep the Thomaston Town Green (you may know it as the former prison site) a park, in perpetuity.

This opposition under the guise that a promise was made nearly 20 years ago that the site could be put to some public use. After years of failure to do so and chronic kicking the can down the road until the next guy comes into office, the Select Board has settled on ballot question No. 3. A proposal to develop the Town Green. With what? Oh, we can decide that later. Maybe in another 20 years. Who knows. Just trust us, they say. 

By the way, is it just me or is a promise that takes two decades to keep not one voters should hold their breath waiting for Thomaston to deliver on?

And how did they go about torpedoing Ballot Question No. 4 you may ask? 

They started by using the taxpayer funded official Town of Thomaston website. You know, the one that Thomaston residents use to get unbiased, dependable, critical governmental information, such as access to ballots, pay taxes and when to license your dogs, to advocate for the Select Boards favored question No. 3.

They also sent out a postcard to the list of Thomaston voters advocating Yes on 3 and No on 4.
Was this political action in the form of a postcard identified in regards to who paid for it? Seeing as it was copied directly onto the town website a voter would naturally assume it came from the town using public monies.
No. Despite appearances, intentional or not, It was paid for by Selectman Hahn and his associates, who oppose question No. 4. How do we know this? Because when the question of whether or not public funds were used, Selectman Hahn admitted it live on TV during a public session from the Laura Libby Room in the taxpayer funded Thomaston Town Municipal Building. 

This was the same otherwise perfectly respectful public session in which Select Board Chairperson Diane Giese shot back at a member of the Friends of the Thomaston Town Green after that individual had commented on an issue of school taxes 'So you don't think children should be educated in Thomaston?!?'

Since when did differences of opinion on the use of public space become vendetta fodder?

Where is the hostility towards citizens coming from? 

Have we arrived at a place where elected and appointed officials now regard the people they serve as the enemy?  

Combine this with the Select Board’s unhealthy dependence on holding what is reported to be an extremely unusual number of executive sessions, which are only meant to be used to discuss personnel matters, and the coordinated effort to develop the Thomaston Green, must lead you to conclude that something is up here and you have a right to know what that something is.

Did the Select Board use executive sessions to discuss this political matter? No one is saying. 

Why the secrecy?

What's being discussed behind all of these closed doors?

What has happened to the public's right to know? 

In that very same public session I said that the town should immediately take its thumb off the scales by removing the pro No. 3 info and graphics from the town website and I implored the town attorney to advise the Town Manager to do the same.

I also implored the Select Board to no longer use executive sessions to discuss this issue going forward.
Two days later, advocacy for 3 and against 4 were gone from the town website. Gone too were the unattributed postcard graphics.
What remains after all this is something new for me. A disquieting distrust of those who are given the public's trust. In Thomaston. In Augusta. In Uvalde. In Washington. Everywhere. 

These types of actions by public officials, using their influence for personal or political benefit, hiding facts, preventing reporting, is a symptom of the rot that is decaying the flesh of the American body politic. It is not acceptable but I fear it's here to stay. That doesn't mean we can't fight it. 

So while it may seem that a police chief in Texas screwing up royally has zero to do with the Thomaston Select Board and town government screwing up royally, the genesis of it comes from the exact same place. 

Let them get away with it and we lose more than just a park. No matter if it's the police in coordination with bikers preventing reporters from doing their jobs in Uvalde or Thomaston town officials putting their thumbs on the scales of an election, both represent the same disease that is destroying the American experiment. At the very least, you deserve to know. 


Seth Silverton is a member of the Thomaston Budget Committee and lives in Thomaston.