To the Editor:
On Monday morning, Nov. 15, around 9:15 a.m., Tracy Haggett-Sloan called the Potsdam Town Office asking for the town supervisor. My assistant, Sally Boslet, told her I wasn’t in the office, but she would give me the message that Ms. Sloan wanted to be called back.
The note Ms. Boslet placed on my desk gave me Ms. Sloan’s phone number and a message that she would only be at that number until 10 a.m. I read the message at 10:25 a.m., as soon as I arrived.
Today, Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 9:45 a.m., I called Ms. Sloan from my home to make sure I’d reach her before 10 a.m. We had a pleasant conversation that included my responses to her queries about the Brookfield monies that have been given in lieu of taxes, to the town and village as part of their Empire Zone designation. We discussed how these monies were sourced, spent, and budgeted. I explained that, by contract, the money cannot be placed in the regular budget; these funds are earmarked for economic development, capital projects, and improvements that would not be easily funded through the regular budget. The conversation took roughly 22 minutes. The entire episode was friendly on both sides.
I had not yet read Tuesday’s issue of the Courier-Observer.
A few minutes later, I glanced through the paper before I left for work. To my amazement and chagrin, I saw a letter from Ms. Sloan that “I placed a call to the supervisor…No surprise I’ve not been granted a response.”—I couldn’t believe it! This letter appeared less than 24 hours after her initial phone call. I wonder when she wrote it!
I have taken hours of my time to answer Ms. Sloan’s barbed questions and adversarial comments. We have spoken over the phone several times, and prior to the 2009 elections, I spent over two hours with her in the town office answering a multitude of questions on the workings of town government and in reviewing how the town budget was constructed. Ms. Sloan, at that time, was running for the town board; she received insufficient votes to be elected. Our discussion went well.
I was happy to do this; she, and any citizen, has the right to have their questions and concerns addressed in an honest, polite, pleasant and prompt way. I have attempted to do this in every single instance, public and private, where a response was requested. I intent to continue this practice as long as I am in public office.
Until today, while I might diametrically oppose Ms. Sloan’s views, I had respect for her and acknowledged she had every right to ask questions and state her position as forcefully as she wished.
Now, I no longer respect her veracity and her motivation. When you don’t even allow an official 24 hours to respond to a phone call, you just are not playing fair. To go to the paper before giving them even a day to respond and say “No surprise…I’ve not been granted a response” is playing “dirty pool.”
Harry Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” I understand this maxim. Politicians have to expect criticism and opposing views; this makes our democracy vibrant and strong. Yet, while opinions may vary, facts should be irrefutable. I have always responded to every phone call and letter I have received—even the few that have been rude—as quickly as possible. Ms. Sloan’s responses were dealt with in a similar fashion, less than 24 hours after receiving the request.
Every year, it gets more and more difficult to get good people to serve on governmental committees and/or to run for office. Part of the reason for this is the never ending and sometimes unfair innuendo made by, fortunately, a very few citizens such as Ms. Tracy Haggett-Sloan.
Marie C. Regan
Potsdam Town Supervisor