The Jefferson County Council featured some rather embarrassing performances as it considered a quarry project over the past three months. But I should state first off that the conditional use permit for expanded operations at the Morse Mill Quarry was approved on November 23, so we got the correct result. Too often this council has rejected zoning requests, favoring NIMBY complaints over the property rights and economic development that our county needs.
As background, this project was approved in the first vote, 6-0 on September 26. In the second required vote, on October 13, the proposal lost 5-1, even though restrictions were added by the council. Sixteen area residents spoke against the project at that meeting, according to the Leader. A third vote was taken at the aforementioned November 23 meeting, and the project was approved 6-1.
One of the flip-floppers was District 7 councilman Jim Terry, a Republican, who proposed the restrictions that were passed. He claimed that his no vote in October was because it was already decided by the time his name was called. “I would have been out of my mind to vote in favor of it at that time,” he said that day. Why, because there was opposition? Would you vote yes on a gun control measure if it had amassed a majority of votes by the time it got to you? I doubt it. Stick to your convictions, man.
Of course, Terry has had trouble with this before. Here’s what he said after voting to reject a planned shooting range a few months back:
In the future, listen to your head. Liberals vote with their hearts; that’s why they support foolish ideas that might sound good on their face.
Coucilman George Engelbach, a Republican from the 4th district, also voted no the second time. He gave in to the crowd while maintaining that he supported the project. He basically said, fine, I will vote against the project, then you won’t be able to acquire any rock. So he was OK with letting the whole county suffer to spite 16 people who oppose the quarry expansion. Again, stick with your convictions. Next time the council considers a controversial issue, people will now know which councilmen they can sway, which ones might buckle under vocal pressure.
The third regrettable performance comes from county executive Ken Waller, a Republican. He took time to rip into two opponents of the project, Robert and Barbara Breeden, from his presiding chair at the council dais. In a long diatribe, he said they were unprofessional in their opposition, mocked them for (in his mind) thinking they were code enforcement officers or lawyers, and for “calling out” him and county employees. Waller also said “If I had a vote – which I don’t – I would vote for this quarry just because of you.”
Now, that is more unprofessional than anything the Breedens may have done. And I don’t know what they did. Maybe they were disagreeable. Elected officials have to deal with a lot of cranks, gadflys, and stubborn types, but that’s part of the job. Suck it up. Mrs. Breeden wrote an eloquent letter to the Leader (published December 10) in response to Waller’s snit fit. While I disagree with her on the issue, I agree with her characterization of Waller’s conduct as a “little boy tantrum.”