To the Editor:
I was one of the people who was turned away from Rep. Mark Meadows’ meeting at the Macon County Courthouse on Aug. 30. A group of about 30 people thought the congressman was having a public meeting to discuss the Forest Service Plan Revision for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests. He was quoted as saying that it is important to get a real open, honest dialogue. If this was truly the intent, why was the meeting closed to his constituents but not those who support the congressman’s preferences?
I spoke with Meadows, and he said the North Carolina Open Meetings Law only applies when there is a majority from any one government agency in attendance.
Obviously, the congressman, the government officials, and Forest Service staff in attendance knew this fine point of the law. They followed the letter of the law but blatantly violated its spirit.
The content of this meeting was of utmost importance, but the way it was held should be a cause of concern. They seem to have forgotten that this government should be of, by, and for the people.
Press reports indicate that one of the major concerns expressed at the meeting was access in Wilderness in case of emergencies. Macon County’s EMS director said local emergency workers have not had a problem getting in touch with the local district ranger when emergencies have occurred. Yet Meadows questioned a district ranger making decisions on health and safety. If I was a district ranger, I would feel somewhat indignant that my knowledge, experience and qualifications are considered insufficient in making such decisions.
As a senior citizen quite older than the average age in the district, I resent the statement that Wilderness is beyond my capabilities. A senior citizen has to be moderately fit to enjoy the Wilderness, but maybe more seniors would become fit and enjoy better health if the wonders of nature without noise, distractions, and threats of hunters were more available to them. And, let me add, most folks can walk on a trail but most folks cannot hunt because of lack of skill, equipment or desire.
I urge Rep. Meadows to right this wrong: hold a public meeting open to all his constituents and have the willingness to listen to all opinions, even those he may not agree with.