After reading what happened at Lavender and at Union Avenue on the night of May 9, a group of concerned friends and I attended the last Board of Selectmen meeting. Chairman O’Brien scheduled the issue last in the evening, and after a lengthy discussion of the NStar debacle, we finally got to it around 11:30. Mr. O’Brien read a prepared statement acknowledging poor judgment but no legal breach on his part, and left the room. Selectman Drobinsky did not recuse himself, and instead refused to second Selectman Haarde’s repeated requests to dig deeper into the issue of what happened that night. The owner of Lavender had been cited by the police for hosting past their liquor license, and a fellow Sudbury resident, cited for a third OUI, faces legal action for the offense.
Some people seem to feel like that should be the end of it. I am not among them, but I understand their position in the context of the toxic environment that exists in town right now.
I’ve lived here for about six years now, and it seems like right around the time I arrived, something changed. Near as I can tell it traces back to people’s ability to leave anonymous comments on local online news sites like Wicked Local and Patch. Unconstrained by a common interest in keeping the peace with neighbors we might run into at CVS, things started to get ugly. The folks in charge at that time – people of goodwill who had done their best to serve the town – had succeeded in some efforts, and failed in others. Sides formed to focus exclusively on the former, or the latter. Elections heated up the rhetoric. Rocks were thrown. Things got bad, and it’s everybody’s fault.
It’s in that context that I understand why some feel we should just let this Lavender thing go. I hear words like “witch hunt,” “smear campaign,” and “vendetta” attributed to those of us who disagree. And there’s a minority of folks on our side who’ve succumbed to the same closed-minded judgementalism that characterizes a minority of folks on the other side. Dialogue between those extremes is probably pointless at this point. It’s certainly unlikely to yield a productive result for the town we all care about.
The group of us who left the last BOS meeting angry and unsatisfied on Tuesday night created a Facebook group to stay connected to each other, and maintain focus on this issue in the face of those trying to make it go away. We made the group private … not to exclude anyone who wanted to join (all are welcome, we’ve denied no one access,) but to make sure that people took ownership of whatever they had to say. There is no anonymity in the group, and as a result the dialog has been more civil and fact-based than that on Patch over the past week. Our group has swelled to nearly 800 people, been noted in the local media, and dismissed as some kind of social smokescreen by people who don’t understand the medium.
We are not an angry mob. We are neighbors and friends who care about Sudbury. And we are not going away.
I polled the group to ask what it wanted in more specific terms. Collectively, the answer was NOT someone’s head on a spike. It was to get to the bottom of what happened at Lavender, hold the responsible people accountable based on the facts rather than their station in our town, and move on from there in putting this issue behind us.
Did people with power and influence in our town force a local business owner to break the rules, then turn their backs as the police cites him for doing so?
Did these same people, including the man responsible for championing drunk driving awareness with our children, look the other way in allowing a drunk colleague to drive home?
It seems to me these are important questions. The answers will not be black and white, I know. But the final question may be the most important: Has Sudbury developed a political culture characterized by a sense among those in power that the rules don’t apply to them? And doesn’t abandoning this issue now encourage that belief, even if it doesn’t exist today?
What we want – nearly 800 people in a town where 2,600 voted our current Selectmen into power – is an open, fact-driven assessment of what happened that night and in its aftermath. We want to know that no one is above the law in our town. And we want to know that everyone else knows it as well.
Please join us if you feel the same. Most of us there are still willing to listen … we’re just unwilling to sweep this whole thing under the rug, await punishment of the powerless, and move on.
342 Lincoln Road