News and Commentary.
The army, taking a page from the Middletown Eye, has established a community newsblog. In addition to being a repository of information (via army postings), it is a major mechanism for Middletown community members to provide feedback to the army (via our comments). All comments posted on the blog will automatically go in the report submitted by the Corps to the Army Reserve around October 1st. Project Manager Diane McCartin explained to me this morning that she deliberately turned to a blog hosting service external to the army's domain, because everything posted on the army's internal servers requires extensive moderating and filtering to remove threatening language and to ensure that there are no security risks. Ms. McCartin did not want to filter postings or emails, and she wanted to ensure complete transparency, to assure residents that their comments would be included. This idea, using an external blog hosting server, is not something that has been done before in the Louisville District of the Corps of Engineers.
The comments section is divided into 5 parts, one for each of the possible sites, and one for general comments (clicking on each of the following will take you right to that comment section):
- Boardman Lane (with Ken Dooley Drive entrance)
- Bysiewicz Industrial Site (Middle Street and Smith)
- Cucia Park (Smith Street and Industrial Park Road)
- Mile Lane (Former Army Base, still owned by the Army)
- General comments about the Army Training Facility in Middletown
The army has finally done something right in the area of site selection. This new website is elegant, intuitive, and transparent, it is an outstanding means for gathering and organizing community input. The Army should take full advantage of this site and greatly expand the information available. They have given themselves an opportunity to show with their actions the openness of the process. On this site should be maps of each parcel, information about environmental, engineering, traffic, etc issues relating to each site, and schematics of how the army would place its buildings. The army should post here all other information that residents have asked for, including information that they have previously denied to us. The links should be expanded, there is a link to the City's Army information clearinghouse, but they should also link to other Middletown websites that have featured information (the WRA website, and hey Ms. McCartin, how about a nod to THE MIDDLETOWN EYE?).
The open nature of the blog postings has the very important ancillary benefit that Middletown's citizens can learn from and respond to what others in the community are thinking. It will not bring us to the level of democracy and discussion enjoyed by those in Vermont who attend the famous "town meetings", but it can bring us much closer than Middletown has been in a very long time. If the blog postings get out of hand, the Army should ask individuals trusted by the community to apply a minimal filter. All comments should be accessible to anybody who wants to read them, but the on-topic comments should not be made irrelevant by being buried in a swamp of off-topic comments.
Our elected officials should use this forum with us, to make clear their opinions on each of the 4 sites and on the entire site selection process in general. The army has given our Mayor, our Common Council members, and our state and federal elected officials an opportunity for them to show their constituents that they are engaged in the issue of the Military Reserve Center in Middletown. All should take advantage.