The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 2, 2014

Foolishness can find its way into fullproof thinking


The Daily Item

— While I respect the decision of Point Township officials to decline a DCNR matching grant (I did it once, and it’s not easy), I don’t respect The Daily Item’s snarky “commendation” of their action in its editorial.

“Government waste” is about the easiest target for public ridicule there is, and your editor must have felt pretty confident writing such foolproof words as: “If officials ... listen, local people will tell them ... more about the feasibility of any future project than any high-priced, governmental study possibly can.” The problem is, a lot of foolishness can find its way into such “foolproof” thinking.

First of all, the study may or may not have been conducted by the government — just because the study is state-funded doesn’t mean that the state conducts it. More likely it would be some local engineer or landscape architect with a specialty in trail design, or maybe some recent college grads with environmental and planning degrees. You know — people you know who know stuff, not faceless producers of “bureaucratic muck.”

Second, the program that Point Township will pursue instead, that you lauded, SEDA COG’s Susquehanna Greenways, might fairly be described as a “high-priced, governmental study.” Although its aims are laudable and its sales pitch seductive, it is unclear what has resulted from several years and many thousands of dollars of investment by participating communities. As your editorial noted, strings are attached to participation in the Greenways program, and it’s not yet clear what communities will get in return. How is this quasi-governmental program that takes resources from local governments better for the locals than an actual governmental program that gives resources to local governments?

Finally, and most crucially, “local people” are as likely as anyone else to fear the unknown and vote with emotion rather than with reason. Does that mean that we should give up on every idea that worries or threatens someone?

The Buffalo Valley Rail Trail met lots of vocal opposition from some of the people who would be “affected” by the trail, many of them neighboring farmers. Their concerns were heard and addressed as thoroughly as was feasible, but in the end the trail proceeded despite the concerns of some of its neighbors. A couple years further on, none of the feared outcomes has materialized, and many of the trail’s former foes are now its advocates, not to mention all the people who thought they would be and were, in fact, positively affected by the trail.

By no means is the majority always correct, nor does the majority’s opinion always result in the wisest, most reasonable use of resources. For that matter, a “preliminary survey” is no guarantee of a majority decision — the results depend on who is included in the survey pool. What about all the taxpayers who would have been positively affected by having more access to nearby recreation opportunities? They might have had a different opinion than the survey’s respondents, and might even have been in the majority, if they were included.

Your disappointing editorial amounts to not much more than, “Yeah! What he said, Poindexter!” Unfortunately, you have trained me in recent years to expect better from The Daily Item.

Trey Casimir,

Lewisburg