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Seasonal Cape residents deserve a vote

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The editorial piece “There are no winners in Cape Vincent battle” by Watertown Daily Times City Editor Perry White (Outside Looking In, Nov. 17) may have missed the center on some shots and missed the target altogether on others.

The suggestion that wind has gone out of the sails of the anti-wind faction may be a bit premature and overstated. Currently, it looks like two of three incumbents will be returned to office.

Also, consider that wind was not the central issue of the campaign. Wind did not emerge as a vocal issue until the votes were counted, and now the sails are filled with indignation over yet another attempt by Democrats to stop seasonal residents from voting.

Visit the Public Service Commission’s website for the Cape Vincent Wind Project and see the extensive record compiled by the town and the public defending against the attack on our community by British Petroleum, and you will see no loss of resolve or determination. Far from being becalmed and dead in the water, the town has continued its vigorous defense of home rule and our comprehensive plan and local laws.

Mr. White proposes standing back a dispassionate distance to allow the consideration of more-complex issues like “who should be allowed to vote in any given municipality.” I disagree that voting rights are a complex issue or that it is an open question as to who should be allowed to vote in a community. That decision is only the decision of the eligible voter, and the law clearly defines who is eligible.

To reiterate the law, seasonal residents who reside for any significant period of time in Cape Vincent can vote here if they choose. What they cannot do is vote in two places at the same time.

This is not complicated, but it is nevertheless uncomfortable for some residents of Cape Vincent to accept. They persist, apparently, in believing they have some special entitlement to govern their community at the expense of others. Why would Mr. White choose to add any merit at all to their willfully incorrect attitude about this?

It was noted that “at no point in this battle has either side been much more than irritants in the larger war.” This comment represents a major underestimation and misunderstanding of what motivated both sides in the battle over industrial wind development.

None of us on either side of the issue were much interested in the events on the state and national levels. The focus of the anti-wind groups were protecting health, safety and property values; it was not focused on terminating federal subsidies or natural gas prices.

By the same token, the interest by the pro-wind faction was assuring their personal financial opportunities and not “improving the sorry state of the Northeast’s electrical distribution network.” I am surprised that anyone would think the principal focus by residents of a town targeted by wind development would be anything other than local issues affecting their quality of life.

The Outside Looking In piece also noted that seasonal residents have paid taxes for many years, but the economic needs of the farm community have been dismissed by these same seasonal residents “who spend, in total, so little time in Cape Vincent.” What has time to do with the economic argument?

Seasonal residents are the economic engine of the town of Cape Vincent. They account for about three-fourths of the taxes paid to the town, county and school system.

They do not get a discount based on their daily presence, so why should they not be allowed to care about the value of their property? Furthermore, seasonal residents are no more dismissive of farmers’ financial needs as farmers are dismissive of seasonal residents’ property devaluation — devaluation that nobody credibly disputes.

Finally, and most importantly, you note that “Many full-time residents ... resent the ‘hijacking’ of the political process that the incursion of absentee voting from vacation homeowners has brought on.” However, the real “hijacking” of Cape Vincent occurred when elected officials, who were paid by wind developers, ignored our town’s vision and future, as directed in the 2003 Joint Comprehensive Plan. In the past, a number of officials had contracts with clauses that required them to serve wind developers while at the same time they pledged to serve the public.

Unfortunately, this corruption issue never received the bright light of public scrutiny that it deserved. The New York State Attorney General’s Office showed some concern by opening an investigation, but it was resolved politically when these officials resigned or were removed from office with ballots.

Hopefully, the election challenge involving Cape Vincent and the Jefferson County Board of Elections will finally put to rest the argument that seasonal residents are not entitled to vote in local elections. We can also hope that all of us will accept the result and move on.

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