News of county officials’ surprise redrawing of the Sugarloaf area protection overlay to exclude a 490-acre parcel because they now “felt it didn’t align with other elements of the proposal” reminded us of a scene from the movie “Spotlight.” It takes place in a cozy bar between the editor of a Boston Globe investigative team and a likable acquaintance who’s been sent to persuade him to keep the paper from publishing the team’s findings.
Editor Robbie (smiling ruefully, ignoring his drink): Has anyone ever said no to a drink with you, Pete?
Acquaintance Pete (also smiling and ignoring his drink): Well, sure. But the trick is to keep asking...
Robbie: This is how it happens, isn’t it, Pete?
Pete: What’s that, Robbie?
Robbie: A guy leans on a guy, and the whole town looks the other way.
Pete (wincing, leaning in) Robbie ... Robbie ...
Thankfully, the whole town, Boston, doesn’t ultimately look away, and thankfully that doesn’t seem to be happening here either. And while it might be wrong to equate longtime indifference to child sex abuse, the film’s subject, with longtime indifference to galloping environmental degradation, we have the sense there’s a common denominator: what Robert Reich, in his book and companion documentary Saving Capitalism: For the Many. Not the Few, calls disastrous “cronyism.”
It might also be wrong to ignore the possibility that the proposed amendment was a good-faith afterthought intended to merge the vision of a livable, sustainable county with an economically booming one. After all, the two aims don’t have to be mutually exclusive — some developers and land owners are genuinely committed to environmental and community sustainability, and even remediation. One problem here, though, is that the owner and would-be developer of the disputed acreage isn’t among them. His company is much better known for commitment to profitability than to sustainability or stewardship. (Letter writer Johanna Springston, who lives in an area already developed by the company, suggests that one of many negative consequences of allowing commercial or residential development of those 490 acres would be to “turn ... Hopehill, one of the oldest African American communities in the county, into just a memory.”
For us, among many others, the question now is whether enough of our county planners and council members — the council makes the final decision — will stay focused on and committed to a livable, sustainable Frederick to make the needed difference. Or will they look the other way and go back to doing — or at least enabling — business as usual.
Bob Horrall and Jo Harte