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Ashland BOS has imposed a gag order on the general public

To the editor,
The motion picture "Network" produced one of the most memorable lines we hear even today: "I am as mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore". This expressed my feelings when we learned the Ashland SB-2 meeting was not videotaped. There are many reasons a voter could not attend the meeting. Sickness, work or, even, indifference could stop voters from attending. It does not mean those who did not attend are not interested in watching their fellow citizens participate in the Democratic process. We again ask, why not? Why wasn't the meeting on PB Cam?
Is this yet another attempt by the chair of the Ashland Board of Selectmen to distance the voters from the machinations of that board? At the December 3rd BOS meeting, Madame Chair Jeanette Stewart, issued her infamous edict that the taxpaying public would no longer be allowed to verbally question any action of their elected officials. To skirt the law, all questions could be submitted in writing to the BOS and would be answered two weeks later at the next BOS meeting. An ineffective and inefficient remedy at best. At the December 3rd meeting, Madame Chair stated "she was following the advice of the town TA (town administrator), Paul Branscombe". We find this very difficult to believe that Mr. Branscombe, whose mother country gave the world the Magna Carta (a blue print for our own Declaration of Independence) and whose personal hero is Winston Churchill, would advocate such tyranny in his adopted country. If he did so advise the madam, Ashland would have been better served if the TA quoted Lord Acton: "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely".
We would like to bring to the reader's attention the "progression of suppression" since Ms. Stewart became chair after the March, 2012 election. Soon after the election, she told the voters that no question about past activities would be allowed, "the Board is too busy with present matters". Shortly after, Madam Chair moved the BOS work sessions to a time (8:30 a.m. weekdays) and place (conference room at the Town Hall), not convenient for the general public. Then she announced, the public would not be permitted to speak at any work session. This "gag" order was then extended to all BOS meetings, as stated at the BOS meeting December 3rd. At the December 17th BOS meeting, during the signing of the manifest, two adult women were in a quiet conversation at the back of the library. Madam Chair stated "would you like to leave? If not, please don't say anything. From that moment, all citizens of Ashland can be "seen and not heard". The oppression was and is complete.
Abuse of power is not limited to Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, or Saddam Hussein. However, it can be yielded just as ruthlessly by a priest, police chief, and, yes by a "Madam Chair".
Ashland is now a town that has no voice in dealing with our problems or concerns. We are not a 'Banana Republic'. We are small town America. Things have to change!
We are asking all who read this letter for your help. We intend to contact our state representatives to help restore our Freedom of Speech in our town. We will ask them to submit an amendment to the Right-t- Know Law or, if necessary, an RSA that mandates all selectboard agendas to include public comments and concerns, so the tax payers can have a say in their government.
If any reader has suggestions or even further concerns to convey to our state Legislature, please use these pages of a free and unfettered press (letters to the editor) to print your concerns. We will pass them on. If you have a computer there is a wonderful blog called "Ashland Speaks" that is also free an unfettered which could also take your comments.
This is not liberal vs. conservative, blue vs. red, or Democrat vs. Republican. It is not even an Ashland issue. It is an American issue. It is a Freedom of Speech issue.
Thank you. We are a member of the silenced majority
Joe & Sandra Coleman
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