Letter: Despicable behavior at village debate

To the editor:

Monday evening’s Greenport trustee candidates’ forum was my first foray into village government. Thanks to Tim Kelly and The Suffolk Times for organizing and moderating the event, and thanks to Ms. Phillips, Ms. Robins and Mr. Swiskey for their time and commitment to our village.

As a more recent transplant to Greenport — six years ago — I walked into the forum hoping to be energized to find ways to help the village I’ve quickly grown to love. I walked out feeling the exact opposite.

The ideas and conversation among the candidates were overshadowed by behavior from members of the audience that can best be described as immature and despicable, including loud side conversations, heckling, interruptions, laughter and a cellphone with a loud notification sound the owner refused to turn off.

At one point, it seemed that the altercation was going to change from verbal to physical, and I literally felt unsafe sitting in the room. My motivation to attend more Village Board meetings is now considerably lower.

It wasn’t clear whether the disrupters of this event agreed or disagreed with anything the candidates were saying. It just seemed to be disruption for disruption’s sake. If the village wants its residents to take its governance and electoral process seriously, I would recommend that it take action to remove these elements from these meetings.

Perhaps the best idea of the evening was presented by Mr. Swiskey, and, whether he is elected or not, I would encourage the village to strongly consider his insistence that we move more of the village government’s work onto the Web. Without a strong Internet presence, the village alienates an entire demographic of Greenporters who routinely conduct business and social interaction on the Web, and many of us in this category have valuable ideas and suggestions to offer.

There was much discussion Monday evening about “collecting input from villagers” about various topics, including parking and the use of Mitchell Park. It is extremely simple to gather feedback from people via the Web. I hope the new Village Board will ensure outreach to all Greenporters, not just those who can attend meetings during standard business hours or on weekday evenings.

Moreover, after Monday evening’s nonsense from my fellow audience members, I might prefer to participate from the comfort and safety of my laptop and home Wi-Fi.

Doug Roberts, Greenport

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