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Thursday, March 14, 2002

Letters, Letters Everywhere

The diversity of letters in this week's New Canaan Advertiser is a testament to the public discussion this referendum has enabled about important issues in our town. Our thanks to the Editor for providing such a valuable forum.

On the VOTE NO side, we're thrilled to read letters that represent a range from members of New Canaan High School's cross country and track teams to the National Audubon Society's board chairman, a long-time New Canaanite.

The letters from the "vote yes" side are also remarkable in their own way, and we'd like to take a look at them. Now, we got blasted by the "Committee For Site 1" folks once before when we responded via this web site to some of their more extreme public statements. After we used this site to correct some of their assertions, they claimed we were "attacking free speech."

Apparently, for them, free speech means they can make all kinds of accusations in a well-read newspaper, but it does not extend to those who would offer rebuttals in a small web site.

So it's with some reservation that we use this site once again to rebut their provocative charges. We'd hate to be told again that we're "attacking free speech," when we are in fact just practicing and promoting it. But the referendum vote is upon us, and this site offers the surest way of making the point.

If you look at the "vote yes" letters in this week's New Canaan Advertiser, you'll notice a remarkable pattern:

They don't argue against things we've said.

Instead, they argue against things we haven't said.

Although many of the "vote yes" letters offer fine examples of this manipulative tactic, this letter, printed here in its entirety, may well be the winner:

Spacious offices? Not exactly

Editor, Advertiser:

Last week's Advertiser carried a grossly misleading statement on Page 5 by the eloquent spokesman for "Vote No." It asked, "Why couldn't the administrators accept in the proposed new building offices 17 by 17 square feet instead of huge 20 x 20 spaces?" Four hundred square feet! I could hardly believe this!

A review of the architect's plans reveals not a single 400-square-foot office, unless you wish to call the entrance lobby an office! In fact, most of the offices are much less than half that size! Efficient, yes; luxurious, no.

Please don't be misled. That building is well-conceived, badly needed, and must be located on site 1. Please vote Friday, and vote "Yes."

Signed by


Wow! For the record, let's look at last week's paper, Page 5, to see what was really said. Here's the actual quote from our "Vote No" column:

"As a problem-solver, ask yourself why the vacant second floor of the police station, which once accommodated 150 students and teachers, has been deemed by the building committee as having insufficient space for five administrators and their staff; if each employee could get by with 17 feet by 17 feet of space (instead of the wished for 20 feet by 20 feet), they could all move right in."

Are we talking about offices here? No, it's clear we're not talking about individual offices; we don't even use the word "office." We're talking about gross space (9,237 g.s.f. divided by 22 employees comes out to 419 square feet per person). And yet, this week's letter by [NAME NOT IMPORTANT] insists, and even pretends to quote, that we're talking about individual offices.

The size of the offices themselves isn't what we're questioning, it's the total space demand, padded as it is with extra conference rooms and redundancies. The point, obviously, isn't that the individual offices are big, but that the whole program has been padded beyond reason, thus eliminating the police station and other reasonable alternatives. The point, clear to everyone except [NAME NOT IMPORTANT], is that a slight space compromise from the wish list would make the police station a compelling candidate.

It's peculiar that this letter writer could cite the page number, but couldn't be bothered to cite a real quotation. As a result, he ends up arguing against a point entirely of his own fabrication. A charge of being "grossly misleading," coming from a person who would simultaneously MAKE UP A QUOTE and also MISS THE POINT, is laughable and maybe a little sad.

Please don't be misled. That building is poorly-conceived, maybe needed, and must not be located on site 1. Please vote Friday, and vote "NO."