March 25, 2009: American rights must be defended

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To The Editor:
Babette Kiesel wrote a letter last week telling me I should be ashamed for exercising my God-given American right to speak out against injustice and petition my elected officials. She says I’m greedy and calls me a “scofflaw.” She wonders if I want to set a precedent. Ms. Kiesel, and the people trying to pass this new law either don’t understand what’s going on or else they don’t share the American values that most of us live by.
I opened a farm stand almost identical to another business in the same zone and have been harassed since day one. The town tried to shut me down but did not have a legal leg to stand on. When they couldn’t close me down, they demanded that I pay $2,500 to them for a site plan review that would give me the permit I needed. Then, after altering and then cashing my check, they did not give me the review. Instead, they proposed this new law which is so bad that it would put me out of business.
Most Americans value their right to speak out when they are persecuted and it is clear by their actions that this town board, and some of our fellow citizens, are trying to shut me down not because I’m illegal but because they just don’t like me.
Most Americans believe that laws should be enforced fairly and equitably, not used as a hatchet to stop people you don’t like. The current Shandaken administration lets their friends get away with abusing the law and enforces selectively against people who disagree with them.
Most Americans think that competition is a good thing, that small Mom and Pop businesses are good for the community and that entrepreneurs who pay taxes and create jobs are good people, not greedy.
You can ignore the fact that their “shakedown” of me for $2,500 was illegal and a really bad precedent, and you might not mind that their alteration of my check was at least a misdemeanor and perhaps a felony. And due process, forget it. They put the check in the general fund instead of in an escrow account where it belonged. But if you look at the law they now propose, you have to be frightened. You have to stand up and shout.
They propose to dictate what days I open and close, and what I can and cannot sell. The law will prevent me from lighting the business, or expanding it in any direction. And if those rules aren’t enough, the law says the planning board has the duty to think up more restrictions. So how is it that Dave Pillard can call me the bully and Maureen Millar can say we need a law that is more restrictive than this one?
Either they don’t understand what this means or they don’t believe in the American free-enterprise system. They don’t want big scale development. They don’t want small farm stands. They don’t want people in business who might make a profit and they don’t think 3-6 jobs for local residents are important.
So Ms. Kiesel, I am not ashamed for standing up for my rights, and I’m not ashamed of the others who stood with me. If they take that right away from us, what will we have left?

Al Higley,
Mt. Tremper