Respectful Disagreement

There is a thoughtful article on respectful disagreement in the January 8, 2018, Blue Virginia. Carrie Pruett discusses the January 4, 2018, letter State Water Control Board member Peter Wayland wrote to the Richmond Times Dispatch, a letter which did not discuss substantive questions about the pipeline permits or explain his votes on them, but focused instead on what Mr. Wayland called “schoolyard behavior” from attendees.

After commenting on the heavy police and private security presence at the ACP hearing, and the photographing by security people of the faces and license plates of citizens attending the hearings, Ms. Pruett says, “If Mr. Wayland is truly concerned with civility and respect, he should not ignore the power dynamics that were at work during these hearings. This is not an excuse for those who behaved poorly, but it does begin to explain their frustration. The circumstances of the hearings, in which permit opponents were set up as adversaries to state officials, were not calculated to produce a harmonious outcome.”

She discusses both Mr. Wayland’s expressed view of the proceedings and the written accounts of several meeting attendees, and she concludes, “As a citizen who participated in the public comment process, I certainly appreciate Mr. Wayland’s volunteer service on the Water Board….  I, along with other anti-pipeline activists, personally took the time to write to the Water Board office, thanking Mr. Wayland and the other members who voted against one or both permits. I regret that civil gestures such as these, along with peaceful protests and thoughtful testimony at the hearings, were overshadowed in Mr. Wayland’s mind by the negative behavior of a few.

“By the same token, when Mr. Wayland chose to express himself in the newspaper, I wish he had taken the opportunity to acknowledge the complexity of the dynamics and the full spectrum of interaction between the Commonwealth and the public. The Water Board is made up of volunteers taking time out from their schedules, but this is also true of the citizens who attended the hearings. Public participation sometimes gets loud and raucous, but civility and respect do not operate as a one-way street.

“The public process regarding these pipelines is not over, and I hope that participants on all sides will consider Mr. Wayland’s words: ‘Virginians can and should hold ourselves to the standards of dignity and thoughtful discourse that have made our commonwealth great.'”