As of Saturday afternoon, the village of Oakwood Hills remains in a suspended animation entirely of its own making.
On Aug. 1, the Village Board suspended public business and canceled an Aug. 9 meeting because of what Village President Melanie Funk said were threats made to members of the board stemming from the controversial $450-million power plant proposed for Oakwood Hills.
Village Police Chief Peter Goldman has declined to comment on the nature of the reported threats and whether they were verbal, physical or through electronic communication. He also declined to comment on whether a threat was still present that would keep the village from resuming business, but said all threats whether physical or verbal are taken seriously.
Before we go any further, let’s be crystal clear about one thing: Any threats found to be made against a public official must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. You don’t threaten a public official just because that official is lawfully doing something you don’t like. Period.
But a vocal group of folks on the Stop the Oakwood Hills power plant and the Northwest Herald Facebook pages has voiced its skepticism on the existence of these threats, some going as far as to call it a political stunt by Funk to engender sympathy and get the plant plan back on track.
Whether someone will be charged with a crime over any threats is in the hands of law enforcement. But the lack of transparency on the part of Funk and the Village Board has only made the situation worse.
What exactly were the threats? How were they made? Did they come from more than one source? The public has a right to know. The Northwest Herald filed a Freedom of Information Act request Friday seeking these details.
Many members of the public also have only fanned the flames.
Tweets from a Northwest Herald reporter at the July 24 board meeting described some attendees disinterested in, yelling at and interrupting the Northland Power presentation. One attendee shouted “This is America” when a power representative showed an example of a power plant close to a school in Ontario, Canada.
How was that behavior constructive?
And if unruly behavior really has led to board members or the Village Clerk feeling unsafe about coming to work, then that’s a big problem. It’s small-time, small-town stereotypes at their worst, and the people of Oakwood Hills are better than that.
The more constructive behavior should be applauded, though. Opponents’ Facebook page has more than 3,300 likes as of Saturday afternoon, and their GoFundMe page has more than $17,000 in donations. They are geared up for the long haul in this dispute, including acquiring legal representation to help.
We hope the Village Board is listening and becomes more transparent, and we hope both sides get their acts together in time for the next public hearing on the matter Oct. 9.