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Town board imposes gag order on residents concerned with fracking

During my 12-year career as a newspaper reporter, I spent thousands of hours sitting through city council meetings, zoning board hearings, property tax appeals, school board work sessions, and just about every other kind of attention-sapping municipal meeting you could possibly imagine. (It wasn’t all bad: I met my wife at one.) At these meetings, it wasn’t uncommon for the same topics to come up over and over again, frequently with the same people making the same points about the same issues that everyone in attendance has heard a million times before. (Think “Parks and Rec” without any laughs.) So I sympathize, perhaps more than I should, with elected officials and public servants who would like to find a way to make topics they’ve heard about and debated endlessly just...go... away.

Still, I had never heard of a town that actually imposed a gag order on its own citizens, until the Natural Resources Defense Council (which publishes OnEarth) received complaints about a town board in Sanford, New York (population: 2,400), that told its residents they could no longer bring up concerns about fracking at town meetings.

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