On Wednesday, March 1, 2017, the autocrats running the Santa Clarita Organization for the Protection of the Environment (SCOPE) orchestrated a menagerie of opponents at the regional planning hearing on the Chiquita Canyon Landfill conditional use permit (CUP) application. The meeting was held in the multipurpose room at the Pico Canyon Jr. High School in Westridge. The SCOPE directed group of general education diploma (GED) holders, or at least I think some of them had high school educations, behaved as you might have expected—poorly. Many were hooting, hollering, and laughing during presentations and when supporters of the project spoke, which they believed was perfectly fine behavior for a community meeting. It was not.
Those SCOPE zombies were incapable of following simple directions, which created a circus-like atmosphere, and made me question if they actually had GEDs. The chair of the meeting, who was unable to keep control, allowed opponents to hurl comments and scream profanities as if it were a Tourette syndrome afflicted group session in progress instead of a hearing. These opponents engaged in a discourse much like baboons flinging their own feces in a cage; out of control—baboon discourse.
But isn’t this how civility at public meetings has been devolving for many years? We are seeing it on the nightly news lately with people shouting each other down at town hall meetings. It becomes a cacophony of sound, white noise, and nothing gets accomplished. What should be happening is the respectful statement of opinions from both sides of an issue. But that doesn’t appear possible because so many lack the ability to allow others to talk within a format designed to let everyone have equal time. Those that are running the meetings are incapable of maintaining control so that everyone can speak that wants to.
That was not to be either at the SCOPE hijacked meeting where the rules only applied to the educated and not the opponents. One of the SCOPE despots was quick to demand that supporters of the landfill not hold up signage, which the educated complied with because, well, they are educated and follow direction. Yet, she was mute as her disciples hurled vulgarities in earshot of children and consistently interrupted speakers. It was shameful behavior that detracted from their goal of opposing the landfill. The heckling galvanized the lack of decorum and basic restraint needed at this or any public meeting.
The other thing that this type of heckling does is it violates individuals right to free speech. Shouting down someone so that they can’t express themselves, their views, is a reprehensible breach of the inalienable rights afforded to all by the U.S. Constitution. The regional planning board chair was complicit with the hecklers by not maintaining control of the hearing or ejecting those that were not following the rules. Once a few violators are escorted from a meeting the rest will fall in line with the behavior guidelines, which had been stated numerous times throughout the evening.
It’s also worth pointing out that if you shout the other side down, not allowing them to speak, then that highlights how weak your argument must be to start with. Instead, by allowing the other side to make its case unabated, the opposition can then layout their counterargument if they have one. But if the opposition doesn’t have facts and evidence to substantiate its position, well then, that’s where the shouting comes in as they can only attempt to quell the legitimate position. This is exactly what happened at that meeting, the SCOPE followers tried to shout down every landfill supporter, especially experts with empirical scientific evidence.
In the end, the meeting proved to many, and certainly was not lost on county officials in attendance, that the opponents are in fact a very small, vocal group of bullies. They are neither interested in the facts or allowing for a civil discussion where both sides can have input, equally and fairly. That is not possible when speakers are being shouted down, cursed, and drowned out with laughter. Neither is chasing after speakers in the parking lot, which happened, and the reason why there was extra security, including Sheriff Deputies present at the meeting.
If there was a positive from the meeting, it was that the SCOPE cult followers further damaged their cause by highlighting their own serious shortcomings, which are many. Most of the opposition had difficulty stringing together words into coherent thoughts and relied on erroneous information, rumors, and hearsay. Anyone presenting factual data was shouted down including a PhD specializing in soils and microbe biology. It was a SCOPE induced farce whose underlying agenda is to stop all growth in SCV by going after the water, land use, and services needed for a growing community, like the landfill; anything to prevent needed development. SCOPE isn’t about protecting the environment; it’s about stopping growth at all costs.
Thankfully the county will take stock of the thousand plus letters of support from lucid, respectable, educated individuals, and organizations across the region representing tens of thousands that support the landfill. It is a responsibly run operation that, like it or not, is needed in our community until a time when we can all stop generating trash. Kicking the can down the road by shipping our waste off to other communities is not only irresponsible, it’s damaging to the environment.
Dave Bossert- Commentary
Dave Bossert is a community volunteer who serves on several boards and councils. His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon