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The Brattleboro Reformer (Vermont)

Tide Turns To Positive as E-mails Flood Town Offices in Support of Resolution to Indict Bush, Cheney

Bob Audette

BRATTLEBORO, VT -- More than 7,000 e-mails later, the verdict is in.

The majority of people who felt the need to communicate to the town their thoughts on the indictment resolution forwarded to voters for their approval support the resolution.

At a Selectboard meeting on Jan. 25, the board voted 3-2 to forward the resolution calling for the arrests of both President George Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney if they ever find themselves in Brattleboro.

Though Town Manager Barbara Sondag said town staff hadn't tallied the e-mails in favor and those opposed to the indictment, the nasty e-mails the town had received in the first few days following the board's decision have tapered off.

Nevertheless, staff was reading each and every e-mail to determine if any were threatening.

"Those we thought were questionable, we have forwarded to the police department," she said, though she wouldn't consider any of them "a substantial threat."

It has taken up a lot of staff time to review the e-mails and take phone calls, she said, with the town clerk and her staff spending nearly 60 percent of their time answering phone calls about the resolution in the first few days.

The author of the resolution, Kurt Daims, said the e-mails to him have been split pretty evenly between those who support the resolution and those who don't.

"Most of the unfavorable mail is incoherent, obscene or violent."

He feels that can be attributed to the anonymity of e-mail and the ability to send correspondence rapidly, before it's reviewed, such as with a handwritten letter.

"There's a screen between them and those who receive it," he said.

He also received two phone calls. And though both disagreed with the resolution, the conversation was respectful, he said.

"People are so desperate and afraid of what our government is doing they're excited about anything that has the slightest chance of undoing it," he said. "When a long shot is the only thing you've got, you're a fool not to take it."

Along with the town, the five board members together have received more than 1,000 e-mails.

"The first day or two I was flooded with negative e-mails," said Selectboard Chairwoman Audrey Garfield.

Since those days, the quantity of e-mails has dropped to about six a day, she said, mostly positive.

"I've read nearly every single one that has come through on my e-mail," said board member Dora Bouboulis. "Two thirds is positive."

And while many of the senders did not support the indictment resolution, they did support the democratic process that gives town residents the ability to bring such a resolution to the Selectboard and allow people to cast their votes on it.

The first e-mails that board member Rich Garant received were overwhelmingly negative, he said, but just as with the town, those over the last few days have been in support of the resolution.

"The negatives tended to be personal attacks," he said, adding that many of the e-mails he received in support of the board's decision were veterans of both the Iraq and Vietnam wars.

For board member Dick DeGray, it wasn't the e-mails he received that bothered him. It was the pair of phone calls he received, which he called "somewhat unnerving."

"The e-mails were all over the spectrum," he said, and many of them expressed concern over the impact of the resolution on town staffers.

The town should consider taking the best and the worst of the e-mails and publishing a book that could be sold, helping to raise money for the town's coffers.

"That would be taking lemons and turning it into lemonade," said Ian Kiehle, who is running for Selectboard.

Daims said the indictment resolution would pass in many other towns around the nation if they had state policies similar to Vermont that allow voters to bring such efforts before their elected officials.

"I don't think Brattleboro people are unique," said Daims. "We represent a kind of progressive reaction to Mr. Bush (that's happening) all over the country."

"My vote was not about whether I agreed or disagreed with the content of the resolution," said Garfield. It was about honoring the nearly 500 Brattleboro voters who saw fit to sign Daims' petition, she said.

© 2008 Brattleboro Reformer

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