Letter to the Editor

...while another audience member contends it was all a set-up by SRA

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Dear editor:

I attended the informational meeting (Don Gillispie, AEH president) hosted in Glenns Ferry regarding the proposed nuclear power plant for Elmore County.

Idahoans value the freedom to voice our opinions, and Gillispie's meeting let supporters and opponents voice theirs in an open forum.

However, I particularly found the actions committed by what I believe to be several members of the Snake River Alliance (SRA), who were with Ms. Andrea Shipley (SRA Director), and former Owyhee County P&Z member Mr. Joe Weatherby, so disturbing that I felt compelled to write you. In fact, if you know of an official or agency that I can contact about what transpired, I would be happy to do so and lodge a complaint.

Personally, the arrest of Dr. Rickards is a non-issue. Several of us heard him insist on being arrested, and there was talk among his friends after the meeting that he had planned on getting arrested. But the disruption caused by the SRA and Weatherby during Dr. Rickards' arrest was very alarming.

As if on cue, the moment Rickards stood and announced that he was being arrested, the SRA and Weatherby simultaneously jumped up and started shouting a mix of profanity, threats and insults.

While the woman in a red top who stood by Shipley screamed the largest number of obscenities, including the F-word at least six times, I was more concerned with Weatherby shaking his fist and yelling, 'someone should take out Don Gillispie!'

Weatherby turned red, yelled other personal attacks against (Gillispie) and made small punching and kicking motions directly at (him).

The violence and profanity from the group was so intense that the two children in front of them cowered, and several people started to move in their chairs and voice concern.

A local elderly woman yelled for them to be quiet, and one of the SRA women next to Andrea Shipley replied, "these locals are too stupid to know what's good for them."

The SRA and Weatherby only settled down once the emcee, Mr. Jim Tibbs, and the Glenns Ferry Mayor, JoAnn Lanham demanded the audience come to order.

I'm sure that the appearance of more police officers didn't hurt, either.

I know that I was not the only one offended by their actions; I overheard the mayor apologize to (Gillispie) and say that the disruptive crowd was not local when I went to ask (him) a question after the meeting.

I am also concerned that Weatherby has misused his former position as an official of the Owyhee County P&Z committee for his personal benefit, much to the detriment of local citizens, without disclosure. He has been conveying that he is unbiased and has attained some level of bona fide expertise on energy generation and environmental issues based on his P&Z experience and his own research. However, Weatherby has alluded to his own personal involvement with a very large wind farm business venture (of over 5,000 windmills) on at least two occasions in public gatherings....

And to make matters worse, I now hear that he has been very active in Elmore County, purportedly consulting and advising quite actively against (Gillispie's) project. Why is it that Weatherby, who has no formal training or experience and who is using personal research that has not been vetted by experts, is attempting to advise a different county about (this) project? Since he remains evasive in answering whether or not he has a potential business conflict with (the)project and has no credible experience, it seems that he is pursuing his own agenda at the expense of the rest of us.

Yet the depth to which Weatherby seems to have fallen almost pales in comparison to the SRA and its associates. I wasn't surprised to find out that they had people from California and Oregon come to the meeting, and that members of the SRA handed out factually incorrect material at your meeting. Nor was I surprised how they continuously interrupted (Gillespie's) talk with snide remarks--my favorite being from the woman next to me who quipped, 'We don't need more jobs! What's up with that?' But their apparent fabrication of a news story is unconscionable and Blair Koch and Claudio Beagarie should be reported.

I entered the meeting behind the SRA group and Blair Koch. Andrea Shipley and Ms. Koch were quite congenial, and when Shipley asked if Koch needed any information, Koch responded that she had everything she needed. Koch sat by the woman from California, and before the meeting began I was walking around deciding where to sit. When I realized that she was a journalist, I told her that I had heard that Mr. Gillispie was happy to be interviewed and that he was standing at the next table. She replied that she didn't need to interview him.

I left to find a seat at the back corner of the room. Koch later sat behind me, and made a show of getting her materials ready. As if this was rehearsed, she stood up suddenly and managed to be on the scene exactly when the police officer confronted Dr. Rickards.

Claudio Beagarie seems to have been working in collusion. I saw him arrive with Andrea Shipley and the SRA--in fact, I think he drove them.

He then spent quite some time out front with Dr. Rickards, took photos and asked him a few questions. I later saw Beagarie inside, in the row in front of me. He told someone that he was with the Arbiter. Dr. Rickards came up to him at the beginning of the meeting and talked to him for a moment and then laughed together at something Rickards said--they made it hard for me to hear (Gillespie) talking. Rickards then sat in the row in front of Beagarie. When Rickards got up again and went to sit several rows closer to the front, Rickards smiled and waved at Beagarie again. Shortly after that, Beagarie pulled out a lens and prepared his camera. Almost immediately after that, a police officer entered the room. Beagarie jumped up and managed to position himself for a photo of Rickards before the officer had stopped moving.

The subsequent article in the Time-News by Blair Koch clearly shows an agenda to anyone who attended that meeting, and included the photograph taken by Claudio Beagarie. I was surprised to see his photo with her article, since they represented different papers. I since have discovered that Beagarie was not representing the Arbiter at the meeting.

The disregard that the SRA, Weatherby, and Rickards showed to the local populace was arrogant and puerile, but their lack of honesty and integrity is utterly unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue.

Indeed, the deceptions, misinformation and blatant lies that they have used subvert our ability as Idahoans to make informed decisions.

James E Cooper, DPhil., MPhil.