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Updated: Hornbeck Nomination Rejected (or was it?)

Update 3/5/10: The Press-Republican, in its eagerness to see Hornbeck’s nomination denied, appears to have jumped the gun with yesterday’s article. Official denial of the appointment has not come yet. WNBZ is reporting today that while support for Hornbeck appears to be sinking, the nomination is still undergoing an in-depth review process. And John Warren, from the Adirondack Almanack, wrote a piece today questioning the journalism behind these reports: Commentary: Some Local Media Perpetuates Lies

A few days after a Press-Republican editorial denounced the nomination of Peter Hornbeck to serve as an APA commissioner, the paper got its wish and is reporting that the nomination was denied.

Although this news is disappointing to us here at Towns and Trails, it’s not unexpected. Opposition to Hornbeck seemed to be reaching fevered levels within certain circles, and when news of Governor Paterson’s problems broke we wondered if a weakened Governor’s nomination could withstand the heat. There were even reports of some out of the ordinary pressure coming down from the Governor’s office to move along the nomination, which we didn’t take as a good sign for Hornbeck’s chances.

When we first heard of Hornbeck’s nomination, we were immediately struck by the slanted and partisan opposition to him. We were equal parts interested and disturbed, since in our opinion, Hornbeck seemed to be a qualified and balanced candidate. As a successful Adirondack business owner who has been mindful of the environment, he represents both business interests and environmental concerns – exactly what the APA needs.

But alas, reason and balance are endangered species in politics these days. And apparently anyone who has “environmentalist” on their resume is deemed by the “development” side as unworthy of holding a position with the APA… even if they happen to be someone who has developed land and created a successful business. John Warren, from the Adirondack Almanack, recently wrote an interesting article exploring this effort to label and then purge people who have environmental concerns from decision making positions in the Adirondacks. It is worth a read: Commentary: Betty Little’s McCarthyism

For us, Hornbeck’s rejection represents an extension of entrenched and partisan politics. The trend in our political systems, and indeed in us as citizens, is to reject anything that even slightly resembles the opposite point of view, negating the possibility of compromise or middle ground. The Press-Republican, for example, all but admitted this when they said:

Hornbeck might be the fairest-minded individual to ever breathe Adirondack air, but his background certainly invites disdain from those at the other end of the ideological spectrum.

In other words, an acceptable candidate is not someone who is qualified, or balanced, or fair-minded. It is someone who has never disagreed with your ideology.

Or to spin it another way, it would be similar to an environmental group opposing Hornbeck’s nomination because he cleared some of his land and built a business on it.

Needless to say, we are weary of this approach to politics. We’re tired of those who retreat to their side of an issue, rejecting and refusing to recognize anything that doesn’t fall neatly into their own camp. When someone who represents dueling interests (a businessman environmentalist, for example) is brought down and labelled as “polarizing” because he is not in complete agreement with one side or the other, we feel strongly that civility and reasonable discussion have been ignored.

We expect, but do not accept, that this happens in Washington – that it happens here, where we live, is disappointing beyond words. But we hold out hope that this counter-productive and harmful approach to doing the people’s work can be changed, and we feel strongly that this change has to start locally.

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