The Sound of Silence in Dracut

By: Philippe Thibault, Jan.  2024

The greatest philosophical questions in the world are often passed off as a gag line. What is the sound of one hand clapping? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a noise? There are academic discussions that can be made from these queries.

Then we have the rhetoric question: “How do you know when a politician is lying?” When their lips are moving. Just try to find a politician that can refrain from bloviating. A wise man speaks because he has something to say, a fool because he has to say something.

A saga continues at the Dracut Zoning Bylaw Review Committee (ZBRC) as they turn their attention to a Massachusetts State law that requires communities serviced by the MBTA to create additional market rate housing through local zoning bylaws.

The ZBRC was originally convened to evaluate and rewrite Dracut’s Zoning Bylaws, last reviewed when Ronald Reagan was in his second term as President (1985 for the non-historian). This latest State mandate of the MBTA Zone requires adoption to create residential zones with a density of fifteen dwelling units per acre by December of 2024. The task of hammering out the particulars is given to the ZBRC.

Alison Genest, who sits as the Selectmen representative on the ZBRC, has a more nefarious objective. Silencing political adversaries. I could understand involvement and interest in zoning and town planning by most people in town. Citizens have spoken about what they like about Dracut and that progress has been slowly eroding the bucolic nature of the community.

These citizens also understand that progress is coming, wanted or not, and good planning is necessary to maintain what is precious. Alison Genest has no knowledge of planning and wants the sepia toned snapshot of Dracut preserved in perpetuity. Alison Genest is a mere contrarian.

Alison Genest will stop at nothing, it appears, to enforce her will. This includes suspension of the Constitution of the United States. At the December 14th meeting of the ZBRC, the committee was looking to add alternate members to its roles. There has been an issue with maintaining quorum and with the MBTA zoning discussions commencing, delays would put the December 2024 deadline for adoption in jeopardy.

Three people submitted applications to be appointed. Mr. Warren Shaw, the public member at large, motioned to increase the number of alternate positions and have all three applicants appointed. His reasoning was that the seriousness of the work benefited by the additional minds and public involvement.

The fly in the ointment, being one of the applicants had been an applicant for the at large member previously a year ago. Okay, okay you guessed by now that I am that applicant. The reason for the denial of a year ago is cited from a ten-minute radio interview eight years ago in 2016.

How anybody can recall this unremarkable event with such specificity is mindboggling. I had resigned from the Planning Board because as the architect for a project that required Planning Board approval, I needed to recuse myself as a member of the Planning Board. I decided to resign from the Board for the integrity of the process and removal any conflicts. Alison Genest now contends that anything I do in Dracut presents a conflict. Nothing could be further from the truth, but Genest has learned that the truth and facts should not stand in the way of a political objective.

During discussion at the ZBRC Alison Genest stated that she has spoken with “legal” about the appointment. Notice the twisting of language. She will play fast and loose with the rules, but language is where the deception lies. Her mentor would be proud of her linguistic gymnastics. She never states that she has spoken with “Town Counsel” but only legal or counsel.

I highly doubt she has spoken to anyone at the Town Counsel’s firm. And when pressed to confirm her conversations for the ZBRC, Alison Genest dodges the issue by claiming the legal accounts are already over budget and the Selectmen are reining in any superfluous requests. Therefore, we must take her word that she has spoken with legal, they have opined on the subject, and there is nothing left here to look at. Move along!

The coup de gras came with Alison Genest’s final statements. Emphasizing that “legal” had also informed her, that any participation by yours truly with the ZBRC was in direct violation of the will of the Selectmen. Alison Genest needed to stress this point. My participation as a member of the public and citizen of the Town of Dracut, or for that matter any rival’s participation, creates a conflict and requires suppression. Alison Genest and “legal” are the sole interpreters. Infallible and unimpeachable judge, jury, and executioners. If there is a contradiction between her ruling and First Amendment free speech, free speech must be subrogated.

An opinion from the Massachusetts Ethics Commission in writing has been requested. If Dracut can no longer afford counsel, there are other avenues to travel. I do not anticipate being appointed when cleared of any conflicts of interest.

Alison Genest and her cohorts will need to look for another reason for the denial. Brian Genest, Alison Genest’s husband and contributor to this paper, will offer the myriad of articles he has penned of my multiple election defeats to Joe DiRocco and the moniker of “proven loser” as reasoning for a rejection. He is entitled to his opinions, even when the Genests would strip me of mine. They would rather have the sound of silence but will listen to the song of angry men. They will hear the people sing. ◊