Scott Tibbs
Published in Hoosier Review, 8-23-2002

Back to opinion page.

Environmentalists' behavior inexcusable at I-69 hearing

After the way "environmentalists" acted at the August 20th public hearing on I-69 at Bloomington North High School, one is tempted to favor putting the Interstate right down Walnut Street in the center of Bloomington. The behavior of highway opponents certainly didn't win them any supporters or sympathy in the general public.

INDOT was prepared for trouble at the meeting. The Indianapolis Star reported that meeting attendees had to enter the auditorium "through a single set of doors" while Sheriff's deputies searched the bags and purses of people going in. It's sad that our community has such a reputation that such action would be considered, much less required, for safety reasons.

The Star reported how bad things got at the meeting in its August 21 edition. Two incidents reported by the Star are especially disturbing. In one, Indiana University official and former Monroe County Commissioner Kirk White had to be escorted out of the building for his own safety after his comments drew an intense negative reaction and two highway opponents approached him as he was going back to his seat. The other incident involved IU law professor Cathy Crosson, who lit up an Indiana Department of Transportation official in a "profanity-laced tirade captured by TV news crews" according to the Indianapolis Star.

First of all, the fact that anyone has to be escorted out of a public meeting to protect them is a frightening matter in our democracy. No matter how unpopular someone's views are, they should never have to fear from their own safety for their political views or for expressing those views. The mentality of the anti-highway mob is reminiscent of the political censorship practiced in the former Soviet Union. The characterization of environmentalists as "watermelons" ("green on the outside and red on the inside") by Indiana Daily Student columnist Cherry Blattert appears to be correct, at least in this instance and for these activists. All local public officials, especially those who (like Monroe County Council member Mark Stoops) attended the meeting, must immediately and without reservation denounce such appalling intimidation tactics by those on the fanatical Left.

It is disappointing that the Bloomington Herald-Times completely missed the story regarding White. When Bloomington residents have to go to an Indianapolis paper for a major news story involving a high-profile local official such as White, something is wrong. This is especially true when an H-T reporter was at the meeting covering the events.

In addition, I am embarrassed to be an Indiana University alumnus after the behavior of Professor Crosson. Such behavior should not be associated with a college professor, especially a professor from a prestigious School of Law at a highly regarded state university. After IU President Myles Brand made it clear that such behavior would not be tolerated in the case of Bobby Knight, the University should be consistent and discipline Crosson for her actions. This is especially important after the University did not publicly admonish an IU Religious Studies professor for rushing the County Council bench last summer when the Council approved a bond issue for a controversial West side development.

After last night, one wonders what is yet to come as the decision-making process moves forward on I-69. Two years ago, an eco-terrorist group known as the Earth Liberation Front attempted to burn Monroe County Republican Party headquarters to the ground in part to protest Congressman John Hostettler's stance on I-69. One wonders what the ELF has in store for I-69 proponents after the trail of destruction left by local eco-terrorists since January of 2000.

As state officials continue to take input on where and whether I-69 highway will be built, public input, even passionate debate is to be expected on such a controversial issue. Unfortunately, local environmentalists appear to have taken their protest style from Lucille Bertuccio, a Democratic County Council candidate who also rushed the County Council bench last summer in an attempt to physically intimidate elected officials. Let us hope that future public input on this matter is more appropriate for a "safe and civil city" than the debacle we saw on the 20th.