To the editor,

In his latest column (“Capriciousness capriciously crushed,” Dec. 14), Gordon Baird continues his habit of either remaining willfully ignorant or intentionally spreading false and misleading information.

Using the false narrative of “Zoned 3, Build 8” he brands both the developer of the Espressos project and the city government with ignoring our zoning ordinance. Were Mr. Baird to review our zoning ordinance (available here: https://bit.ly/3nmBIzP), he’d know that our ordinance very much allows for this type of development. There are multiple ways for an owner of such a property to seek permitting within our zoning ordinance that would yield more than Mr. Baird’s “Zoned 3…” fallacy. With a little more research he’d know too that the proposed project is not only less dense than our zoning or allows, but less dense than the existing multi-family building next door. There is no “shoehorning” or “bulging right to the edges.” He’s either failed to do the basic research that would inform him of this, or he knows this and chooses to use his platform to spread falsehoods instead.

He asks rhetorically how 16 cars from the eight units will fit into the neighborhood, ignoring the fact that the restaurant for decades generated far more traffic than will the eight proposed units, as do the Richdale’s, boatyard, and lobster business that he implies will suffer negative impact. No amount of honest consideration would allow one to conclude that eight units of housing will produce more traffic impact than a restaurant, gas station or retail enterprise.

He accuses the city of failing to defend the council’s decision to deny the special permit, ignoring the fact that the city did so and received a fairly scathing order from the court as a result (available here: https://bit.ly/2Kw2tmD ). Instead of acknowledging the court’s response -- in which the judge clearly states that the development meets the city’s zoning regulations and, based both on our zoning ordinance and as a matter of law, deserved the special permits -- Mr. Baird chooses to deride and insult the council, the administration, city employees, outside counsel and the judge’s analysis. But Mr. Baird must have at least skimmed the court’s decision because he parrots the judge’s use of the term “capricious” in the headline for his column.

He trots out the NIMBY trope “condos!” to deride the new development at the old Fuller site. Had he bothered to read your own coverage of the development — which I presume he did — he’d know that no “condos” are under construction, rather it’s a 200-unit apartment complex with 30 deed-restricted affordable units which the city desperately needs. So, you tell me: Willful ignorance or intentional lies and misinformation?

Mr. Baird goes on to deride the mayor, the school department and the School Committee, and the process through which plans for a new school for Gloucester’s children were made. He conjectures, tosses out conspiracies, and asks questions — all of which he’d have answers for if only he read the reporting in your own newspaper or bothered to attend one of dozens and dozens of public meetings.

There’s no lack of irony in Mr. Baird’s use of “Trumpian accusations” and “internet trolls” in his attempt to paint himself as both victim and truth teller. Like the president, Mr. Baird seems to have little use for facts or knowledge which don’t fit his narrative, and to himself and some of his Facebook fans, his is the only truth against “The Boys Club” (like Trump’s “The Deep State”), no matter how demonstrably false his claims. No matter how he tries to frame it, Mr. Baird is the Troll here, polluting our community discourse with falsehoods and disinformation, and condemnation and ridicule of our public servants and his fellow citizens.

The Gloucester Daily Times provides Mr. Baird an important platform and megaphone within our small city. He is, of course, a columnist not a news journalist, but that distinction shouldn’t lose him from the truth. As the old saying goes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they can’t have their own facts. The Times would better serve our community if they held Mr. Baird to that. Shame on Mr. Baird and The Times if you don’t.

Sincerely,

Shawn G. Henry 

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