Penny Jarecki leads two related local groups (The Greater Polson Community Foundation and Envision Polson). In addition, she is responsible for bringing the Orton Family Foundation to Polson. Her signature is on the agreement. Recently, Penny submitted an opinion letter to the local news media. (It is her response to a letter I wrote; my original letter can be found using the link below.) Penny: You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.
Link to my December 12, 2012 letter: Here
Penny’s letter is reprinted below in its entirety. The sections titled “TRUTH” are my words. To further help eliminate confusion, my words are shown in blue.
Penny’s Letter Begins Here:
The following is written in response to a letter from Diane Speer that appeared in the Dec. 13 issue of The Leader.
1. The reference to “organized group of supporters” implies that the Greater Polson Community Foundation, Envision Polson!, and/or Heart and Soul organized those who spoke on Todd’s behalf.
[Penny’s] FACT: There was no such organizational effort by above referenced organizations. Those who spoke in support of Todd did so as individual citizens.
TRUTH: As I arrived at the city commissioner meeting that evening, I noticed an unusually large crowd assembled around Todd on 1st Street East. You are the one making implications. NOTHING I wrote implies a connection to your group(s). I have no idea who they were beyond supporters of Todd and that is the way I identified them as such in my letter. Are you suggesting the gathering was entirely spontaneous?
2. “The focus of this letter is to address the lady who loudly exclaimed at the vote, ‘So much for the will of the people’”. Mrs. Speer implies that “the lady” was Penny Jarecki.
[Penny’s] FACT: I said NOTHING after the vote. I stood up, put on my coat, and left. I heard someone near me say, “So much for listening to the community.”
TRUTH: More implications on your part. NOTHNG I wrote connects “the lady” to you. If you were the person who made that statement, I would have named you! I’m sure you noticed I did name you in my letter when the connection was appropriate.
3. “They firmly believe their vision and goals are correct and therefore ‘the will of the people’”.
[Penny’s] FACT: The sole purpose of Envision Polson! is to engage everyone in our community, asking that they share their individual visions of what our community would ideally look like in the future. It is totally inclusive, NOT exclusive. Heart and Soul is a tool or process to reach out to all neighborhoods seeking input so that everyone feels welcome to participate and share opinions.
TRUTH: Envision Polson is totally inclusive? Heart and Soul wants everyone to share opinions? I wrote a comparative viewpoint and posted on the Polson Heart and Soul Facebook page. Darlis Smith responded on the Facebook page with stinging criticism; all was subsequently deleted and I am blocked from further participation! (I’ve saved what Darlis wrote if anyone is interested). The only people INCLUDED are people who agree with the Heart and Soul vision. All others will be discredited and marginalized! I have many other examples, but let’s move on.
4. “Last year, Envision Polson! conducted a survey. They claimed to want to know what people thought about eight goals ‘they’ set.”
[Penny’s] FACT: The survey was posted on the website of the Greater Polson Community Foundation in early summer, 2011, and was based on eight broad-based goals with several options under each. (The goals were a collaborative effort of 35-40 Polson citizens and were written during meetings taking place beginning January, 2011.)There also was opportunity for people to write comments. It was an attempt to get responses from our citizens electronically.
TRUTH: I don’t understand your point. Are you agreeing with what I wrote? Envision Polson (“they”) set the eight goals in the survey! I do have one question, however. You stated in your letter that 35-40 people were involved in setting the goals. Who are they? I have asked you that question several times. You ignored me! No response at all and yet I keep reading and hearing that anyone with questions about Envision Polson should ask YOU! (Refer back to number three for the all-inclusive rhetoric.)
5. “One question specifically asked if there was interest in Polson hosting a triathlon. Only 29 people (11%) expressed favor.”
[Penny’s] FACT: Survey respondents were allowed to select only their top three choices from a list of many ideas specifically asked about. In some cases, there were more than a dozen options, plus opportunity for writing in your own ideas. It is invalid to report the outcome as expressing favor. Valid interpretation and analysis would report: When limited to just three selections, Polson hosting a triathlon was among the top three choices for 29 people.
TRUTH: Thank you for confirming that only 29 people expressed interest in the triathlon. Anything beyond that is conjecture and will be further explained in the next “TRUTH” statement.
[Penny’s] FACT: The Polson Triathalon (sic) was planned and organized by a group of volunteers who saw this as an event that would bring a new interest group to Polson and thus stimulate our economy as well as encourage physical fitness. Its success exceeded the organizers’ expectations. They hoped to get 100 people to register and participate. They were delighted when 144 athletes registered. All expenses were covered by sponsorships and/or registration fees. Local businesses reported a noticeable increase in income that weekend.
TRUTH: My original math was too kind. Actually the area population is around 5,000. Your survey indicated 29 people expressed interest in a triathlon. Mathematically you were only certain of .0058% support for a triathlon. Does that indicate the will of the people in your mind? Your group decides what the community needs! Thanks for helping me make things clear!
6. “Penny Jarecki publicly announced that a trail was being built in Riverside Park for a triathlon.”
[Penny’s] FACT: There was no new trail built in Riverside Park for this event. An already existing short piece of road leading from Fourth Avenue down to the parking area in Riverside Park was simply given an asphalt surface. This is an improvement that continues to benefit anyone who walks, rides a bike, or pushes a baby stroller in Riverside Park.
TRUTH: Excuse me for not explaining the trail “was simply given an asphalt surface.” Should I have mentioned it ONLY cost the city $10,000? Let me revise my statement for COMPLETE accuracy. Here it is: “As desired by Envision Polson, a trail was built in Sacajawea Park AND a trail was “was simply given an asphalt surface” in Riverside Park, utilizing city employees’ time and taxpayer money with the total project cost around $100,000.” Did you think about using Greater Polson Community Foundation for your project? It must be nice to use the city to pay for your group’s vision and goals.
7. “Goals 5, 6, 7, and 8 include trails in some aspect.”
FACT: Goal 5 is about visitors and residents’ access to and enjoyment of Flathead Lake.
Goal 6 is about year-round recreation opportunities.
Goal 7 is about health and well-being for all citizens.
Goal 8 is about the successful development of our youth.
It is misleading to state that these varied and important community ideas are simply trail-related. What would be important and accurate to note is that the idea of trails touches many aspects of our community, from recreation to health and economic well-being. (The survey has been accessible to all at www.polsonforever.org for over a year, so it’s very easy for all to review the information for themselves.)
TRUTH: Please don’t change my words. I didn’t write that the goals were “simply trail related.” But, your defense again clearly shows that your group’s assessment of what Polson needs is all important! Economic well-being? I don’t understand. Also, you are stating we need trails for recreation and health? That is amazing to me. We live in an area richly blessed with those opportunities naturally.
8. “Envision Polson survey revealed the belief that Polson has a ‘good old boys club’ that runs the city.”
[Penny’s] FACT: Envision Polson! was simply the messenger in reporting this statement. Envision Polson! makes no judgment either way concerning this statement.
The survey results indicate that the many comments about a “good old boys club” were in reference to governmental leadership in our community. Perceptions of poor communication practices and a lack of collaboration with citizens, businesses, and the Tribes were passionately expressed. Coinciding with this was a frustrated sense of urgency and a plea for less talk and more action. It is blatantly inaccurate to infer that the survey results in any way indicated that Envision Polson! is part of the perceived “good old boys club.”
TRUTH: You agreed that the Envision Polson survey revealed the belief that Polson has a “good ole boys club” that runs the city, but you say you don’t want to make judgment about that statement. Then you begin to make judgment and provide your complete analysis of the topic ending with your opinion that the connection between Envision Polson and city government should not be considered. That redirects attention full circle back to my original main point! We have a self-appointed group working with an unelected city manager to fulfill their personal visions.
9. [Penny’s] FACT: Envision Polson! is a collaborative grassroots effort that provides opportunities for broad citizen participation and leadership in community planning and development. More simply stated: Envision Polson! is neighbors working together and giving voice to local concerns about the future of Polson.
TRUTH: The word “grassroots” is misused. Grassroots is reserved for common or ordinary people, not to exclusive social organizations.