I write as someone whose very high level of trust in public servants’ integrity and competence has been challenged by the way the Maine Department of Transportation manipulated Wednesday night’s public “hearing” in Brunswick on five proposals to replace or repair the Frank J. Wood Bridge.

I came home feeling hoodwinked, disrespected, shut down by the bait-and-switch format. During a half-mumbled presentation, one listener requested clarification of some technical terms. The answer was: Ask someone at a table afterward. So, the semi-audible presentation continued with many not able to hear and others not able to understand the presentation.

The presenter addressed none of the safety or aesthetic concerns raised by community members at an earlier hearing. When he was done, we were informed that now the “open house” format would allow us to ask questions at topical stations and that comments could be submitted on paper or with the court recorder.

Those in attendance expected an opportunity to have respectful public discussion, to hear each other’s questions and input. There was no prior notification of the new format. The effect was to silo information and eliminate the give and take of public engagement.

If a question was beyond one table’s topic, you were sent to another. Three or four people could gather around a table. The community dynamic of citizen participation that I love about Maine was utterly derailed. It was obvious from others’ reactions that I was not alone.

If the bridge option I prefer is not the one chosen, I will be disappointed. But to have the process itself be so non-democratic breaks my heart and undercuts my trust in the people in charge of important decisions on my behalf.

Karen L. Munson