During the past several weeks, St. Tammany has been faced with the very unexpected possibility of drilling for oil in our beautiful parish. So far, several public meetings have taken place. The council, with my backing, passed two resolutions last week — one to request a delay and one to hire outside attorneys to research our regulatory authority.

We have also convinced the oil company to ask for a continuance of the unitization hearing. My administration is drafting policy to address any potential drilling requests in the future, in order for us to safeguard everything we value in this parish, and we will continue to work tirelessly in this effort.

I believe we can all admit that this likelihood was unforeseen, and we have had to educate ourselves about what this might mean to our community and our quality of life. Regardless of citizens’ personal views concerning this issue, on either side of the debate, we are all in this together, and we need civic engagement with civil discourse.

For this parish to protect its environment, its families and its reputation as a wonderful place to live, there is no place for false accusation, wild speculation and outright lies. The people of this parish deserve to know the facts in order to make up their own minds about the issue and its possible impact. However, there are some who make it difficult to have open debate and express differing points of view.

The signature tactic of this type of political scourge is one where the truth is manipulated, falsehoods are portrayed as fact, and when one doesn’t agree with that way of thinking exactly, the attacks turn personal and vile. When that doesn’t work, they then turn up the volume on rhetoric and attempt to drown out anyone who dares have an opinion that does not mimic their own. What makes it worse, in my opinion, is that most of these are done anonymously.

The courage and the opportunity to speak up for what you believe in is what makes this country great. But we should be very wary of those without that courage who attempt to prevent others from having an opportunity to discuss any issue through personal attacks, lies and innuendo of corruption.

We all deserve better than that.

Patricia B. Brister

president, St. Tammany Parish