In defense of O’ Rourke

Monday, December 11, 2017

I have no desire to weigh in on Conway’s internal politics or the so-called “safe communities” ordinance. I am writing because I know Conway’s Selectboard Chairman, John O’Rourke, having worked with him on FRCOG’s Governing Council. He is a gentleman and dedicated public official who has honorably served his town, his region, and his country.

Consequently, I am saddened to see his reputation slandered through several inaccurate, self-righteous, politically motivated editorial letters. Granted, the authors have a constitutional right to share their distasteful commentary about Mr. O’Rourke with thousands who have never even met him. Thankfully, as his colleague, so have I.

A majority of Conway voters tabled a controversial ordinance limiting cooperation between local and federal authorities. Measures are routinely tabled when people feel they are premature, more information is needed, or revisions are warranted. Chairman O’Rourke raised concerns that undermining local-federal partnerships could benefit criminals and terrorists. For that, a vocal few have opportunistically pronounced him a fear-mongering racist. Not true. O’Rourke merely made a legitimate observation about a genuine law enforcement problem. Notwithstanding anyone’s views on immigration, history proves that a lack of inter-agency cooperation has contributed to numerous tragedies, including September 11.

“Safe communities” advocates may have a valid point that undocumented immigrants are less likely to report crimes if they fear deportation. Personally, I am not persuaded we should ignore their violations just so they feel comfortable reporting someone else’s, but, like many things, there are tradeoffs and rational arguments both ways.

What is unfortunate is seeing someone’s reputation damaged by unsubstantiated, emotionally charged misrepresentations of his motives, just because he holds different views. I for one have never seen anything indicating Selectman O’Rourke is a racist, bigot, or anything except a good person who cares about his community and its residents.

Hussain A. Hamdan