Nederland's official website declares that the funky mountain burg is a "town like no other."
And the abrupt resignation of Mayor Sumaya Abu-Haidar eighteen months into her two-year term, amid what she describes as a hostile political climate and "extraordinarily rude, insulting and disparaging" e-mails from opponents, seems to underscore that point.
Abu-Haidar announced that she was quitting at Tuesday's meeting of the town's board of trustees and submitted a three-page letter of resignation. According to this account in the Boulder Daily Camera, she was widely regarded as one of the most effective of the five mayors Nederland has had in the past ten years -- shaking up town staff, completing large projects such as a water treatment plant, and developing a ten-year planning vision.
But in her resignation letter, Abu-Haidar describes her eighteen months in office as "grueling," and not simply because of the workload. "During the past six months," she wrote, "the tone of public communications with the Board, and with me in particular, has become increasingly divisive, unproductive and even hostile."
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Without naming anyone in particular, she referred to a "vocal group of citizens" opposed to development who consumed "a disproportionate amount of Board and staff time" and had become quite personal in their attacks on her, savaging her in e-mails in ways that they would never express in a public meeting: "Many residents use electronic means to communicate in the most extraordinarily rude, insulting and disparaging ways. I cannot stress enough how disheartening and inappropriate these communications are."
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Ironically, perhaps, Abu-Haidar's decision has touched off considerable buzz among anonymous commenters on the Camera site and elsewhere, with some observers blasting the former mayor for not "taking the heat" and others defending her and condemning the "Luddite" faction in Nederland, a town beset by contentious debate over everything from new sidewalks to its thriving medical marijuana industry. Others see her departure as a forlorn cry for a return to civil political debate in an age of trolls, dysfunctional bickering and inflamed rhetoric.
If that's true, maybe Nederland isn't quite so different from everywhere else.
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