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The panel looking at alternative Peace Bridge designs likes to remind everybody of the transparent manner in which it works.

It holds meetings in public.

Even its name -- the Public Consensus Review Panel -- portrays it as an ally of the citizenry.

Call it a panel of the people, by the people and for the people. But its members had better not talk to the people. Leaders of the panel last week reminded members not to talk to reporters.

"The guidelines are, the co-chairs speak for the panel," D'Youville College President Sister Denise A. Roche, a co-chairwoman, told the panel.

Besides, she said, "we can't control what the media says, so it's better not to comment."

All this came up because a couple of the panel's silent members are annoyed at Jeffrey Belt of the New Millennium Group of Western New York, who also sits on the panel, for his quotes in newspaper articles about the bridge.

The irony is that the panel wouldn't even exist today if Belt and others in New Millennium Group had kept quiet last year and just gone along with the powers that be.

"A couple hundred New Millennium Group members would want to strangle me if I didn't speak up," Belt said.

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