Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I can't take it anymore...

Thank you, Mr. Fishmuscle, for your summary of the "lamest press conference in the history of the planet." Let me remind all the readers that our tax dollars paid for a wasted day's worth of effort of at least 5 elected officials, their staff members, and the travel costs and per diem for at least 6 army peoples. OK. To review what we learned yesterday:

um......hmm....let me see...wait, I have to check my notes from last time....what were we supposed to learn today? Let's review the record so far:

Middletown Press, August 27
"Ultimately in about the end of October [we intend] to have a site selected," Dale said.

Courant, September 18
"The Corps has until the end of October to select a final site."

Courant, September 21
"Sometime next month, each of the sites will be ranked, clearing the way for an environmental review and final site selection by Oct. 30."

The Army's September 30th PowerPoint presentation:
"Early November–Release ranked sites; NEPA and real estate process continues"

Middletown Eye News, September 30 (http://middletowneyenews.blogspot.com/2008/09/no-wonder-democracy-is-hard-sell.html)
"The Army will rank these four sites in order of preference to create a Site Identification Report that will be forwarded for approval by 17 October. By October 30th, this list of sites will be approved, and the NEPA process will begin for each site. In early November, the Army will release the site rank order,..."

Middletown Press, posted online September 30
"The corps plans to announce its preferred site in early November and then begin a National Environmental Policy Act review process, said David Dale, deputy district engineer of the Louisville District of the Army Corps of Engineers."

Courant Article, October 1
"By late October or early November, each of the sites will be ranked, clearing the way for an environmental review."

Colonel Landry's October 6 letter to the editor of The Middletown Press:
"As the NEPA environmental assessment continues, I expect the Army to release the "Site Rankings" in November." AND "I look forward to returning to Middletown in the near future to release the Army's ranking of the four proposed sites."

Wait…I count at least 8 different WRITTEN places where the good-natured, gentle and oh-so-patient residents of the great town of Middletown were told that something important and news-worthy would happen by the very beginning of November. OK, so if you want to argue that you can’t trust the media to get the story straight (an argument I’ve heard VERY recently), there are still TWO Army-generated sources that verify the SIX written media stories about a site ranking process and the release of those results by November 2008.

So, after all that hot air blowing, the Army one again sends the good Col. Landry back to Middletown to flash his winning smile and his snazzy uniform (plus charming accent) to do…what? He came all 862.88 miles (Mapquest, town center to town center) to tell us that all 3 sites are getting the “full-blown NEPA analysis? WAIT…let’s review again:

When the Army picked the Maromas site the first time (was it just Jan or Feb? It seems like forever ago…), it was announced as the “preferred site” that would then undergo NEPA analysis. Lots of people complained and the State threatened to buy the land out from underneath the Army.

Then, in June, the Army picked Boardman Lane as its “preferred site” and announced that NEPA analysis would begin. EVEN MORE PEOPLE COMPLAINED, and local, state and federal elected officials got involved. Gov. Rell shrunk the property size requirement for the base location by pulling out the 250th Engineering Unit, and Col. Landry visited the first time to tell us all that the site selection process was beginning anew in an “open and collaborative fashion.”

LOTS of time and effort went into telling the Army we thought (the we here is the Mayor, his advisory counsel, local, state and federal elected officials, the Courant’s editorial board, Joe and Jane Average Middletown Resident, all the blog contributors, the Middletown Eye News, the Middletown Press, and sorry-if-I-forgot-to-mention-you-too-whoever-you-are who participated as well). We attended the meetings. We posted blogs. We wrote letters and email to our elected officials. We twiddled our thumbs all through October, wondering if we could really trust that our efforts would give us a happy ending by early November.

Now we hear that the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management has decided to pursue all three remaining sites. Yes, Mile Lane was excused because the lawyers could properly read the sentence that says: “Close the US Army Reserve Center, Middletown, CT, ... and relocate units to a new Armed Forces Reserve Center ... in Middletown, CT, if the Army is able to acquire land suitable for the construction of the facilities.” WAIT. I guess they can only read the first ½ of that sentence correctly. Shoot. I thought we had something there…

WHY oh WHY must we suffer such torture? Congresswoman DeLauro’s favorite saying lately is “Trust, but verify.” I’m sorry, Congresswoman, but I think you need a new saying. The verification part obviously hasn’t worked out, which makes me doubt the trust part. Just what are we supposed to trust? The Colonel believes the Army is going to make the right decision? What decision exactly is he referring to? The Army boldly strode into town (think bad-guy Western music here), picked (on its own) about the two most sensitive and pristine locations Middletown has, and now claims it can’t make a decision until all three remaining sites are NEPA’d?

The only possible reason I can think of that all 3 sites are undergoing a very expensive and time-intensive process is so that if the Army picks the wrong site AGAIN, it has two other chances to try again without having to go back to the drawing board and blow its construction schedule (and this doesn’t even begin to consider the number of possible location choices should the Attorney General prevail on his interpretation of “if”).

Yet, silly me, I just can’t understand how or why the Army could mess up the site selection process a THIRD time? Didn’t the new “open and collaborative” process work? Did we the people stutter or something? Perhaps we were unclear in our feedback about where we think the Army should go (hey now, I know what some of you are thinking, and that’s not patriotic…).

WAIT!!! I think I’ve got it!!! I know what happened!!! You know when you tell your kids NOT to do something, and they’re really not paying all that much attention, and so what their brain fixes on is what you told them, but they didn’t actually hear the NOT part…? Let’s review what I mean in the context of our current situation:

Us (the Mayor, his advisory counsel, local, state and federal elected officials, the Courant’s editorial board, Joe and Jane Average Middletown Resident, all the blog contributors, the Middletown Eye News, the Middletown Press, and sorry-if-I-forgot-to-mention-you-too-whoever-you-are who participated as well): “We don’t want an Army Reserve Training Facility on Boardman Lane.”

Army: “Hey! Middletown wants us to put the Army Reserve Training Facility on Boardman Lane!”

Us: “No! Aren’t you listening? The BRAC language says IF suitable land can be found in Middletown, and Gov. Rell reduced the base size requirement, so FIND ANOTHER LOCATION because Boardman Lane is unsuitable.”

Army: “Hey! Middletown wants us to put the Army Reserve Training Facility on Boardman Lane!”

What we should say from now on: “Put the Army Reserve Training Center in Cucia Park.”

WAIT. Didn’t we say that already?


Anonymous said...

JAM wrote: "Let me remind all the readers that our tax dollars paid for a wasted day's worth of effort of at least 5 elected officials, their staff members, and the travel costs and per diem for at least 6 army peoples."

This is why taxes need to be raised on families earning more than 250K (or was it 200K) per annum.

Paul Torop said...

When I was in the air force, I was told that the last person from whom you could expect any flexibility was a colonel with aspirations to be promoted to general.

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

Great analysis, JAM. You've saved me the effort of saying much the same thing.

Maybe more interesting is how "the media" (radio and TV) show up for a few minutes, only interview the public officials, and then report the same old thing.

BTW, the Courant and the Middletown Press got the story wrong over the weekend. They said the Army was going to arrive with a ranked list of sites.

Hope I don't dislocate my arm patting ourselves on the back but we, (and that's primarily fishmuscle), got the story right in the Middletown Eye.

Anonymous said...

So how did the Army Corp get back to Mile Lane as a site when it was clear in the BRAC language that Mile Lane was to be closed ??

Awnser -- The Army told the city that Mile Lane was back on the table only to try and get the city to back off opposing other sites. They figured the "city" wanted Mile Lane so badly the city and its representatives would stop fighting Boardman.

Is that fair play from the good old Eagle Scout Col. Landry ???

Anonymous said...


Why is everyone so hesitant to consult their personal crystal balls? Colonel Landry bared his to all of us yesterday. Gaze into the misty, unpredictable future and begin pre-emptive, festive bourbon toasting to accompany the revelation of a gala announcement that Cucia Park has been selected as the site for the new AFRC! Too bad the Army wants to spend our tax dollars going through these tedious slow mo exercises but what the hey, at least the many visits to our fair city have generated considerable economic benefit and put it on the political map. Just consider the stellar lineup of public officials. All are engaged in doing our bidding, just like they were elected to do. Now we regular folks can return to snoring in our respective neighborhoods. But wait!

Westfield's Boardman Lane cadre, having repelled the Army's paltry 150 employees and a Mega Base, had better begin readying for the next industrial tenant, the one predicted by the Chamber of Commerce, with a tiny footprint and 1000 car-less employees making costly microscopic widgets which will fill the property tax coffers without disturbing anyone at all.

Maromas, too, will be targeted to perform as a cash register and provide more revenue despite the nearly one billion dollar state-of-the-art electric power generating plant currently under construction there. Fortunately, unlike much of Westfield, it is primarily a big heap of very difficult to develop rocks and is more suitable for passive recreation. Nevertheless, the few residents need to remain alert and will need support to conserve this green treasure as a benefit for all.

Rather than always looking farther a field, gobbling open space, encouraging sprawl and disappearing our Connecticut River front, maybe some Smart Growth principles will be employed to guide Middletown's development needs. In the misty predictable future, when clean water is more valuable than oil, gas or gold, and a green infrastructure is of equal value to revenue production, we may find ourselves in a good position, for a change, providing we are not foolish today.

With doggedly determined and dedicated Middletown Eye reporters, engaged JAM-like citizens and enlightened City Officials, we have a real chance for success. Right?

Jasper Cane

Anonymous said...

Hasn't anyone told these politians that the election is over and that they can go away. I wonder how Bysiewicz is going to explain away her conflict of interst if the Bysiewicz Industrial Park site is chosen. Perhaps it is being pushed as a favor to Bysiewicz.

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

The mysterious Mr. Jasper Kane hammering us all in our most vulnerables.

So, you were at the meeting yesterday, otherwise you wouldn't have known about the proposed bourbon toast.

Are you the mayor? The cameraman from Channel 61? The waiter?

Damn you, reveal yourself. Or not.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that Jasper Cane is Larry McHugh?

Jen Alexander said...

I couldn't help but notice the juxtaposition of JAM's excellent blow-by-blow about mediocre media coverage against the notice that the "parent" of the Middletown Press is putting two of its other newspapers out of their misery (the New Britain Herald and the Bristol Press).

The way I see it, this whole army base situation is intimately linked with the failings of our local media. Believe me -- this case (not to mention other bits of civic business) would have been entirely different if we had the kind of local, responsible and professional media that Middletown used to enjoy. And when I say that we used to have that -- I'm talking about 20 years ago, when the Press printed two sections of local news every afternoon, and the Courant tried to match them, and WCNX radio reported local stories on-the-hour.

Our democracy literally depends on the fourth estate (the press) to function properly. When our leaders are left to their business, without informed and dedicated reporters following up on their prouncements and their work, it leads to trouble. I think it's as much about human nature as it is about any sort of ill will -- it's a lot of work to provide open access to the workings of government (at any level). When the press isn't at your heels, those who are in power are just less likely to bother with transparency.

So for me, the question is this: Is it really impossible to have an economic model that works for the research and writing of local news? I find that hard to believe -- though I know the realities of the newspaper business have changed. Our remaining local reporters are too underpaid and too transient to do the job required of them -- that much is clear. But the issue is just too important to let slide.

Thank goodness that the volunteer writers of the EYE are paying so much attention to this issue - it will undoubtedly change the outcome. I wish that the EYE had more writers to follow other issues in town, which are in equal need of coverage! And more than that, I wish that Middletown had such terrific and professional news outlets that we didn't need to write our own paper in our spare time!

Anonymous said...

Somehow, I detect a note of irritation in jen alexander's comment but I can not see its source. Was JAM saying something about the mediocre press coverage of the Press Event? I did not get that. The death of the 4th estate is extremely dangerous but appears inevitable. Can bloggers be expected to take up the slack of professionals? Maybe on a local scale, they can do a better job but to whom would they answer on a regional, state or national level?