GE & PCBs: CHAMBER CHATTERING CHEAPLY & CHEESILY, plus iBERKSHIRES.com teams with PLANET to BLOW BB out of the WATER on CEDS
BY DAN VALENTI
On Jan. 21, 2011, the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce sent a “Key Legislative Alert” e-mail to its members. The “red-phone bulletin” tried to drum up support for a “low-impact solution that still meets EPA health standards” regarding the polluted Housatonic River.
This seemingly innocuous letter hides much and reveals more.
- This letter is unsigned. The tone is distant, corporate, and likely a product of writing-by -committee, a tactic used by the fearful. The approach violates one of the great principles of argumentative writing: “Own Your Words.” Clearly, no one in authority at the Chamber wanted to “own” this document.
- Nowhere does the Chamber disclose its membership in 1Berkshires, a shadowy “economic development” agency made up of the boards from the Chamber, Berkshire Visitors Bureau, and Berkshire Creative Inc.
- Hiding the affiliation thus disguises General Electric’s $300,000 contribution for “start-up” fees for 1Berkshire.
- 1Berkshire formed in April 2010, has taken GE’s blood money, and has launched but one public initiative its near-year of existence: The group has come out publicly and strongly for a “low-impact” response to GE’s pollution of the Housatonic River. The “low-impact solution” matches GE’s official position on the cleanup like the Bobsey Twins looking in the mirror.
- The Chamber letter mentions the completed Phase 1 cleanup of the first two miles of the Housatonic, in what it calls “a mostly industrial area of Pittsfield.” The letter says Phase 1 included “significant dredging” that “permanently changed the landscape of the river.” In this false implications of damage, the Chamber hides the fact that the dredging removed the PCBs, opened up pleasant sigh lines along the river banks, and included restorative plant life. Yes, “it permanently changed the landscape” for the public good.
- The Chamber’s disingenuousness: Nowhere does the Chamber explain how it reached the conclusion that GE’s plan is best for Pittsfield. Where’s the data, the science? Why do most environmental authorities and experts in PCBs reject the GE plan?
- Did GE use the $300,000 to buy the Chamber’s integrity? One could argue the letter illustrates as much.
- Also revealed: The Chamber’s unreasonableness in relying on an emotional rather than a scientific argument. Removing PCBs from the river in Phase II (Pomeroy Avenue in Pittsfield to Woods Pond in Lenoxdale), the Chamber claims, “would devastate the River,” kill tourism, destroy the local economy, and wreck our “quality of life for years, if not forever.” Wait just a minute: Didn’t GE do all of the above when it polluted the Housatonic and Silver Lake, only to take 14,000 jobs from Pittsfield?
- Didn’t GE devastate the river?
- Didn’t GE kill tourism?
- Didn’t GE destroy the local economy?
- Didn’t GE wreck “our quality of life for years, if not forever?”
As Chamber head, The Planet believes Mike Supranowicz approved this exercise in bias, manipulation, and deception. If he had nothing to do with it, then how lame of a duck is he as prez? Maybe on that day, Jan’ 17, Supranowicz was in Fairfield, Conn., like shining Jeff Imelt’s shoes.
Here is the full text of the Chamber’s letter that you weren’t supposed to see:
Dear Berkshire Chamber Members:
We need your help. We have an opportunity to make a difference on a very important matter affecting our community, but we must act by January 31, 2011.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is about to make a recommendation on Phase II of the Housatonic River clean up, running from Pomeroy Avenue south to Woods Pond in Lenoxdale. As you may recall, Phase I, which has been completed, was located in a mostly industrial area in Pittsfield. It included a significant dredging effort which permanently changed the landscape of the River.
Phase II of the River flows through mainly wildlife and residential areas. Extensive dredging would devastate the River and negatively impact tourism, the Berkshire County economy and our quality of life for years, if not forever. We cannot allow this to happen. It is important that we advocate for a low-impact solution that still meets the EPA human health standards.
We need your help to achieve this, and we must act quickly. The EPA is accepting comments until January 31, 2011 on the plan submitted by General Electric to clean up of the Rest of the River. Please add your voice to the Smart Clean Up Coalition. It is vital that the EPA hear from as many citizens and business leaders as possible so they may make an informed decision for a low-impact solution. Thank you in advance for your assistance with this very important initiative.
You can help by writing an email or letter to the EPA voicing your support for a low-impact clean-up solution that does not include extensive dredging and should include any other comments as to why you feel it is important to save the integrity of the river.
Possible actions: • Write an Email: Become a Fan of our Smart Clean-Up Coalition on Facebook www.facebook.com/smartrivercleanup and click on Get Involved at the top, then click on Email the EPA
• Voice your support in an e-mail to: Murphy.email@example.com
• Write a Letter: Visit the following website and write a letter to the EPA http://www.epa.gov/ne/ge/contactinfo.html
• Voice your support through a letter addressed to: Mr. Jim Murphy Community Involvement Coordinator EPA New England, Region 1 5 Post Office Square – Ste 100 Boston, MA 02109-3912
• Please also copy our federal and state Legislative Delegations: Christopher N. Speranzo (3rd Berkshire District) 152 North Street Suite 32 Pittsfield, MA 01201 E-Mail: Rep.ChristopherSperanzo@Hou.State.MA.US
William “Smitty” Pignatelli (4th Berkshire District) PO Box 2228 Lenox, MA 01240 Email: Rep.SmittyPignatelli@hou.state.ma.us
Benjamin B. Downing 7 North Street, Suite 307 Pittsfield, MA. 01201 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Congressman John Olver 78 Center Street Pittsfield, MA 01202
Senator John Kerry Springfield Federal Building 1550 Main Street – Suite 304 Springfield, MA 01101 Electronic contact: http://kerry.senate.gov/contact/
Senator Scott Brown 2400 JFK Building Boston, MA 02203 Electronic contact: http://scottbrown.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contactme
Still too Many Questions Unanswered by 1Berkshire
The revelation of GE feed money — which 1Berkshire first tried to hide, second flatly denied in a lie, and third had to admit it thanks to an aggressive media that included David Scribner of the Berkshire Record as well as The Planet — changed everything. Even if a less-invasive cleanup IS the best way to proceed, 1Berkshire’s deceit has grievously damaged the argument for it.
1Berkshire has yet to publicly reveal the identity of the other “various organizations, institutions, and businesses” (words from its Facebook page) that have given the group money. It has yet to identify the amount of money. It has yet to give an accounting of what the money has been used for or where it is.
Without answering these questions — especially given the fact that it was caught lying about GE’s financial support while pushing for a GE solution to pollution — no reasonable person in or outside of Berkshire County can take 1Berkshire seriously.
iBerkshires.com Complements Planet Coverage on CEDS
Tomorrow is the CEDS (community economic development strategy) meeting at BRPC offices on the second floor of 1 Fenn St./100 North St. (the First Aggie building). The Planet believes this is the penultimate meeting. Eight-two projects have been received and after almost six months, the committee stands divided on the quality of the projects and how the projects were ranked.
Andy McKeever (see below) had a story following the February meeting that quotes committee members in discontent. As The Planet wrote last week, unfortunately CEDS projects often get recommended to the feds based on politics and not on merit.
Committee members include Kristine Hazzard, Roger Bolton, Heather Boulger (ABSENT FOR FEBRUARY), Marya LaRoche, Kevin O’Donnell, Keith Girouard, Mike Nuvallie, Laury Epstein, Mike Supranowicz, Lauri Klefos, Michael Hoffman, Christine Ludwiszewski, Eleanore Velez, Deanna Ruffer (ABSENT FOR FEBRUARY). Ann Dobrowolski, Helena Fruscio, Tim Geller, Robert Wilson (ABSENT FOR FEBRUARY), Brenda Burdick, and Mark Berman.
Anything less than 100% attendance will be another slap in the face of the bedraggled and long-suffering local Little Guys.
The CEDS committee are by virtue of their membership city employees. The committee is part of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. BPRC member Nat Karns, Thomas Matuszko, Daniel Sexton, and Mark Mallow moderate the meetings.
Another Way the Boring Broadsheet Fails the Community
Pittsfield has not had a successful CEDS project approved by the federal government (Department of Commerce) for 10 years. Since The Planet put the otherwise “secret” (technically, they’re not, but in effect they were, in true elitist fashion) CEDs meetings in the spotlight, iBerkshires.com has presented monthly coverage. The Boring Broadsheet, in typical gutless fashion, ignores this issue. We say “gutless” because the CEDs process for a decade has degenerating into a bad joke, completely unsuccessful in delivering economic relief to Berkshire County while rewarding the “connected” with a obituary filler.
Andy McKeever is iBerkshire.com presented this story on Feb. 16, putting the BB to shame:
CEDS Members Unhappy With Project Rankings
By Andy McKeever
09:50AM / Wednesday, February 16, 2011
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Local leaders developing a regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy feel the process has major flaws.
An 18-member committee led by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has finished prioritizing 82 prospective local development projects but on Tuesday said the criteria was flawed.
The committee is attempting to create a document for both grant funding and an overarching strategy for the county. The projects were ranked by members according to 2004 criteria, and BRPC ranked the projects separately on criteria set for the federal Economic Development Administration. The two rankings will comprise lists of the top projects eligible for EDA funding and the top projects for the county.
“A lesson we learned as a staff is that we need to do a better job understanding the project,” Thomas Matuszko, BRPC assistant director, said. “We need to do a much better job working with project proponents.”
The committee will send the prioritized list to the proponents and ask for comments to make sure the committee did not miss major details.
The rankings can be seen at the bottom of this story; the criteria and more information on the projects are available here.
The proposals ranged widely in detail and presentation, and the criteria failed to address some issues, the members said.
“The lack of work-force development blew my mind and there was such a lack of public-private partnerships,” Kristine Hazzard, president of Berkshire United Way, said. “I didn’t even want to score some of them and then some of the ones that I thought were the best scored low.”
AND ON AND ON WE JOURNEY, UNTIL LATER. LOVE TO ALL.