THE PLANET PUTS THE QUESTION TO MELISSA MAZZEO: DID SHE LIVE UP TO HER 2011 CAMPAIGN PROMISE REGARDING A REOPENiNG OF THE GE-PITTSFIELD CONSENT AGREEMENT? … plus … AND ANOTHER THING WE DONT GET ABOUT NASCAR
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, FEB. 25, 2013) — In the 2011 municipal campaign, THE PLANET ran a series of articles connected to the GE Consent Agreement, hammered out during a one-sided wrestling match between two buildings of GE lawyers — some of the highest priced legal talent money could buy intent on saving the company billions in clean-up costs — and the city of Pittsfield legal team consisting of a lawyer, Mayor Gerry Doyle, and council president Tom Hickey, who was on hand essentially to chaperon the mayor in the big city of Boston.
A mismatch? Think 1936, Texans vs. Mexicans; think the United States invasion of Grenada in 1983. Think Little Sisters of the Poor vs. the Boston Bruins.
After all These Years, Transcripts Still Haven’t Been Released
What happened during those lengthy talks, discussions that were to Pittsfield what the Yalta Conference in 1945 became to Eastern Europe? We don’t know. There has never been an honest, open accounting of the negotiations and discussions that resulted in the Consent Agreement (CA). To this day, amazingly, transcripts of the meetings have never been made public. It leads one naturally to wonder: What are they hiding? What don’t they want us to know about the negotiations that sealed Pittsfield’s fates as GE got off for pennies on the pollution.
If this was such a great deal for the city, why wouldn’t its leaders, and GE for that matter, want to release the transcripts? Release of this material was and still is the only way for the public to make an informed judgment about what actually occurred around the negotiating table those 15 long years ago.
Perhaps instead of pushing to reopen the Consent Agreement, a more realistic first step should be to push for the unedited, raw transcripts. Why wouldn’t Pittsfield, through the mayor’s office, want to do that?
Other parties in the talks included U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Department of Justice; the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Office of the Attorney General and Executive Office of Environmental Affairs; the State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and Office of the Attorney General; the U.S. Department of Interior; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the City of Pittsfield; the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority; and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority. Nonetheless, the warring parties were GE and the city. Every one of these “other” agencies wanted to get this “thing” off their desks as soon as possible. They didn’t have a dog in the fight. In fact, only one party in this long list of players actually wanted a complete, all-embracing clean-up: the city of Pittsfield, or, more specifically, its citizens.
From the get-go, the negotiators tried to make it look as if there was effective citizen oversight during the entire process. We know now that was a mirage, an illusion deliberately created so that a more comprehensive cleanup of Pittsfield by GE would never be aggressively pushed. THE PLANET doubts that, in their hearts of hearts, that a total cleanup (or an appropriate amount of GE cash) was ever a realistic possibility in the hearts of the negotiators.
Look, for example, at this language contained in the EPA’s “Summary of Agreement” dated Oct. 7, 1999:
—– 00 —–
Enhanced Public Participation
Objective: to implement this agreement in a manner that considers and utilizes the ideas of the citizens of Berkshire County.
A. A Citizen’s Coordinating Council has been established to serve as a focal point for community participation in the cleanup. The Council includes leaders from Berkshire County’s political, environmental, community, and business sectors. The Council has provided and will continue to provide an important mechanism to ensure that all of the settling parties fully honor their commitment to listen to, learn from, and incorporate the ideas and concerns of the community to the greatest extent possible. The governments intend to submit drafts of major technical documents to the Citizens Coordinating Council for review and discussion.
B. EPA will provide additional outreach to property owners affected by this agreement, including participating in and hosting public meetings, small neighborhood meetings and individual meetings.
—– 00 —–
“Small neighborhood meetings and individual meetings”: — The phrase has an avuncular, soothing sound, like June water moving through a moonlit cave … until you realize that almost all of the meaningful so-called “public participation” came after the fact.
Mazzeo Made a Campaign Promise
In our writings during the 2011 campaign, THE PLANET made the point that the Consent Agreement not only could be re-opened but it actually had been opened on at least 10 occasions. We asked: Why not an 11th time, to get GE to bear more responsibility for in effect killing the city of Pittsfield?
Sensing an opportunity during the long campaign season, councilor at large Melissa Mazzeo promised that if elected, she would pursue a re-opener.
As we know, nothing along those lines has happened.
So did Mazzeo live up to her campaign promises? The possible answers are:
( ) Yes
( ) No
( ) Yes and No
( ) Kinda Sorta
( ) All of the Above.
Times up. Which one did you select?
Tune in tomorrow as THE PLANET presents the answer based on Mazzeo’s response to the following request that we sent her onFeb. 19, 2013:
>> During the 2011 campaign, you promised that if re-elected you would push hard for a reopening of the GE consent decree.
>> Have you done anything to fulfill that promise? If so, what actions, and when, specifically? If not, do you intend action soon?
>> I recently wrote a PEDA column on THE PLANET and I included your promise. Judging from the response, there are a lot of people who want follow up on this.
>> Please send me a statement for the record.
Two Years Later, Another Campaign Upon Us
Two years later, and we have another campaign about to open its somnambulant. The issue, of course, has not gone away. Here we are two years later, and the there is still no understanding or accounting of how much toxicity GE left behind in Pittsfield air, land, and water. Last week, for instance, we revealed the previously unpublished report of toxicity issued after more poisons were found on the former GE site when workers were constructing a water basin there. Moreover, there has never been an inventory issued of what toxins remain and where they are located. Outside of anecdotal stories about hot spots from GE old timers, the city has no way of knowing how bad it has been poisoned.
THE PLANET believes this is the true reason why, since GE pulled out nearly a quarter century ago, the only economic “progress” in the city has been in the reverse direction. The city has lost countless jobs, has a shrinking tax base, and a plummeting population. It can all be traced back to the pernicious legacy GE left for the city of Pittsfield.
TOMORROW: MAZZEO’S ANSWER.
SHE FINISHED 8th, BUT SHE’S CUTE!
Finally, this quick observation upon the yesterday’s running of the fabled Daytona 500.
True, there’s much we don’t get about auto racing. We don’t understand the excitement out of seeing a bunch of souped up billboards taking an endless series of left turns. Perhaps the racing community appreciates the counter-clockwise motion in some kind of mysterious sense of the kind that subatomic physicists have when looking at a supposedly solid object. Maybe it’s all about the partying. Another possibility is that fans watch hoping for a spectacular crash. These are minor mysteries, however, compared to the odd write-up of yesterday’s finish.
What we can’t fathom whatsoever is why a driver wins all the headlines at Daytona for finishing 8th! A driver named Jimmie Johnson was the winner. There were some stories that buried Johnson deep to tout Patrick’s performance.
After Johnson, another six drivers finished ahead of the 8th place finisher. And yet, one would have thought Danica Patrick had pulled off victory.
That sort of treatment doesn’t pay women any compliment. Making a big deal over an 8th place finish is essentially to admit that women have no place on the race tracks, competing with the big, strong, men.
The true reason for all the fuss about Patrick, of course, is that she is cute. She looks good in and out of her racing suit. If she looked like Janet Reno or Maxine Waters, for example, do you think there would be all this noise about little to nothing?
“Out of the lost orchard is life that needs the orchard no more / The fence has broken places, and the gates / Swing to the passing wind. But butterflies soar / Over the tree tops to predestined mates. — Edgar Lee Masters
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.