Thursday, October 18, 2007
Moon River...wider than a mile.
For this conservative watchdog, Monday October 15 started out gloomy. Crossing a busy highway while reading a much-anticipated letter (with bright red “confidential” emblazoned on the envelope) is never a good idea, even if the letter is brief.
After nearly becoming road kill and getting back to my office I get a call from a high-ranking elected official who informs me the Town Attorney has opined that the Select board can refuse to place the Umass effluent waiver on the upcoming Town Meeting and will force the Amherst Taxpayers for Responsible Change to get 200 signatures to “call” a Special Town Meeting rather than the 100 required to “insert” on an existing Town Meeting.
And I’m virtually certain that the letter from the Ethics Commission dated October 10 was also sent to Alisa Brewer, Rob Kusner and probably the town manager. So when we show up at the Select board meeting that night to fight for insertion on the current town meeting, I’m expecting many copies (color laser printed no less) on the back table for all to see.
Plus his Lordship, Select board Chair Gerry Weiss had already whined from his bully pulpit at the October 1 meeting that I had a “chilling effect” on the operation of his illustrious Select board.
The town official also mentions a conversation with an Amherst DPW manager who seems to remember the “strategic agreement” only calls for free effluent in the new powerplant--but not the 4 new buildings coming on line or use by the athletic department to irrigate recreation fields.
So there goes our argument about an exponential escalation of revenue loss to the Sewer Fund over the five years of the agreement, well above the annual $38,000 advertised by Selectman Kusner at the 9/17 meeting.
Fortunately that fact was easy to check: The Strategic Agreement that town and Umass officials signed states, “The Town will allow the University to use, free of charge, effluent from the wastewater treatment plant.” That's pretty clearly a Blank Check!
The Press Release, however, issued by the spinmeisters at Umass Office of News and Information states: “UMass will be allowed to use, free of charge, effluent from the town’s wastewater treatment plant for its co-generation power plant that is located nearby.” Hmmmm.
Arriving late to the Select board meeting (after teaching a Spin Class and putting my daughter to bed) I was pleased but puzzled to see nothing on the back table except that night’s agenda, in boring black and white.
And in a brief huddle with Stan Gawle out in the hall I learned the Select board screwed up with procedures and would have to allow our petition on this upcoming Town Meeting. Things were starting to look up.
So why would I not want the Ethics Commission rejection news alongside an article on the Town Meeting advisory to overturn the effluent sweetheart deal (in this weeks Amherst Bulletin for instance)?
Because I see them as two completely separate issues. Although either one can accomplish my mission of nixing this outrageous aspect of the deal with Umass.
And Wednesday’s Gazette article, standing alone, on the Town Meeting petition article was perfect! Select man Brewer shot herself in the foot (or perhaps a more vital spot) by suggesting the Select board will not give a damn what Town Meeting thinks about the $500,000 effluent giveaway. I, of course, forwarded that article to the Town Meeting Yahoo listserve.
Even today’s Gazette article, standing alone, on my Ethics case complaint dismissal is fine--because it keeps the issue in the public eye and a jury of my peers (normal working folk) would agree with me.
But why didn’t the Select board distribute their letter and crow about the Ethics complaint dismissal at their Monday meeting or issue public statements on Tuesday?
Well, yesterday just as I was about to publish my post covering the ethics matter my (pro bono) attorney came in to work out. I handed him the dispatch with the bright red “confidential” stamped on it and asked if that meant I could get in trouble for making it public? He thought for a moment and said “yes”.
“Good” I replied, and then clicked the publish button.