Monday, April 7, 2014

Breaking News: Council Meeting Outcome

A quick update:  The motion for the Brunswick Town Council to send a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration, encouraging them to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement for the Amtrak MLF, was defeated 5-4.

Voting in support were councilors Perreault, Pols, Millett, and Brayman.

Voting in opposition were councilors Watson, Walker, Wilson, Favreau, and Richardson.

Surprisingly, the opposition forces we expected to see in attendance were conspicuous by their absence.  Unsurprisingly, certain individuals made a case for residency on other planets.

Some evidence continued belief in the Tooth Fairy of “mass transit,” and how she will leave golden eggs under the pillows of those who swear allegiance to the Downeaster.

While we are not the final authority on this subject, we feel moved to say that common sense was not the most common commodity on display.

The challenge before your correspondent now is one of “news analysis,” which calls for ‘mulling’ of unknown duration, along with collection of breadcrumbs, tidbits, and the chirps of little birds.  New dots keep popping up that need connecting.

So you’ll just have to bide your time.  For now we’re going to enjoy the NCAA Championship game via DVR.

See you in the funny papers.

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The testimony we gave at the hearing is this:

  • I pay property taxes in Brunswick, and I have a stake in the conduct of this town's business, and it's future.

  • I don't live in the neighborhood of the proposed MLF facility, though I do hear the trains coming and going, and their whistles at crossings.

  • I do have an interest in responsible, transparent, accountable, and diligent governance.

  • The subject of tonight's meeting, on the face of things, is a request to perform an EIS.

  • But what it's really about is due process, and more accurately, due diligence.

  • Looking back on recent town history, municipal government has not distinguished itself in pursuing due diligence

    • Not that long ago, we purchased the old Times Record building, after we paid a consultant who said it was in pretty good shape, for less than $1.5 million. Shortly after purchase, we “discovered” that the building needed $5 million in renovations to be made fit for use, and mitigate a variety of deficiencies. It wasn't long before the council and Town Manager elected to demolish the building so it would no longer be there to remind us all of an abysmal failure of due diligence. Millions down the rat-hole.

    • Tonight we're sitting in the newly renovated McLellan. Details of the trade with Bowdoin College aside, the beginning estimate for adapting the building was in the range of $100,000, and before too long, was over ten times that. Unknown liabilities are still on the table for exterior renovation of rotting trim and who knows what lying beneath. Mechanical systems, namely heating and ventilation, are ultra-complex and extremely expensive to operate, and may have other problems as well.

    • As it turns out, a number of inspections of the property were conducted before the exchange agreement was completed, and they gave insights into these problems that should have been explored further before committing to the deal. That would have been classic 'due diligence,' but a rush to 'move the town forward' apparently had a higher priority. Reinforcement of community self-esteem in station area development likely had much to do with it.

  • Now the Federal Railroad Authority stands at a due diligence crossroads, and you as a council have an opportunity to endorse the need for it on a project well beyond the scope and material consequence of municipal offices.

  • I'm glad this meeting is recorded, because not only is your legacy as a council at stake, but the legacy of this town and the integrity of our governance.

  • Many here tonight have argued that no further due diligence is called for, and have gone so far as to call for you to oppose it by denying the request.

    • Are they afraid the due diligence of an EIS will discover yet unknown problems? Rotting trim, with underlying site pathologies, to borrow an image from this building?

    • For that matter, what are you afraid of?

  • Is time delay an issue? Portland has been operating for 14 years without an enclosed layover facility. Come to think of it, why hasn't the MLF been built in Portland to begin with?

  • Is cost the issue? Wow...the MLF estimate has grown from $4 million to $12 million plus on it's way to $16 million I have no doubt, and Amtrak can't survive without constant life-giving dollar transfusions.

  • For years, we've heard talk of quality of place, sustainability, and elevating the environment above human interests in these parts. One of you has spent his career working in environmental areas, and others of you have often voiced advocacy in such matters.

    • How is it, then, that you might turn your back on due diligence, especially in the environmental impact area? Is your commitment so easily trumped by petty human and personal considerations?

  • One more thing: conducting a full EIS would buy some time to examine broader economic development implications for the town, the region, and the state. NNEPRA and TRN have no interest in such things; all they want to do is ride and collect fares. Nothing else matters.

  • Does anything else matter to you? Does the domestic tranquility of hundreds of families matter? Does quality of life matter? Does a stable property tax base matter?

  • At least enough to endorse responsible, transparent due diligence before committing to a mammoth industrial facility that will reek irreversible and irreparable harm on the in-town and downtown areas and its residents?

  • If you don't believe it will reek such harm, how do you know? How can you be sure WITHOUT the due process of an EIS?

  • That is the question before you on this momentous evening. Choose your answer wisely. You may never cast a vote where more is at stake – for the town – and for you.

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1 comment:

  1. There are no Bs or Ss in LOGIC, but BS trumps every time.

    ReplyDelete