Saturday, January 25, 2014

New directions: Pols unplugged?

Nearly a week ago in this post we wrote this:

- Based on our personal experience, and that of everyone else we’re familiar with, we doubt Michelle will get any sort of response.  And the same thing would happen if she spoke on the subject live in front of the council.

New Council Chair Benet Pols made reference to these words in a message he sent us (above citation edited out) with a subject line of ‘FW: oh ye of little faith’:

about Michelle Small's letter to the counci. You posted it two days before we even receieved Michelle's email. Emails sent to the "town council" go to the administrative assistant and are forwarded to us. Whatever caem in over night gets sent to us in the morning, (However, emails to an individual town councilor go directly to that councilor's inbox whenever they're sent). We got Michelle' letter Tuesday after MLK day about 8:00 AM. I answered her about an hour later.

MIchelle must have written her letter over the weekend.

I guess she thought her letter deserved an audience from unconventional new outlets and so sent it to you before we saw it.

Emails to the TC are automatically copied to conventional news outlets at the same time they're sent to us....that is, if the conventional news outlet has asked to be on the distribution list. Mistler and Brogan started this deal back in the day. I know Emily Guerin and Darren Fishell did it too. Not sure if the current crop of reporters have followed suit or not.

I imagine if you asked, you too could get a copy of every single email that gets sent to the town council.

In any event below is what I wrote to Michelle.....enjoy.

"We did read it. News coverage of the selection process makes clear the issue of the grievance was discussed. It was the reason I asked, and the rest of the council agreed, to defer nomination from the first meeting so that we could discuss it fully and so that new councilors would have a chance to participate.

Later in the week we set a special meeting for the choice of council issue. I spoke with the local reporters and directed them to the Board of Overseers reprimand. I told Dylan Martin about it when he was covering the council retreat on Saturday asking about other things. I called JT Leonard from the TR about it on Monday to be sure he'd be there too. Dylan had more time with the information and was able to call Mr. Langsdorf before the meeting.

With respect to fees, each of the other firms interviewed proposed only an hourly rate---Preti Flaherty also proposed an hourly rate, but included two hybrid hourly/monthly retainer proposals. The three fee structures were outlined in their proposal. It included their analysis of the previous ten months of billing and what each of their proposals might have saved us, at least on their reading of the our billing history.

Faced, for the first time in my years on the council, with a choice (emphasis ours), we decided to explore the two hybrid fee structures more carefully and consult with folks in other towns who use the hybrid models. If neither of them works for the majority of the council we can always choose the default hourly rate option (just a shade under what we've been getting from Bernstein). I've spoken with a City Councilor from Augusta on billing (also discussed the reprimand) and John Eldridge is doing a little deeper work with the bills. We expect to make a recommendation to the council tonight.


And we replied with this:

Chairman Pols:

Thanks for your response, perhaps an all time first, though I would have to really check the memory banks to verify that.
I have for years been getting automated replies to submitted emails telling me that they would be forwarded to councilors and the TR at least.  In this electronic age, I assumed that happened automatically, and that the primary goal, at least for some period, was to mask councilor email addresses with a 'joint' town council address.

Just for grins, I had one councilor block my address, so incendiary and threatening were my messages in the past.  I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that the 'group address' prevented this from happening.

That said, in my long and sordid history writing to and 'testifying' before the council, I cannot recall a single email in actual response.  And the only live responses I can recall from the 'floor' were being called "out of order;" being called "inflammatory;" being called "delusional;" and being called 'a teller of fictions.'  Interesting anecdotes associated with each, if you ever wanted to have a cup of coffee and tell sea stories.

If you think these are seared in my memory, you are correct.  There has been very little competition for the space they reside in.

So I take your response, whatever spirit it was sent in, as a refreshing change.  And until I hear or find otherwise, I'll take it in the spirit of camaraderie.

It seems, as it often does, that a few observations are in order.

- We’ll never know, we suppose, whether Pols’ would have responded to Michelle absent our post or not.  But for now, we’ll give him a good faith gold star and assume that he would have.

- We appreciate his offer to ask that every email coming into the town council be forwarded to us.  We won’t be taking up that offer at the moment, though it could amount to expanding our roster of ‘field correspondents’ by leaps and bounds.

- We wonder if the press should ask, in addition, to be copied on all emails emanating from councilors and the town manager, since they are all part of the public record.  Who knows what unexpected delights they might reveal.  We’ll have to give that some more thought.

- Pols once publicly called us a ‘blogger extraordinaire,’ which we found both a-musing and be-musing.  (try as we might, we didn’t find a dictionary entry for ce-musing.)  Now it appears he’s re-labeled us an ‘unconventional new (sic) outlet,’  As contrasted to ‘conventional news outlets,’ in which he seems to be referring to The Ostrich, The Forecaster, and a few others.

- We wonder whether we should take Pols’ response to Michelle as a tacit indication that all ‘serious’ memos to the council will from this point on be responded to in a timely fashion, or as we wondered earlier, this was an unusual case spurred by an ‘unconventional’ report. 


- You can help clarify this by submitting an email with your concerns to “,” and telling us of any response (or lack thereof) you receive.  Or, if you wish to address the grand high poobah himself, you can write to “”

- We expect to test the hypothesis before long, and will report on what we discover.  We’re thinking a message asking whether due diligence on the McClellan Building discovered any reports of sinking or other instabilities or architectural anomalies, and if so, how they have been dealt with.  We’ll have to decide whether we publish any such memo here at the same time we forward it to the council.  You know, Marquess of Queensberry rules and all that folderol.


The mention of whom can’t help but make us wonder whether there is such a thing as a Queens-berry pie.

(Note to Chair Pols: please don’t show up for the next council meeting in a red cardigan and polka dot shirt.  There’s already enough resemblance, and we don’t need anyone in the audience getting a case of the vapors.  Oh, and we’re glad you finally got a choice on the council; it’s about time.)

No comments:

Post a Comment