Sunday, April 13, 2014

Rethinking the House of Sartoris Ambitions Post


On Thursday, April 10, we posted an item we titled  “House of Sartoris Ambitions Trump Brunswick West Quality of Life Concerns.”  It raised the issue of “political motivations” in Monday night’s town council vote declining to send a letter to the FRA requesting a full EIS on the Amtrak MLF project.

The post featured this passage:

Sitting town councilor Steve Walker, representing the House of Sartoris, wrote from a posture of high dudgeon in December of last year just before his swearing in.

He did so in what seems for all the world like a politically motivated Ostrich commentary titled “Brunswick council may have to sue itself.” 

Back to the commentary, in which Walker refers to ‘this raw exercise in political power,’ and says ‘Keeping overt politics off the board serves Brunswick best….’  He lauds the concepts of ‘an impartial hearing’ and proper process.

Considering the foregoing, we find councilor Sartoris’ Walker’s performance at Monday night’s council meeting to deal with the MLF EIS letter all the more inexplicable.  You can view his at bat below, and  you’ll note that given all the foul balls during his 6 minutes in the box, Chair Pols nearly had to signal the bull-pen to send in relief.

Unless you consider the possibility of political motivations behind the scenes that are anti-Tucker.  While we would never suggest such a thing, those more politically astute might note that Johnny Protocols (GoJo) is also on the council, and he is in high dudgeon himself over the actions of the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition and the support they’ve garnered.

Those same astute observers might even suggest that JP the first might have significant influence in helping JP the second defeat The House of Tucker in the upcoming primary, and that JP the first could use that for leverage in getting councilor Sartoris Walker to change his vote to GoJo’s side in the debate.  We’re not sure how many noms de Side we can keep track of for any one subject, but we’re looking into adding Jongali to JP’s aka list.

Our thinking was to consider the possibility that Walker’s arm was twisted to vote nay in return for the assistance of councilor Johnny Protocols (JP1) in securing a primary win for the Matriarch of The House of Sartoris. Recall one of our readers suggested naming her Jacquie P (for piranha) some time ago, or JP2.


(See note below) 

Since we wrote our subject column, we’ve learned that JP2 was busy posting away as the Monday night meeting unfolded, publicly explaining the HOS vote before the meeting was over (we assume the post she refers to is ours - Random Thoughts on Tonight’s Council Meeting):

Jackie Sartoris: “This was a very, very tough vote, R___. This is a highly technical area of law, and I guess I'd hesitate to be so harsh given that. The blog post completely fails to understand anything about the NEPA process, applying a layperson's understanding, which is not remotely the way these projects are developed or reviewed. Virtually every single word in NEPA has been litigated and interpreted through case law - you can't just read the flow chart and have any understanding of what NEPA requires, or what it actually protects. It is an approval process, not a denial process. After reviewing every single piece of paper associated with this project, again, and with his very experienced background, Steve was very sure that an EIS is not going to result in a different location. Moreover, every District 2 constituent who contacted Steve - over 30 - were against the letter (although I confess that I was not one of them - on the fence, mostly because I know how little a letter would matter, honestly, and how much criticism Steve would be under). We have both worked on EIS's, and are familiar with how NEPA is so often misunderstood by very compelling and rightfully upset neighborhoods, but it simply does not do what a superficial reading of the statute suggests. Please contact Steve if you want a thorough understanding of this issue, but I can tell you that at no time has he taken this lightly.”

After reading the Matriarch’s words, we began to rethink the possibilities.  JP1, as you well know, spent years in Augusta ensuring that members of his party caucus voted as he wanted, and we trust, has mastered numerous techniques of ‘enhanced persuasion.’  We know from personal experience that third parties are sometimes involved to confuse things a bit.  What if the “friendly” arm twisting, instead of being applied to a fellow councilor, was applied to the hopeful candidate, and she then grabbed the tiller of her live-in councilor’s boat to set it on a different course than he had appeared to be sailing?


We’ll leave that for the interested student of local politics to ponder, and shift our interest to these words in her missive:

After reviewing every single piece of paper associated with this project, again, and with his very experienced background, Steve was very sure that an EIS is not going to result in a different location.

As we’ve already related, we know of no means by which Walker obtained the collected comments submitted against the EA from the originating parties.  But that’s a small point if you consider that calling for an EIS resets the whole process.  Scoping sessions are convened, stakeholders are identified, and a thorough examination begins anew. 

Being “very sure that an EIS is not going to result in a different location” stretches credulity beyond the pale, including his standing to make such a summary determination on behalf of the entire council and town residents.  He may be ‘an’ authority in such matters, but he is not ‘the’ authority.

The EA was conducted by NNEPRA, an obviously biased stakeholder in the project, since they had already purchased the Brunswick West property.  They had the help of their paid consultant, known for their work on the Big Dig (

An EIS, in contrast, is a professionally refereed, objective scientific process, conducted by an independent third party, which in this case would be the Federal Railroad Authority.  There is no guarantee of outcome, though it’s certainly possible that the result would be to confirm the Brunswick West location.  Whatever conclusion is reached, it would be substantially more rigorous than the EA, and total project costs and impact mitigation would be thoroughly vetted.

If Walker could foresee such an outcome, why would he not endorse an EIS to make the selection even more ‘certain,’ with more robust and thorough consequences identified and mitigation steps called for?  Thereby removing all doubt?  Isn’t that what environmentalists usually stand for?

If not, why not?  And while we’re at it, since both the Patriarch and the Matriarch of HOS have ‘both worked on EIS’s,’ perhaps they could list a few and cite their specific areas of involvement in those efforts.

JP2’s blovitation about “a highly technical area of law” and the words following are typical distractions from the issue that was before the council. That was sending a letter, which as Chair Pols pointed out, was simply ‘asking.’  The town had already paid for an attorney’s opinion that doing so was entirely acceptable practice, and could have an effect on FRA deliberations.


For now though, we’ll continue to believe that something else was afoot here.  And it all comes down to these two ‘players,’ affectionately known to our readers as JP1 and JP2.


We’re pretty clear on what JP2 wants, but we’ll be damned if we can figure out what JP1’s interests in this caper are.  Sure, he’s used to getting the results he wanted from the underlings arrayed before him, and in making sure he gets the maximum exposure and credit for the final outcome.  Just like he did on Monday night, when he staged things so he’d be the deciding ‘speaker.’

Nice move, under the circumstances.  But what the hell is so important to GoJo that he MUST have the MLF built in Brunswick, and that it MUST be built at Brunswick West?  What does he have to gain by seeing that the project moves forward as is with no further risk or challenge?  Beyond pure ego considerations, that is.

What happens when the twister becomes the twisted?  Is it remotely possible that someone else, as yet unrevealed, is twisting his arm to get a prize they want?  Who could that be, and what prize are they after? 


Or is it simply that Johnny’s trying to live out his lost Governorship fantasy by opposing the sitting Governor’s position?  And playing Governor of the State of Brunswick?  Or Speaker of The Council House?

Once again, we’re sending out an APB for The Shadow.  Maybe one of these days we’ll actually make contact.

(Ed note: Sartoris told us long ago in an email that “honesty is not always the best policy” while she was on the town council.) 

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