Saturday, December 5, 2015

Consultants: Honest brokers, or agenda driven parasites, servicing willing hosts?

In our career, starting from our earliest days in graduate school, back in the OJ at USC era, the term ‘consultant’ has always been part of the vernacular, whatever the hell that means.

We could go on ad nauseum about the subject.  Come to think of it, if we ever tire of the Other Side cognomen, we might decide to rename our publication “Ad Nauseum.”

Suffice it to say that in our personal experience, the term ‘consultant’ has progressed from an indicator of expert stature worthy of respect to a common-place term describing a class of money-grubbing predators milking the public teat for all it’s worth.  Which means they’re only marginally more respectable than those engaged in the ‘oldest profession.’

Feel free to challenge this view; we’re pretty sure we’ve got more hard evidence for our position than you might have for an opposing view.  Keep in mind that the ‘oldest profession’ at least involves voluntary engagement in a free market transaction.  In contrast, the consultant industrial complex that thrives in today’s OPM marketplace works out of public view, sucking scarce dollars from the public treasury with promises of ‘drawing down’ federal dollars (and state dollars as well) with glorious predictions of irresistible levels of economic benefit.

Or as our good friend, the real estate professional Tony Donovan likes to say, ‘exponential economic prosperity’ being experienced in Brunswick.  Like the recent shut-down of the long standing Mobil station and convenience store on Bath Road.  Must be an exponential anomaly, to coin a new term.

Moving on to specifics, you might remember this glowing prediction for a prosperity explosion here in Brunswick due to Downeaster passenger rail service:

      EDRG Table 6.1

This prediction was cited by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a ‘consulting firm’ in Chicago hired by NNEPRA to perform a widely circulated study they issued in 2008.  Consultants like to base their work on the efforts of fellow consultants who rode the rails before them.  So they came up with this estimate of where good intentions can lead:

    CNT Table 2B

Recently we became aware that CNT had been engaged by NNEPRA for a follow up effort called “The Downeaster Going Forward.”  This draft study was delivered in 2014, and for reasons we can’t explain, has not been published in final form by CNT or NNEPRA, and it is not available on the internet.  We do, however, have a hard copy of the work, and we find it to be, well, ‘consistent’ with the clap-trap in earlier efforts.  We plan to scan and publish salient excerpts from this funded effort.

Sorry…we digressed into petty personal editorializing on the works of others, paid for by Maine taxpayers.  Shame on us.  So let’s elevate the discussion.

We decided to look into CNT’s pedigree.  Here’s what we came up with, all from their web site,


The words that ‘trigger’ our interest in this first clip are ‘nonprofit’ and ‘advocacy.’  As we see it, objective,  honest broker consultants should not be engaged in advocacy; in fact, anything but.  And they should be interested in prospering in the sense of profitability, which would allow them to keep operating – sustainably, to borrow a term.  It’s clear from other words in their self-description that they are agenda driven, with a clear ideological bias.


Which is amplified in the above snip.


In this snip, we see that CNT is beholden to a variety of charitable foundations and other supporters to keep operating.  We’ll let you follow up on the specifics, which we have already done to some degree.  If and when you do, you’ll discover, as we did – that CNT is anything but an objective, detached organization providing research and analysis that may or may not affirm the interests of its clients.

As such, we should be outraged that a state agency like NNEPRA in this case, and likely many more that we don’t know about, use our money to hire shills and parasites that tell them whatever they want to hear, and back it up with references, tables, and narrative to overwhelm any opposition that might arise.

We’ll close by asking whether you would hire the Hershey Corporation to operate a nutritional education program for food-stamp recipients.  Or the Louisiana State Chamber of Commerce to do a study describing Maine’s “Quality of Place.”  Or the Ford Motor Corporation to do an objective analysis of Maine State Government’s vehicle fleet needs and operations.

We hope you wouldn’t.  None-the-less, you can see why ‘ad nauseum’ seems to be on the tip of our tongue at the moment.

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