In the last week a new grass roots group has surfaced in support of the Geneseo Lowe’s project calling itself Keep Geneseo Vibrant and Growing. The public face of the group is Ted Universal of Booher Hill Road who has signed a long letter that was printed in the Livingston County News and published as a one-and-a-half page paid ad in this week’s Pennysaver.
Ted made his first known appearance at a planning board meeting on this subject Monday and refused to answer questions as to who else was in his so-called citizens group. There is strong suspicion that KGVG is what is known in the trade as “astroturf,” a fake grassroots group organized and paid for by a developer, despite the fact that in his letter Ted disavowed all association with Newman Development.
Adding fuel to the fire is the appearance of representatives from the Public Strategy Group, a Rochester PR firm at the meeting. A look at Public Strategy’s web site shows that they are specialist in organizing just this kind of “grass roots” campaign.
Under the heading of “Pro-group development” the firm brags that it “takes a comprehensive approach to rallying the supportive public and forming a coalition to see your project into development. We provide resources and guidance to facilitate pro-group presentations using a blanketed media approach, acquiring a strong foundation of community supporters.”
Do you suppose providing “resources and guidance” could involve helping Ted write his letter? Clearly Public Strategies was behind the full page pro-Lowes ad that appeared in the LC News two weeks ago which featured a picture of a man in a hard hat carrying some 2 x 4s.
It’s ironic that among the guests invited by Public Strategies to attend Monday night’s meeting were representatives of the local construction unions. That strategy backfired, however, when the unions discovered that Lowe’s has a history of using non-union and foreign labor to build its stores.
If you look at the resumes of the Public Strategy staff, they all feature strong political backgrounds and the firm solicits business as political consultants and campaign managers. It is entirely possible that they view part of their job as electing a new (or the same old) town board that will be favorable to their client.
Of course they will deny any such motive and for a good legal reason. If they were found to be involved in supporting a particular political candidate they might have to file a financial disclosure form and tell us how much Newman is spending to buy public opinion in Geneseo.
In that regard, it is perhaps not surprising to note that Mr. Universal was one of the signers of the tainted Conservative Party petition that put the incumbent team on the ballot. The plot thickens!