I am indebted to a comment posted by reader Phil Bracchi on my recent “Watching sausage made” column for the equation in the title above. Actually Phil is a former English teacher and he rightly pointed out that you can also substitute a number of other “F” verb participles to create even more accurate translations of F.E.I.S.
When I finally got a chance to read the Final Environmental Impact Statement last weekend, I discovered that it was a stunning monument to over three years of deceit and misrepresentation in our local government. It is said that behind every great fortune is a great crime, but I find that behind the small fortune that Lowe’s hopes to make in Geneseo is a whole series of petty crimes, adding up to a huge violation of truth, justice and the American Way.
Now before everybody gets their panties in a bunch, I do not mean to suggest that anybody has broken any criminal laws that they should be thrown in the hoosegow for. After all, lying in politics is as American as apple pie, and the Freedom of Information Act is unfortunately not part of our NYS penal code.
For those who our regular readers of the Clarion Call Blogs and The PDDG File website, none of what I am about to detail is news or surprising. For those who may be new to the sausage factory, however, the following catalogue of petty crimes may be instructive:
1. Thumbs on the scale. We will probably never know for sure exactly what role Newman Development played in the writing of the PDD law in the first place. This is because all the correspondence between Newman and our town attorneys at Underberg and Kessler on the subject has conveniently disappeared. Suffice is to say that the whole Lowe’s project could never have gotten started in the Gateway under the existing zoning without this legislative sleight of hand.
2. Murder in the cradle. In order for the Lowe’s project to live it was necessary for the new-born Master Plan to die. Despite the fact that volunteers had worked countless hours for over three years fashioning a proposed new Master Plan, these citizens made the mistake of not kowtowing to the new party line. Off with their heads!
3. Twisting in the wind. The Access Management Plan was a supposed 6-month study of the Rt. 20A corridor that began in the spring of 2005. It fell victim to the Lowe’s project after consultant Steve Ferranti made the mistake of telling the truth about 20A at a public meeting. As a result, all meetings of the Access Management Committee were suspended indefinitely while Steve was taken into the back room and beaten until he saw the light. Only after he recanted his heresy was he allowed to collect his $35,000 fee, but the final plan is so badly flawed that it will never be adopted.
4. He who pays the piper. Another hefty check was cut by the town to the Center for Governmental Research for their study of the potential economic impact of a Lowe’s. For this study, CGR appeared to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Geneseo Town Board. The numbers were carefully massaged to show an unbelievably positive return of sales tax to Livingston County with minimal loss of business for existing stores. If you believe this I have some swamp land in the Conesus Lake inlet I want to sell you.
5. What infrastructure money? After careful research I established that the first $300,000 invested in building Volunteer Road and the Gateway District infrastructure came from Livingston County’s Industrial Infrastructure Fund. These funds, by both state law and local county policy, were forbidden to be used for retail development. No problem! Just get the county attorney to issue a letter denying the source of the money, and even after he is forced to retract that letter, continue to use it as if it were the truth. Nobody will know the difference!
6. Bring in the muscle. When your local Planning Board strays off the reservation, quickly refer the matter to the County Planning Board to get things straightened out. The County Board can be counted on to see the wisdom of stoking up the county sales tax dollars by concentrating all the retail expansion in Geneseo. Home rule? We don’t need no stinking home rule!
7. When all else fails, gut the board. Don’t like an independent Planning Board that actually thinks for itself? Simple. Just appoint a new chairman and then fail to re-appoint members who will not toe the party line. A new board member comes up for appointment every year, so you can have the board eating out of your hand in no time!
8. Freedom to Stonewall Information? The FOIL law in this state is a joke and the lawyers know it. There are no effective penalties for violating the law and there is thus no way to force the government to disgorge public documents if they don’t feel like it. It is particularly difficult to uncover the large amount of public communications that are in the form of e-mails Oops! My computer ate the record!
This listing is by no means complete. There are many more petty crimes surrounding this caper, but I grow weary of recounting them. Feel free to use the comment button to add a few of your own! See you next Monday night for the exciting conclusion!