Friday, April 19, 2013

Before the Day Slips Away

Perry Cooney sent me this picture of a gathering to celebrate our David-and-Goliath victory over St. Lawrence Cement, which took place at the Red Dot on April 19, 2oo5--the celebration, that is, not the victory. As he reminded me, "It was a Tuesday, but we opened for the occasion."

Besides Sam Pratt, the leader of the David contingent, Gossips spies Sarah Sterling and the back of Moisha Blechman's head. Gossips was there, too, years before assuming her Gossips persona.


  1. That was amazing. There was another great celebration at Vincent Mulford's fabulous tin ballroom.

    -- Jock Spivy

  2. A wonderful moment in Hudson's evolution. But in the euphoria that followed, it never occurred to many of us that we really hadn't changed things all that much-- the good 'ol boy economic development mafia and the political regime that supports it are still here, and they continue to be a problem.

  3. I went back to read my report of the Common Council meeting that was held on the very night of the day we heard the news. It was the meeting where the Council, in its wisdom, turned down St. Lawrence Cement's offer of a "host agreement", but not before being treated to the usual rantings of one of our esteemed aldermen from the Fifth Ward, who, incidentally, is still with us. This scene, showing the Council chambers packed with jubilant plant opponents, is shown in the film "Two Square Miles."


    1. Ellen, I didn't know you had it in you. Thanks.

  4. A.

    I agree emphatically Gizmo.

    To my eye, there were only 2 changes that have mattered since that time:

    1. The "good ol' boy economic development mafia and the political regime that supports it" has gone even further underground. (No need to tweak a word of your characterization.)

    2. The victors over the cement plant were immediately split down the middle, with new and old groups forming instant battle lines over the privilege to recount the history and to salvage the greater influence for themselves.

    It was the schism that followed the collective victory which set the stage for the ennui that has undermined us ever since.

    I have no doubt that it was the schism of the post-St. Lawrence fight that's been the public's greatest gift to the ol' boys and their political regime. The infighting of the victors was a valuable consolation prize, and the powers that be have certainly made the most of it.

    A sequence of events.

    At the January 9, 2006 "organizational meeting" of the Common Council," Resolution No. 3 established the "Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee," which also established Linda Mussman as Chair.

    When the same Resolution stated that "This Committee may form citizen advisory sub-committees for guidance and assistance," the council was adhering to the state guidelines for the development of LWRPs.

    Tragically, it was agreed by all parties at that time that there should be a dismantling of the various South Bay interest groups that had survived the cement plant fight. The spirit behind this systematic dismantling was meant to advance the next collective goal of getting behind the LWRP.

    But throughout 2006 the question was repeatedly asked "where are the LWRP subcommittees?" The fact that not a single LWRP subcommittee was ever formed is still worth investigating.

    In the summer of 2006, among the controversies concerning the missing subcommittees, and thus the reliability of the LWRP committee itself, the schism of the post-cement fight reappeared in the guise of a struggle over choosing an LWRP planner.

    Remnants of one South Bay interest group had brought Herbert Dreiseitl to Hudson to study the land- and waterscape. Dreiseitl is described in Wikipedia as "an internationally renowned, sculptor, artist and interdisciplinary planner with over 30 years experience in the field of landscape architecture and water sculpture."

    But the LWRP leadership wanted the disastrous Paul Buckhurst planners (BFJ), to be guided by the equally disastrous counsel of Cheryl Roberts. In the absence of subcommittees, Ms. Mussman and the Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee prevailed, and we all know the rest.

    Before 2006 was out Ms. Mussman, now supported by Ms. Roberts and BFJ Planning (the latter of whom agreed in 2006 to be compensated by St. Lawrence/Holcim), met in private with representatives of St. Lawrence Cement. The cement giant who would soon be renamed "Holcim" pitched the idea of a conveyor system to Ms. Mussman for the transport of aggregate across the South Bay.

    At the January 4, 2007 LWRP public workshop (see LWRP appendixes), Ms. Mussman unveiled a 24" x 36" color display of the conveyor system to the shocked public. Following the predictable protest, the exhibit was removed and has since disappeared. (Does anyone know where it can be found? It would be helpful to have this as evidence.)

    But the conveyor system plan itself never disappeared, despite the official denials in the later GEIS. It only went underground (see no. 1 above).

  5. B.

    In February of this year - in 2013! - when the public finally laid eyes on the city's completed Zoning Map - delivered more than a year after the Common Council had voted it into law - everyone could see that the Core-Riverfront District was zoned for a conveyor system over the CSX railroad tracks, providing no other means for getting O&G's gravel to port.

    This revelation which is only a few months old demonstrates that the fight over the LWRP/GEIS was a continuation of the battle against the cement plant. It is only in retrospect that we can fully comprehend that the primary action of the LWRP, the new zoning regime which became law in 2011, was a vehicle for Ms. Mussman's conveyor system.

    But the whole preceding stupid story begs the question of self-inflicted blindness from among the ranks of the victors of the St. Lawrence Cement fight.

    Why were no LWRP subcommittees ever formed by the victors themselves, which would have properly shepherded and vetted these continuing issues with full public participation?

    Everyone shares blame in this. The price and the damage of the infighting was a loss of public participation and the ushering in of a new era of autocracy, best symbolized by the combined leadership of Mr. Moore and Ms. Roberts: one elected and one unelected official who preside over the helplessness of our downcast representatives.

    The combined autocracy and public ennui account for the fact that when the zoning was amended by a previous Common Council in 2011, there were almost no members of the public present.

    The question was apparently not interesting enough: "How could the council vote into law a map which had yet to be created?"

    When the two protesters regained their seats, Mr. Moore and Ms. Roberts commanded the council to "Vote," and so the thing was done.

    Ennui? Apathy? I hope that people will weigh in at Gossips to provide their own explanations for today's comparative spiritlessness concerning these continuing St. Lawrence/Holcim issues. It is time for a reshuffling of these tired old alliances, and a welcoming of new voices.

    So please speak up you old timers, what went wrong?

    Why are we where we are today? Why is our political will still dominated by the likes of a Cheryl Roberts? Why is Ms. Mussman still in the picture at all, albeit more covertly than before? What is wrong with this place?!

  6. Not actually being in Hudson at the time has led Unheimlich into some stark errors in attempting to recount history he did not witness.

    1) There was no immediate “schism” as he claims among those involved with the successful cement plant fight.

    2) On the contrary, a great -- and at first, highly successful -- effort was made to bring the town together.

    3) This was exemplified by the political campaign of the Summer and Fall 2005. Democrats assembled a unified and diverse slate of over 30 candidates (including committee seats) which saw past adversaries working together. Joe Finn Jr. and Ed Cross, both longtime supporters of the SLC project, ran on the same ticket as prominent plant opponents.

    4) This Unity ticket swept the elections, creating for the first time an overwhelmingly Democratic majority on the Council.

    5) Numerous meetings and surveys were held and gathered by the Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee, with tremendous public engagement, prior to the split which much later occurred. Citizens were actively engaged with the process, and a great deal of brainstorming and sub-discussions occurred. That Cheryl Roberts erased this part of the record because it did not comport with her and Mussmann’s goals does not mean it never happened, and it is surprising that Unheimlich of all people would share such revisionist impulses.

    6) Said “schism” did not come until more than 20 months after SLC (Holcim) was defeated, in January 2007 when Linda persisted in her private plan to assist SLC maintain a place on the Waterfront. The plant was defeated in April 2005, not fitting Unheimlich's claim of “immediate” division.

    6) Such division of the Unity coaltion was also deepened in 2007 by the scandal involving the discovery of Quintin Cross’s theft of some $20,000 via a misappropriated City credit card.

    7) Despite the misty nostalgia for Mr. Dreiseitl still harbored by just a handful of people (almost all of whom are now gone), he and his firm was passed over by the Waterfront Advisory Steering Committee long before Mussman’s betrayal -- and hardly because of any schism among opponents. At the time a consultant was selected, there was no disagreement among WASC members about the endgoal.

    8) Dreiseitl’s application was passed over for the simple reason that it could not even be legally considered by the Committee. This was because he neglected to submit the necessary materials, failed to stay within the RFP's budget, and presented a timeline far outside the requirement.

    9) Moreover, Dreiseitl refused to commit to even appearing in Hudson more than once a year, proposing to pass off in-person duties to an unknown subcontractor based in Pennsylvania (IIRC). That the lead consultant on the LWRP could not be relied upon to actually be here for the process, and would have to be brought in by conference calls from overseas, was utterly impractical.

    10) “Ennui and apathy” only set in after citizens made effort after good faith effort to right the ship. When thousands of comments get routinely ignored, and supposed progressive like Don Moore act to deny access to applications and suppress public comment at meetings, eventually people feel their input is futile.

    Unheimlich is a bit more correct in describing some of the other aspects of what happened, but the gross errors in his timeline and assumptions are unfortunate.


  7. True, I lived in Stockport at the time.

  8. Thanks for the clear hindsight and keeping the record straight.
    Painful, all of it. I remember the elation on the day of the Red Dot.
    And who can forget the scene in 'Two Square Miles' in the Council
    Chamber, especially when one was there.