Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Critic of Gilboa Dam Watchdog Group Doesn’t Hold Back

Lester Hendrix, the founder of Dam Concerned Citizens, a watchdog group focused on the safety of the Gilboa Dam had no desire to hold back criticism for the current membership and leadership of that group recently. He charged them with failing to push for necessary protections (liability for damage in the event of an accident, accountability to local governments effected, and more aggressive inspections). Instead, Hendrix accuses the group’s current leadership of preferring to “play cozy with political bigwigs and parade themselves in front of TV cameras every month in Schoharie”.

Hendrix’s basic complaint is that the group has lost its edge, been tamed and bought off by State and City officials. Now, as someone who does not live near the projected flood zone in the event of a dam failure, I really don’t care much about what goes on between the DCC, the State and the City of New York.

However, as someone interested in community organizing and activism in general, it seems like Hendrix is probably right. The DCC seem to have been de-fanged by the powers that be. This is a shame because a more confrontational approach would be good for the local communities. A good fight can unite people around a common cause and build community capacity, as opposed to typical NIMBY fights which revolve around smaller self-interested groups (see Richmondville posts).

If more people would rise up and increase their demands, they would learn that doing so can have substantial benefits. The more they speak out, the more money the State and City will be willing to send up here to shut them up.

So I join with Lester Hendrix in lamenting the fact that Dam Concerned Citizens has lost its way.

1 comment:

Lester Hendrix said...

I understand that Mr. Poole recently took me to task for criticizing the Dammed Concerned Citizens in his newspaper. Friends tell me I was severely criticized for speaking in the newspaper rather than at the organization’s meeting. This unlogic is so twisted that I have declined to read it. I also decline to respond in Mr. Poole’s publication. I would like to point out a few items that Mr. Poole conveniently neglected to mention.
1. The newspaper's reporter telephoned me at my home the day following the meeting and solicited my comments. I emailed him several paragraphs.
2. There is no law, or rule of etiquette, that says it is improper to criticize an organization's misdirection in a publication without first speaking at a meeting.
3. Mr. Poole could have just declined to publish my comments. Newspapers often decline to publish remarks they feel are inappropriate.
4. I spoke about the inspection issue at the 2007 DCC annual meeting, a year before the 2008 annual meeting where Mr. Poole purports I should have spoken. In 2008, the DCC officers did not invite comments from members, so I made none.
5. After soliciting and receiving my comments, Mr. Poole's newspaper contacted DCC and offered it the opportunity to respond to my comments. DCC responded and the response was published in the same article as my comments. Mr. Poole's newspaper did not contact me, either before or after publishing its personal attack on me, and has not offered me an opportunity to respond.
In short, Mr. Poole's reporter telephoned me, I accommodated him, and Mr. Poole then invented a rule of courtesy with which to whip me. In the process, he ignored the same rule and committed exactly the infraction for which he chastised me.
I am not surprised that Mr. Poole did not address the underlying issue. In both its written and verbal presentation in 2008, DCC failed to address on-going independent dam inspection. Its inspection comments only addressed inspection during reconstruction. DCC officers are trying to be friends with New York City and therefore decline to seek a requirement that owners of high-hazard dams pay for independent inspections. DCC would rely on government inspectors who report internally and whose past reports have not led to timely action. Government in not the solution, as DCC apparently believes.