Monday, August 4, 2008

Let the Windbags Speak!

While I don’t agree with Schoharie Valley Watch on the issue of wind power development in Schoharie County, I respect their right to express themselves without having the cops called on them. A recent wind power forum held at SUNY Cobleskill’s Bouck Theater was supposed to be an honest discussion of wind power. Instead, one side got to speak and the other side got tossed out. This is not how we’re going to solve our energy problems.

Members of Schoharie Valley Watch came to the forum with the intention of expressing their concerns about industrial wind turbine development. I for one would have preferred to hear their criticism, and then hear their points challenged on the merits. But rather than engage SVW, the organizers of the event decided to take the easy way out and call campus security. This was a missed opportunity for real dialogue and a black eye on all of us who support green energy alternatives. But worst of all it is a slap in the face to the very notion of free and open dialogue that is essential to democracy.

At the same time, I would like to address to Kathleen Johnson’s letter to the Times-Journal in which she alleges that an individual was “stalking” her during the event. Johnson is a member of SVW who was among those asked to leave the wind forum. During the entire event, Johnson claims that an unidentified male was following her around and leering over her in an apparent attempt to intimidate her. So was this just some creepy guy? Was it T. Boone Pickens (he’s pretty creepy)? Or is Kathleen Johnson just paranoid?

Let’s look for a moment at the evidence Johnson offers as proof of being stalked. Johnson claimed that this unidentified individual stood up from his seat the same time she did. Clearly, these are gestapo tactics! She also claimed that he was standing near her while she was distributing literature and talking over her. I’m sorry, but bad manners do not qualify as stalking. I agree that calling campus security was an overreaction and was the wrong thing to do. But some people just need to grow thicker skin. People taking their cause to the streets have endured far worse than someone “speaking over” them.


Anonymous said...

Somehow, I doubt that Pickens was the stalker. However, a complaint to the local (non-campus) authorities regarding this man's behavior, as opposed to a letter to the "T-J", might be something his target would want to consider.

Sean said...

Oh yes, she should file charges right away, before T. Boone Pickens can sneak back to Texas.

Let's consider the potential charges:

Johnson alleges that this "unidentified man", "continued to stand very close to me, speaking over me"

How unbelievably rude! Anyone with even the slightest sense of courtesy would have waited until she was finished speaking before beginning their own statements. Not to mention the fact that he seems to have spoke at a higher decibel level than that at which she was speaking.

So far we have an "attempted conversation interruption" aggravated by a "higher decibel level of speech".

Then Johnson alleges that "after the presentation" (and I want to mention this again in case you missed it the first time) "after the presentation", "he stood as soon as I did, followed me into the hallway, and as I stood waiting for my friends he perched opposite me and continued to leer at me".

Can you believe the gall on this man! Standing up "after the presentation"! He should have just sat there until everyone else left, and waited for the janitor to tell him when it was time to lock up. He could have easily remained seated for the rest of the day. Thus the only logical reason for him to stand up "after the presentation" was to intimidate Kathleen Johnson. It's obvious!

After this "suspicious seat-rising", this guy goes and makes things worse with an "unauthorized hallway perch" and a "continuing leer", which while not as offensive as the "stink-eye" or even the dreaded "evil-eye" can still be quite disconcerting.

Forget the local authorities, she should take this complaint right to the FBI.

Bob Nied said...

I was at SUNY during the incident Ms. Johnson spoke about. The "unidentified" man (unidentified because he was a coward who would not give his name) attempted and failed to physically intimidate me and other members of SVW. At one point he told me I was not going to enter the event. When I dismissed his assertion he turned his attention on Ms. Johnson. Apparently, he thought his big tough guy act would work on a 5'2" slightly built female better than it would on an adult male. Unfortunately for him, Ms. Johnson has more guts and determination then he could ever have and she stood her ground. Was Ms. Johnson in any real danger? Probably not but she had every right to feel very uncomfortable and to say so. Reunion Power and its associates have acted arrogantly since they came to town. Now they seem so frustrated as to feel the need to act like thugs. Unfortunately for them, they are no match for decent, strong willed people like Ms. Johnson willing to stand up for their rights and their homes. By the way, anytime the unidentified man would like to meet to “discuss” his actions I would welcome the opportunity. He is even welcome to bring Albany County Legislator and Reunion Power wonk Sandy Gordon along for back up if he feels too nervous to meet alone.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Bob. I'm glad that someone who was actually there and saw what happened (unlike the other posters in this thread) has voiced his opinion. It's amazing how much difference a fact or two can make in determining who really is a "Windbag".
random thought..yet another unidentified coward who would not give his name...interesting...

Sean said...

Other than a highly subjective interpretation of one particular incident, Mr. Nied does not really address the tenuous nature of the "stalking" charges issued by Kathleen Johnson.

I appreciate one man's first-hand account, but I really don't see how Nied would be in any position to impartially corroborate Johnson's being made to feel "uncomfortable" or otherwise victimized.

Nied is right. Johnson does have every right to "feel uncomfortable and to say so". But isn't it a little bit of a leap of logic to then accuse a company of "acting like thugs".

Such behavior could only inevitably end up strengthening SVW's position. Reunion Power are not "thugs", and they would obviously realize the negative publicity that such behavior would bring.

Anonymous said...

If anyone has a few spare minutes, read these letters:
Wind power is not about the environment, it is about MONEY. Pure and simple. Just like the 10% alcohol that we are all forced to use in our gasoline. This gasoline has 10% less fossil fuel, but most people get 10% less MPG, so there is NO net savings, but the impact on the cost and availability of food, worldwide, is a fact. Others suffer and some people starve so that a few companies can take advantage of of our MONEY that the government is handing out.

Bob Nied said...

Sean, you give Reunion Power way too much credit. They are simply not as perceptive as you imply. They have repeatedly acted in ways counter to a sound business ethic or logic. They have made no attempt to negotiate with, or address the concerns of the community and have shown little other than arrogance and a sense of entitlement to the ridges of Schoharie Valley. If I had not known what I know about Reunion I would have expected them to embrace a discussion and used the opportunity to carefully argue their side of that discussion and to see it as an opportunity to make their case. Instead they attempted to suppress an alternative opinion in a very aggressive and heavy handed way.

The person, who stalked, harassed or simply provided almost constant "companionship" to Ms. Johnson, depending on your point of view, was indeed a thug and he was there with Sandy Gordon of Reunion Power. The unidentified man stood less than 2 inches from my face and loudly and forcefully stated that I would not be allowed in the room. If you were confronted by such body language and verbal "style" on the street I suspect you would instinctually prepare for a physical confrontation. Having been a labor organizer in a previous life I'm more used to threatening behavior than Ms. Johnson and I can dismiss it for the empty and laughable gesture that it is. I suspect she was quite unnerved by it and can call what she will. I know what I call it and know what I call those who engage in it.

The good part of being on the right side of a dispute is that the odds of prevailing are greater. Ms. Johnson and other landowners who do not want to be collateral damage for an ill-conceived, inefficient, sink hole for production tax credits that are 40-story industrial wind turbines, will prevail and I will do the best I can to help them. Unlike Mr. Gordon and the mystery man, we don't need to swagger and threaten. We will proceed with a careful procedural and legal challenge made easier every day by the failure of Reunion and, in some cases, local officials, to follow due process, act with diligence and consideration of the people who live here.

And by the way, you are right to be cynical of the gas drilling and water park projects. Given way property taxes, wind and other issues have been handled in Schoharie County, how well will these new issues be handled? The thought can make you cringe

Anonymous said...

random boring.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"arrogance"...surely you mean: "random arrogant attempt at thought". :)