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It Occurs to Me

Setting the Record Straight
By Michelle Anderson
Nov 20, 2006 - 12:01:00 AM

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I spoke to someone today who believed that someone here at the Magic City Morning Star site (specifically our forum), started a boycott against Matt's business, and I am compelled to set the record straight.

A fairly hefty chunk of last week's Millinocket Town Council meeting was taken up by another of Councilor Matt Polstein's rantings about the Magic City Morning Star, which he blamed for everything but the lack of snow.

That rant is included below, in italics. Once we get that out of the way, I will address the allegations.

"I still believe that -- and I mean no disrespect to anybody that voted no to MAGIC's funding, and I believe that those that voted no believed they were voting in the best interest of the town when they cast that vote -- that some of that thinking was tainted by a campaign of misinformation. And there will be those who say that I am repeating the same old message, and they're not happy to hear it.

"But I think there is more and more that backs up that this campaign of misinformation is real.

"And an analogy that I'd like to offer to you -- and I think that most of you are aware of it -- is that about three weeks ago I spent the better part of a week fighting the beginning of a flourishing call for a national boycott of my business. And that call for a national boycott of my business was generated by misinformation that was started on the Magic City Morning Star website, was brought to this Council in bits and pieces by Mrs. Maragus and others who attempted to paint a part of a picture of the letter that I wrote Roxanne Quimby.

"And then that information was transferred to snowmobiling forums across the northeast saying that I was not a friend of snowmobilers and that I had worked to provide an opportunity to Roxanne Quimby to purchase land that she would not have otherwise potentially purchased. That is grossly and factually inaccurate. I believe the people that wrote the letters and Mr. Anderson and his review of the letters at the Magic City Morning Star website knew that his review of the letter was inaccurate.

"But what's important is what happened because that inaccurate letter was put on a website where people with a passion about snowmobiling happened to read it. And what happened is that those passionate people did not take the time to ask questions or look at the facts within the letter, and some decent people quickly came to the conclusion that I must in fact be an evil person. And moved this call for a boycott forward.

"Now, with two or three frantic days of writing, I was able to provide these people that allowed them to see that in fact, what they'd been shown was inaccurate. I also was able to point them toward the Magic City Morning Star's website where if they went and looked at it, they could see that there's a massive compilation of misinformation and attacks on me personally, on MAGIC, and on anyone that's ever questioned an opinion or a position of the Magic City Morning Star.

"And most of these were people who didn't know me and didn't know the Magic City Morning Star at the end of the meaningful review came to the conclusion that I had in fact acted in the best interest of the snowmobilers in the region. There are some that might have felt that the strategy that I chose could have been better, or that more people could have been involved in it, but there were few that doubted that my intent was positive and genuine for the snowmobile world.

"Now, I think that analogy is particularly relevant when you look at the debate around MAGIC, because the principle argument -- the emotional hot button argument that's been offered against MAGIC is its connection or ties to the "green groups" -- and again, this effort to smear my business as it relates to snowmobiling certainly sought to smear Councilor McLean and myself for an alleged affiliation with something called the Backcountry Project, also a complete fallacy. And the connection that has been provided by the Magic City Morning Star for my relationship to the Backcountry Project doesn't even make sense if you follow it, it's a connection to a Land Use Regulation Commission meeting at which I was a speaker talking about resort development at the same time that somebody else happened to be talking about backcountry recreation, NOT the Backcountry Project.

"Now, by failing to challenge the misinformation that this group has repeatedly put forward, I have allowed myself to end up in a very dangerous position. And MAGIC, in many respects, has done the very same thing.

"There are many who hold a part of the responsibility: the mainstream media and the way it's covered -- or failed to cover -- these issues; this Council in its failure to take a stand. We all need to stand up to people who use aliases -- and I sure hope there are none sitting on this bench -- but people who use aliases to spread rumor or misinformation with the aim to do harm."

Next, Councilor Polstein read from a newspaper column about the Katahdin Land deal, then spun MAGIC a little, and ended with this line:

"The facts, as I said, in the snowmobiling discussion, lean toward the truth."

Oh, where to begin? I will go through the myths one by one.

Nine Myths Extracted From Matt Polstein's Tirade

1. That we posted "misinformation" about Matt Polstein's letter to Roxanne Quimby.

We posted a copy of the actual letter that Councilor Polstein sent to Ralph Knowles for his "feedback." That letter was to Roxanne Quimby. There is no misinformation about it. We also provided other emails which put the conversation into context. While I urge you to read the 11 pages yourself, the letter to Roxanne is on page 10 and 11 here: Backcountry Project Documents.

2. That we somehow called for or encouraged a national boycott of Matt Polstein's business.

There was no discussion whatsoever about boycotting Matt Polstein's business on our site. Not anywhere; not a single word. The discussion he blames our forum for took place at SledMaine.com, a snowmobiler forum and was apparently started after some of the members there read the letters and article about Matt Polstein's correspondence with Roxanne Quimby.

Councilor Polstein himself says that the man who called for the boycott (and who also called him a feminine hygeine product) "apologized, and he is forgiven."

I must add here, however, that had we called for a boycott, it would have been perfectly legal. A boycott is a legal and effective way to voice one's opinion or attempt to right a wrong. The fact remains, however, that my husband, Ken Anderson, did not call for a boycott; I did not call for a boycott; and no one on our forum called for a boycott.

It simply did not happen.

3. That Alyce Maragus "and others" attempted to paint a false picture of the above-mentioned letter which Matt Polstein wrote to Roxanne Quimby.

Alyce Maragus attempted to discuss the letter at a council meeting. She had the letter in her hand while she was at the podium and was willing to read it into the record. Reading the letter which Matt Polstein wrote to Roxanne Quimby could not possibly "paint a false picture," since it would be repeating word for word what it was that Councilor Polstein said to Roxanne Quimby.

You may have seen this interaction on KAT TV. Council Chairman David Nelson denied Mrs. Maragus the opportunity to read and discuss that letter.

4. That there is a conspiracy to deprive MAGIC of taxpayer money.

In 2004, after a public admission by MAGIC Director Bruce McLean that he was accepting money from the Wilderness Society, the people of Millinocket mounted a petition drive for a referendum and then voted 1,400 to 926 to flat-fund MAGIC.

In 2005, two petitions regarding MAGIC's funding were undertaken, and more than 840 citizens signed them, but the Council voted 4 to 3 to ignore the petitions because of technicalities, despite the fact that they could have put it on the ballot simply because they knew so many people wanted to vote on the issue.

Earlier this month, the people voted yet again to limit MAGIC's funding. I assume that they looked at the money they'd spent versus the return on investment and decided it was not worth it.

It's not a conspiracy as Councilor Polstein would have you believe; the taxpayers SHOULD have a say in such things.

5. That the talk of a boycott "happened because that inaccurate letter was put on a website."

The letter is a Xerox copy of what the Department of Conservation sent us pursuant to our Freedom of Access request. I might add that they were required to send the documents, as was Councilor Polstein. Councilor Polstein and his attorney, through the town manager, informed me in writing that in order for them to look for the correspondence, it would cost me $500.00.

But I digress. The point is that the letter was NOT inaccurate; it was a copy of the very letter Councilor Polstein wrote.

6. That somehow a political ad campaign used an "emotional hot button" falsely connected Matt Polstein, Bruce McLean, and MAGIC to "green groups."

The fact -- and it IS a fact -- that Councilor Polstein and MAGIC director Councilor Bruce McLean along with members of MAGIC's board of directors accepted a $25,000 grant even after the Council offered them more than that if MAGIC would simply sever its relationship with TWS; that they had a "workshop" at Matt Polstein's restaurant; and that they went to a Wilderness Society "retreat" in Vermont in 2004 and 2005.

While citizens may indeed be emotional about extreme preservation groups becoming involved in Millinocket, the facts are the facts, and facts ARE what voters want before they vote.

But I have to say that the main reason I hear from people who voted against MAGIC's funding is that they feel that the money was not well-spent. Nothing to do with preservationist groups; it's simple economics.

7. That Councilor Matt Polstein's affiliation with "something called the Backcountry Project" is "a complete fallacy".

In response to an Freedom Of Access request, we received a large packet of information about the Backcountry Project, the Department of Conservation sent us a series of emails, including one from Steve Spencer, the Backcountry Project Director, to Bruce D. McLean and Matt Polstein, MAGIC's executive director and founder, respectively, both of whom currently serve on the Millinocket Town Council. The emails were dated in December 2005, which was before the existence of the Backcountry Project was widely known.

The emails specifically refer to Steve Spencer as the Backcountry Project Director, so it was obvious that, although both of the councilors seemed surprised when the existence of the project was brought out, both knew at the very least of the project's existence prior to that time.

The initial FOA, it should be noted, did not mention Polstein or McLean. It simply asked for information about Backcountry Project.

8. That the Magic City Morning Star connects Matt Polstein's relationship to the Backcountry Project through a speech he gave at a LURC meeting.

Balderdash!

As mentioned in #7 above, the connection comes from the fact that Councilor Polstein was involved in an email conversation last year which identified the members of the conversation as members of the Backcountry Project.

9. That facts can somehow "lean toward the truth."

HUH? Facts ARE truth, Councilor Polstein. That's why they're called facts.

Perhaps in your world, facts lean one way or another. In my world, however, facts stand upright.

Maybe that's why we don't see eye-to-eye.


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