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Letters

Looking Into AMCi and the Center for Consensual Democracy
By Syndi Holmes
Jan 24, 2004 - 8:44:00 PM

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While Ken Anderson's article, Oh Say, Can You See, is thorough and factual to some it may be quite complex so I would like to add some facts that may simplify the situation and bring it's relevance home to the people of Millinocket.

When a friend asked me to read the 9 January, 2004 Bangor Daily article entitled Millinocket to seek funds for consulting firm, I found it very interesting that Advanced Management Catalyst, Inc. (AMCi), having been contracted in June, 2003, to identify a community vision and possible area of collaboration for the four communities involved for $60,000.00 was already seeking more funding as they feel the contracted funds are not sufficient to compensate for all the work they have done. The first red flag that went up was the fact that AMCi was actively looking for grants for the communities to give to them. The second red flag was the cavalier attitude that "the grant doesn't cost anything", when in truth, that grant money is taxpayers' money - plainly put, it is out of your pocket. When I looked at the website, I read that per the requirements of the Maine Community Foundation for Community Building Grant Programme's eligibility requirement #3 states that "Grants cannot pay for program expenses that have already been incurred." so it does not even appear to be an appropriate grant to apply for.

Then I decided to look at AMCi's website and what qualifications they were bringing to the table. Their opening web page advertises "Gain Strategic Control in the Marketplace." Their second page advertisement mentions Ford, Toyota, IBM, GM, Apple, Hertz,Avis and the government - it is corporately directed. Page 3 is entitled "Aligning People, Process and Technology for Industry Leadership." That again, is corporately directed - you might want to look at that page as it refers to a MONEY BACK GUARANTEE as they say that can be arranged! Their SOP-strategic operations page and Executive Catalyst page also reinforces their corporate direction. On their site's NEWS section is a letter referring to a project with the Department of Defence. Nowhere on their site is there any information on them having experience with community project's such as yours.

When you go to AMCi's corporate directory site, the first thing you should notice is the lack of specifics - other than Michael Kelley referring to a Ph.D. in psychology, there are no educational references such as colleges or graduation dates or degrees given nor are there any specifics on actual employment dates and titles. Mr. Thompson deletes any reference to his time in Wiscasset's town government. It is important to note that three of the people, Michael Kelley, Larry Lemmel and Nancy Carleton tie into one common thread which is THE CENTRE FOR CONSENSUAL DEMOCRACY (CCD).

It is when you then go to the Centre for Consensual Democracy's website that you actually find mention of community development  with the communities of Limestone, Aroostook Micmacs, Aroostook County and Waterville as their previous clients. Under the CD's "How to get Started" section the "Are We Ready for a New Approach?" introductory programme is free although under CD Public Section they state that they charge for travel expenses. Also under this site, are listed their other prices for programmes and they range from $600.00 plus travel expenses for 1 day sessions to $2,500.00 - $4,000.00 plus expenses for a 3 day session to "create a new vision for their community and a plan to achieve that vision."

When I contacted the communities who were their previous clients, Russell Dennis, economic director of the Aroostook MicMacs, stated that the MicMacs had worked with Consensual Democracy in 1998, had paid the Centre a fee of $4,000.00 to help them develop a community vision and goals and, in addition, assisted the tribe with a grant application - their goal year was 2008. He also noted that economic development/improvement had not occurred and stated that jobs were not ever a part of the "process." I also spoke to Rod Thompson, now head of Aroostook County's Maine Small Business Centre,who had been an assistant in Aroostook County at the time of Consensual Democracy's involvement in 1998; he had no idea about the costs of hiring the Centre but stated that they had held meetings which he also found fruitful in organising a vision and goals for the year 2025, and that the Centre had partially assisted the community in applying for a designation for economic empowerment zones. The Centre was in Limestone in 1997, assisting the town in meetings to find a vision for the year 2030 and set up goals; the costs were not known per Brian Hamel, who is the president and CEO of Loring Development. Per Faye Nicholson of Reviving Community in Maine (REM), a non-profit organisation in Waterville, they paid approximately $12,000.00 to the Centre for Consensual Democracy to help them establish a vision for the year 2020 and set goals through a series of meetings. REM, per Ms. Nicholson, relies on developing volunteers in the community and is not an economic entity.

When I looked on the Centre's CD Communities site and read all four communities' vision statements and civic/county objectives, there was a remarkable similarity between all four for having been individually developed for specific communities - you should compare them to the vision and goals for the Katahdin Area!

Looking further down the listings on the Consensual Democracy site, you find a site called "Our Book." Recreating Democracy is written by Lloyd P. Wells of Chestnut Hill, PA. and Maine, in conjunction with Larry Lemmel. It is about Mr. Wells' early pioneering into the gentrification of the business district of Chestnut Hill which has long been Philadelphia's wealthiest area. In the book, written years after he left Chestnut Hill, he writes about common people, majority rule, principles of social equality; he writes of the "Everytown" concept, which certainly does not reflect the Chestnut Hill community. A description of the area was given to me by Sally Cornbrooks, the administrative assistant of the Chestnut Hill Community Association - she said it is an area of gated estates, historically protected properties, several private academies, where the per capita income is well above Philadelphia's average, where a number of community activities flourish and people are active in community affairs. Per the recollections of Katie Worrall, editor of the Chestnut Hill Local, Mr. Wells, whom she describes as independently wealthy, created a civic association with the help of a number of Chestnut Hill matrons; they proceeded to turn a mundane business district into an upscale shopping area. But when the members of the civic association took a direction Mr. Wells did not approve of, he resigned and left the area for Maine. So much for consensual democracy. According to Ms. Worrall, it was only in 1998 that Mr. Wells came back to Chestnut Hill to speak "about the need for a democratically structured body politic." Prior to that Mr. Wells was working in Maine on the concept of consensual democracy, and the Chestnut Hill Local had sent a news reporter to Maine to obtain a story on the subject in 1993. As an aside, a number of the people in Chestnut Hill are familiar with Maine as they are long time summer residents.

Mainers are a practical and pragmatic people. If I had been told that your community had paid $60,00.00 to develop jobs I would not have been surprised as it is a practical action to take in the face of job losses and economic distress - but $60,000.00 to develop a vision and goals for the year 2050 is unimaginable to me. The economic survival of your community is paramount! The people in your community require JOBS to feed their families, JOBS to maintain a home for their families, JOBS to clothe and educate their families! Unless people have their BASIC NEEDS MET, they cannot focus on higher goals - LOOK UP MASLOW'S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS!

And yes, I have an agenda - I am a registered nurse who has developed several business concepts that I would like to bring to your area to develop as community-owned businesses and I also have a proposal to make for improving education and your children's futures. But more then that, I dislike seeing people lose their dignity and when you cannot meet your needs and your family's needs, you lose your dignity.

Sincerely, Syndi Holmes

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