MILLINOCKET -- At last night’s town council meeting, AMCi Chairman and Co-Founder Michael Kelly was on the agenda as having a presentation to make.
As he stood to give his presentation, he said he wanted to "touch base" and answer whatever questions there were. He said, "The people in the towns look to us like they're making great progress ... Where you're going is a really great place for everybody in the Katahdin area."
When asked what progress had been made due to AMCi's facilitation, he said simply, "You're beginning to see some impact already."
Councilor John Davis asked of AMCi's visioning process, "Is this something that's new or unique to this country?"
Kelly replied, "Well, I invented it ... 20 years ago," gesturing flamboyantly with both his hands and his body, he continued, "one morning in 1982."
Davis pressed on, "UN Agenda 21. Are you familiar at all with that?"
Kelly responded, "Not until I read it on the internet." When mention was made of the similarities between his program and Local Agenda 21 tactics, he said that most of the ideas in his program had "been around forever."
Councilor David Nelson added that he appreciated that it is hard to provide a "snapshot" of what AMCi has done. He said that the vision groups themselves have "always decided where we go," and that AMCi had "given guidance, suggestions, and nudges."
Nelson went on to say, "You must be part of it in order to really understand what's really going on." He asked no question of Kelly.
Councilor Jimmy Busque said that he found the similarities between AMCi and Agenda 21 quite suspicious.
Kelly said, "I haven't paid attention to Agenda 21. I have important things to do." He went on to say, "We do not have an agenda ... you guys gave us the agenda."
AMCi was hired to help with the consolidation effort.
"You created the plan. There is no place in [our 80-page] manual that says we put in our ideas."
Busque persisted, pointing out that the vision statements for various towns and regions were clearly the same.
Kelly ridiculed Busque, demanding to know which vision statements he had seen.
At this point, Councilor Matt Polstein jumped in to say that he thought that the discussion of Agenda 21 was "an incredible waste of time and emotion," and, looking directly at Mr. Anderson, went on to say that he thought the efforts of "a local journalist" were paranoid, and that the UN had better things to do than to target Millinocket.
Kelly said that there was no way on earth for him to prove that he has nothing to do with Local Agenda 21 and that such questions embodied "the heart of gossip and conspiracy theories."
Busque asked about the Nature Conservancy's role in the visioning process, referring to Kent Wommack's statement, "I understand you've been going through a visioning process within your communities. We've been working closely with you in this." (Wommack is the Executive Director of Maine Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and made the statement on September 13, 2003, speaking at the Sno-Rovers Club in East Millinocket.)
Kelly said, "You'd have to ask him." and repeated a few times that he had "no clue" what Womack was talking about.
Councilor Avern Danforth announced that the discussion had drifted, but he was interrupted by Polstein who said, "The key is that Mr. Womack has not been involved in the vision process."
Polstein went on to say, "So, you want to surmise that maybe I'm a plant of the Nature Conservancy?"
As Town Manager Eugene Conlogue asked Kelly for an overview of what his role is, one of the two AMCi staff in the audience whispered to the other, "I hope he gets to our agenda soon!"
Davis stated that there were "an awful lot of coincidences," but was interrupted by Kelly, who demanded repeatedly, "Someone ask me about what I think about development."
Eventually, Councilor Gail Fanjoy did just that, to which Kelly boomed, "Grow or die! Grow or die!"
When it was announced that public comment would be allowed, Polstein commented that he had better things to do and asked that public comment be limited.
Danforth nodded and allowed 10 minutes for public comment.
Atlee Goodwin was the first to speak, and he beseeched the council to "let us make the mistakes,” saying that the town did not need to pay other people to come in here and do what we could do for ourselves.
"Money" McGibbon was next, and asked, "What is different today that wasn't there when we started?"
Polstein answered that there is now enthusiasm and people were trying to make things better.
When it was suggested that the results would take "a long, long time," McGibbon reminded the council, "The people in this town don't have a long, long time."
Polstein answered, "The economy is the issue that has a huge amount of ..."
McGibbon broke in, "I didn't ask you, Matt. I asked him (indicating Kelly). I was on the committee, and I wasn't impressed."
She asked what, other than snowmen, was different.
Fanjoy asked McGibbon, "Did you build one? You might feel better."
Kelly finally responded to McGibbon's question by reading an article, which he called "the most recent data," from the Katahdin Times. Whenever he came to a quote from Medway Selectman Bruce Jones, his tone of voice became singsong and seemed to some in the audience to be mocking Jones.
There were several protestations from the audience about Kelly's reading the article, which had already been widely read locally.
Someone in the audience accused him of "trying to filibuster and use up the 10 minutes."
Busque then objected, declaring a point of order.
Ken Anderson, editor of the Magic City Morning Star, spoke, starting out with the statement, "I won't respond to your comments about conspiracy theories, Councilor Polstein, except to say that they were no surprise. This is part of the plan: win them over; intimidate, as was done to the Katahdin Times a couple of months ago; or marginalize, as you are trying to do to me."
At this point, Polstein began rolling his eyes and began a whispered conversation with Fanjoy which continued throughout much of Anderson's comments.
Referring to Kelly’s comments about ‘conspiracy tactics,’ Anderson continued, "Your comments were crude attempts at marginalization, Mr. Kelly. As a psychologist, I would have expected something better.
"I didn't invent UN Agenda 21.
"I didn't invent the stark similarities in what AMCi is doing that can be found in the Local Agenda 21 Planning Guide, right down to the buzz words and even the small details, including 60-80 people in a committee, the term 'visioning process,' and the close ties with environmental organizations. Not only Don McNeil with the Nature Conservancy, but Michael Shuman with the Green Policy Institute, and others.
“Al Gore didn’t invent the internet, and I’ll suggest that Michael Kelly didn’t invent Agenda 21.”
Danforth interrupted, calling what Anderson said ridiculous and pointing out that the term 'vision' is "common terminology" and went on to relate that he remembered using that particular term in the 1970s.
Anderson responded, telling Danforth that that term was "just a part of it, Mr. Chairman," suggesting that the whole vision process was the same.
Of the Nature Conservancy, Rudy Nadeau said, "They are as assiduous as a tick. They bite you and you don't know it." He urged the panel to connect the dots.
When John DiCentes stated that it was his understanding that East Millinocket was no longer involved with AMCi, Danforth said that the statement was untrue and they are very much involved.
DiCentes continued, asking the Council not to jump into things. He pointed out that they had "almost jumped into that boat company, and we would have lost our shirts." He went on to say that the people of Millinocket don't know what's really going on with the AMCi situation.
Polstein then declared that the value of the work was easily a half mllion dollars, and said, "I get upset when I hear people question the motives," to which DiCentes replied, "I don't like the salesmen."
Fanjoy interrupted, saying "Then get involved!"
Busque pointed out that he had talked to all the department heads last year at the time of the budget cuts, and that they all thought that the problem was a lack of communication. He went on to say that we didn't need to bring in someone from the outside to fix the communication.
Danforth said, "Fact is, it wasn’t being done. It is now. The process IS working."
The representatives of AMCi left during this time.
Later, during the regular public comments time, Anderson spoke again.
He said, “I would like to correct a statement made by Councilor Polstein earlier, when he said that the vision committee members represent the people of the Katahdin region. Vision committee members were selected, not elected, and I don’t know of any process that they can be unselected by the voters. In our republican form of government, an unelected vision committee does not represent the people of Millinocket.
"I ask the Council not to shirk your responsibilities by passing decision-making functions off to non-elected committees or to a development corporation headed by a member of the Board of the Nature Conservancy. We did not elect Don McNeil. I don't even know if he is a citizen. We elected the 7 members of the Council, and I ask that you do your jobs, even if it means undoing bad decisions that have been made in the past."
Applause erupted from the audience, at which point Danforth pointed out that AMCi was empowered by the elected bodies of Millinocket, East Millinocket, and Medway.
Nelson said that he was insulted by Anderson's comments and said that elected officials appointed people and "we have not abdicated our responsibilities."
Polstein spoke next, telling Anderson "Your writings are destructive."
Fanjoy was the last to speak out, ending her statement with "You should be ashamed of yourselves, all of you!"
When asked to whom she was speaking, Fanjoy said, "Pretty much the whole back row," indicating the 10 or so people at the back of the audience, most of whom are known to have registered public disagreement with the visioning process.
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